THE THING

THE THING
From right to left : John, Myself, Production Manager Robert Brown, Associate Producer Larry Franco. The Juneau Ice Field. Location Scout April, 1981

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SAM PECKINPAH'S THE THING ?










                     The day finally came when we to receive Universal's official "green light" to schedule THE THING for production. As the meeting began in Production President Ned Tannen's office John revealed that he had a script of his own with another company (EMI ) also targeted for production, a special effects western that had been budgeted at Twenty Five Million Dollars ( I believe this was the first incarnation of EL DIABLO ). Much as he wanted to direct THE THING, he said this film was set up first and took precedence - he would feel honor bound to make it next if it were to be green lit, which he felt was just around the corner.


               This was news to us. The meeting turned from a celebration into something close to a wake. As eager as the studio was to make the film with John the screenplay had achieved its own level of stardom and they were not prepared to wait any longer. While agents and lawyers scrambled to figure something out, we were instructed to look into other directors.

                   I was stunned. I could not believe after all this time and being this close to having John make this movie things were about to fall apart. I was so used to the idea of John and this material as an ideal match that I couldn't even think of anyone else to direct. When David Foster asked me if I had any initial thoughts, in jest and exasperation I said "What about Sam Peckinpah?". David, who had successfully worked with Peckinpah on THE GETAWAY, paused for a second and said "Well, You Know"...
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             It took a week or so for the natural order of things to be restored. In that week I can't be certain whether David made a call to Peckinpah or not. I do know he made an exploratory call to Walter Hill, who wasn't interested ( Bill Lancaster, also at a loss, suggested his BAD NEWS BEARS director Michael Ritchie ). Fortunately for you and for me EL DIABLO wasn't as far along as was previously thought, and John was finally clear to begin preparation...





Walter Hill on the set of SOUTHERN COMFORT

4 comments:

  1. Can't say I'm that familiar with Peckinpah's work, but I must say I'm quite glad it worked out the way it did. The material just suited Carpenter so well. And if Carpenter hadn't been on board, would Kurt Russell have been involved either? It'd be a completely different movie!

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  2. Wasn't Sam Peckinpah in pretty bad shape at that time?

    I've seen a couple of his films & I can't really see what his take on the material would've produced.

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  3. I think a Thing movie by Walter Hill could have been interesting (he showed in southern comfort that he was quite, well, "comfortable" with negative character interactions) but it's hard to picture anyone else beside John Carpenter directing the Thing.

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  4. This just blew my mind. As a huge Peckinpah fan, this is exciting to imagine although we all know it would not have been the same great film Carpenter made. This would have been Peckinpah's Anti-"Wild Bunch". It would have been cool to see Peckinpah's take on paranoia and distrust, instead of his usual tough men sticking together through thick and thin, bound by honor. Thanks for this salacious tidbit.

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