Matthijs van Heijningen, Director of The Thing


Earlier this year, traveled to Toronto to visit the set of Universal’s planned prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing and had a chance to do an extended interview with the film’s director, Matthijs van Heijningen. Check out a preview below and then head to for the rest:

It’s been a few weeks (or is it months?) since ran our set report from Universal’s prelude to The Thing, which has since been moved back to the more appropriate pre-Halloween release of October 14, 2011.

Hopefully you already have some idea what to expect from the movie, but while on set, we had a chance to talk at length with the movie’s director, Matthijs van Heijningen, and we wanted to share that interview with you since it offers a lot more insights into how he’s approaching the material. We talked with the director–a second-generation filmmaker who bears an eerie resemblance to Bill Pullman–about the influence of the original movie by JC (that’s John Carpenter) as well as how the director plans on filling in the blanks with the prequel, the general attitude taken to handling the transformation of the infected and lots more.

Shock: So was this a project that you fought for or was this something they came after you to direct?
Matthijs Van Heijningen:
I was prepping a movie called “Army of the Dead,” produced by Zack Snyder. It was 3 months before shooting and then the crisis hit and it fell apart, and then I was prepping that for a year almost, so I was like in a little void. Then I was in my car and I was like, “Oh God, I have to read all these scripts again.” Is there anything like one of my favorite movies that I went to, thinking about “Alien,” thinking about “The Thing” and then I called my agent and said, “Whatever happened to The Thing? Did anyone ever do something with it?” And he said, “Yeah, Strike Entertainment is prepping something with ‘The Thing.'” I didn’t know if it was a prequel or a sequel. So they got me in contact with them and they had already a script, and then I said, “Hey, well, can I read it?” And they were very enthusiastic about my work. I read it and I liked it, and I said, “Well, I think if you want to do a prequel to JC’s movie, it has to be really true to that movie.” As an audience you would know who was The Thing, but the basic rule of his movie is that you don’t know who’s the Thing, I mean, that’s the whole paranoia. So we started from scratch, to bring in JC’s movie as sort of the design of what our movie should be. Just really go back, you know. I said, “Well, if I can pitch it to the studio, it should be with real Norwegian. Otherwise, as a European, I mean it’s ridiculous if it’s like Americans pretending to be Norwegians. I’m just gonna pitch it and see, probably they don’t like it and it’s gonna be washed under the table.” But they said, “It’s cool, let’s do it.” Real Norwegians, that sort of thing. So that’s how it started.

Shock: Do you have specific memories of your first exposure to “The Thing”?
Van Heijningen:
Yeah, that I went to see it at the cinema and it blew me away like, I really… the ending was that dark, which is something that I really liked. I’m really fighting for that same sort of tone.

Shock: What was involved with reverse-engineering all the stuff we saw in that movie? Obviously a lot of things we see you can guess what happened, but you don’t really know. Was a lot of that done in the script stage?
Van Heijningen:
Well, I think that was the beginning of our approach, “Let’s see all those key points in the Norwegian camp. The axe in the door, the two-faced monster. Is there a way for us to explain that and incorporate it in the story about all these people?” So that’s how we sort of came up with the story, and of course Universal was fine with Norwegians but we need to have some Americans so that way we sort of constructed it in there.

Shock: How did you bring the Americans into the story?
Van Heijningen:
The way we did it was that one of the main characters is a Norwegian guy, and they basically want his help and he’s based in NY and he brings his team and his two assistants which are Americans. So that’s sort of a logical way to get a little bit of Americans into the story.

You can read the rest over on