I recently got the chance to talk to Jonathan Walker about his role in ‘The Thing’. Here, Jonathan talks about how the prequel is different to the original John Carpenter film and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Jonathan. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘The Thing’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s a prequel to the 1980’s movie?
It’s a prequel to the Carpenter film from 1982 and it tells the story of the Norwegians who found the frozen alien ship and corpse first and what happens to them as a result. We fill in the gaps that were hinted at in the original film.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
Colin is the radio operator at the base. He’s a bit of a loner, neither truly part of the Norwegian crew nor the Americans who show up to examine what’s found in the ice. He’s a pessimist and ultimately that proves apocryphal.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I was in Toronto in the early part of 2010 working on another film called ‘Red’ for Summit. While I was there I got a call from my agent saying: “Have you heard they are going to do a prequel to ‘The Thing’?” Being a huge fan of John Carpenter’s film growing up I was very much aware of that story.
I was very excited to get involved but for me there was this big caveat, I had to know that we were really going to do it right. I wanted to read the script and get a sense of the commitment of the people making it and living up to the standard of the Carpenter film and not just ripping it off.
So I read the script and was convinced, then I met with Matthijs who was in pre-production at the time in Toronto, and had some meetings and he was convinced that I was the right guy for the part and I was convinced he was going to do the film the right way. Thus it began, I finished ‘Red’ and three weeks later I started pre-production on ‘The Thing’.
Had you seen the original movie before you signed on? How would you say this ‘version’ is different and unique to it’s predecessor?
Yes. I saw it in the theater when I was a teenager and it was a film that really stayed with me. It was an incredibly visceral film that left a very strong impression. So, I’ve always been a fan of the film and was very excited that I heard that this prequel was coming about, but before I got onboard one of my big concerns was to make sure that the spirit of the film was going to be very much, that tonally it’d pay tribute to the Carpenter film rather try to do some modern retake of the film. I was very convinced in the meetings that I had with Matthijis and in reading the script that we were going to do something that would be a good companion piece to Carpenter’s movie rather than an exploitative version of it. In terms of what’s different, these characters are inherently different because they come from different countries and speak different languages. That always brings a new component to the tension because language and allegiances play a role in who trusts who.
The film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen and Eric Christian Olsen – with Matthjs Van Heijningen Jr onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I love working with an ensemble. We had a bunch of actors from all over the world (Norway, Denmark, Canada, England, U.S. and Australia) and the energy and clash of styles made the work that much more interesting. It’s also exciting to work with a first time feature director who has a real passion for the source material and a desire to put their best foot forward.
Let’s talk a bit about you Jonathan. What made you want to get into the world of film in the first place?
Like most actors I’ve been involved in the craft from the youngest age. When I grew up in England I took part in school plays, did some T.V. commercials, but the dream was always to be in some good Hollywood movies and really test my limits. I’m very lucky to have made a career out of a passion and to support a family and a lifestyle doing what I love.
You’ve been in a number of different film and TV projects – which actors/actresses have been your favourites to work with so far? Any good anecdotes?
I worked with a lot of big names over the years. Perhaps the best experiences have been with actors like John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Mark Wahlberg, Danny Glover, Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce. I certainly have some funny stories from over the years, my night out drinking with Christopher Walken being a memorable one, but I’m not one to share those stories beyond a circle of close friends. Sorry.
If you could invite three guests to dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Christopher Hitchens, Ricky Gervais and Angelina Jolie. Smart, funny and appealing each in their own right. Would be an epic night’s entertainment.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
My kids, my wife and a well stocked kitchen. I might never need rescue.
What’s currently on your I-Pod right now?
Don’t have an I-Pod, I have a Sonos…it’s vastly better and provides an endless amount of music to suit my ever-changing tastes. However, I have been loving Coeur Du Pirate, Lana Del Rey and The Black Keys lately.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I have an episode of ‘Fringe’ that I guest starred on that airs soon. I have been back and forth doing motion capture work (like they did in ‘Avatar’, ’Tintin’ and ‘Planet Of The Apes’) for the latest installment of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ for Ubisoft. I have also been writing on a new sci-fi series for Shaw (Showcase) in Canada and GK TV in the U.S. It’s created by my old friend Simon Davis Barry but I’m not allowed to provide any details because the network seem averse to free publicity. It will likely air in the late spring/early summer 2012.
Thanks for the interview!