Tag Archives: Kurt Russell

Top 15 Kurt Russell Movies

 

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 coming out soon, I thought it would be a good idea to list my favorite top 15 Kurt Russell movies. He’s definitely one of my favorite actors and has so many good roles over the years.

15 – Used Cars (1980)

Now leading up to the release of this film, Kurt Russell was a Disney name. My brother and I were 10 years old when this film was released and Kurt was our favorite Disney actor, so of course, my Mom took her twins to see Used Cars as soon as it came out…only to walk out of the theatre halfway through, shocked…she never realized it was rated R. Definitely not a Disney film. I have seen it since as an adult, and I can appreciate the film now, but back then, not so much. I am glad that he did this film early on as he had to break the Disney mold somehow, otherwise he would have never done some of his later great films as an adult.  This film was shot in and around Mesa and Scottsdale, Arizona, and we moved there when we turned 15 years later and recognized many of the locations. The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. The movie is about the owner (Jack Warden) of a struggling used car lot, who is killed. His hot-shot car salesman (Kurt Russell), wanting to keep the car lot going and to save his job, steps in to save the property from falling into the hands of the owner’s ruthless brother and used-car rival.

14 – Elvis (1979)

Shot the year before by director, John Carpenter, Elvis would be the first pairing for the director and Kurt Russell. They would go on to make four more movies together. Kurt Russell made his initial film debut in It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) which starred Elvis Presley. According to Russell, Presley was 27 years old when he did “…World’s Fair” and Russell was 27 years old when he did this film.

13 – The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)

This is part of the series of films Kurt Russell did for Walt Disney, playing a character named Dexter Riley, which my brother and I love. I’ll just mention this one as the first and best one, but they are all fun family films. They include Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972), The Strongest Man in the World (1975), and we’ll throw in The Barefoot Executive (1971), because he pretty much plays the same character in that one too. Kurt Russell’s co-star in these was Joe Flynn, a very under-rated character actor that is hilarious in all of these movies. Joe Flynn played Dean Higgins of Medfield College, where student Dexter Riley goes to school. The name of the educational institution, “Medfield College” is also the setting featured in other Disney films such as this movie’s sequels Now You See Him, Now You Don’t and The Strongest Man in the World as well as the earlier The Absent Minded Professor (1961) and its sequel Son of Flubber (1963) where Professor Brainard (Fred MacMurray) teaches science.

Side note – these 4 films were written by Joseph McEveety, who also wrote Disney’s Superdad (1973), No Deposit, No Return (1976), and Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978). He’s the brother of directors Bernard McEveety and Vincent McEveety, who would go on to direct for Disney, the films; The Bears and I (1974), Napoleon and Samantha (1972), One Little Indian (1973), and Donovan’s Kid (1979) for Bernard and Menace on the Mountain (1970), The Million Dollar Duck (1971), The Biscuit Eater (1972), Charley and the Angel (1973), Superdad, The Castaway Cowboy (1974), The Strongest Man in the World, Treasure of Matecumbe (1976), Gus (1976), The Ghost of Cypress Swamp (1977), Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979), The Watcher in the Woods (1980) and Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) for Vincent. These 3 brothers were very effective at driving a lot of the Disney films in the 1970’s.

12 – The Art of the Steal (2013)

A little known film about Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, who agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist. Kurt Russell plays Crunch. This is a great heist film with some fun twists, written and directed by Jonathan Sobol. Cool cast includes Matt Dillion, who I think is an under-utilized actor. He should be in more movies than he is.

11 – Follow Me, Boys! (1966)

This is a fantastic movie and simply the best film ever done that features the Boy Scouts. It’s about Lem Siddons, who is part of a traveling band who has a dream of becoming a lawyer. Deciding to settle down, he finds a job as a stockboy in the general store of a small town. Trying to fit in, he volunteers to become scoutmaster of the newly formed Troop 1. Becoming more and more involved with the scout troop, he finds his plans to become a lawyer being put on the back burner, until he realizes that his life has been fulfilled helping the youth of the small town. Kurt Russell plays a boy that Lem reaches out to help and the main boy in the movie. It was Kurt’s first movie for Disney and it established him for the next 12 years in the studio. He would go on to star in 9 more Disney movies as well as numerous Disney TV shows.

10 – Breakdown (1997)

This movie was Taken, before Liam Neeson came around. Not really but technically the same story, but with his wife instead of daughter. Kurt Russell has starred with J.T. Walsh three times before, in Tequila Sunrise (1988), Backdraft (1991), and Executive Decision (1996). Kurt Russell has killed J.T. Walsh twice in a movie. In Tequila Sunrise he shoots him. In this film, he throws him off the bridge, and Amy puts the truck in neutral, causing the truck to land on him.

9 – Executive Decision (1996)

When terrorists seize control of an airliner, an intelligence analyst accompanies a commando unit for a midair boarding operation. The real surprise in this movie happens about 20 minutes into the film when Steven Seagal, who you think is going to be a major character, dies. It was the first time in a movie, where Steven Seagal’s character gets killed. It would happen again in Machete (2010). Kurt enjoyed the script as soon as he read it. He said later, “When I read Executive Decision, it was a real page-turner. I read scripts for the stories more than I do for the characters. I’ve read lots of characters I’d like to play, but I didn’t enjoy the movie itself that much. I liked the fun of Executive Decision, you know, I feel when an audience sees my name attached to a film, they think it’ll probably be a pretty good movie. The movies I do, if we make them well, will be fun to watch. They may not be the best movie of the year, and I may not be your favorite actor, but people come up to me all the time and say, “I like the movies you do”.

8 – Escape From New York (1981)

This movie has an incredibly unique premise; in 1997, when the U.S. president crashes into Manhattan, now a giant maximum security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in to rescue him. That man of course is Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). He reprises the role again in Escape From LA, but that movie is really cheesy. I mostly like cheese, but that sequel is too much at times. Kurt Russell has stated that this (the first one) is his favorite of all his films, and Snake Plissken is his favorite of his characters. Snake Plissken’s eyepatch was suggested by Kurt. Clint Eastwood was considered for the role of Snake Plissken. Kurt based his performance on Eastwood, in his westerns. The line “I thought you were dead” was probably borrowed from Big Jake (1971). Every time John Wayne tells someone his name, the standard response is “I thought you were dead.” Which would mean that parts of this film were inspired by two legendary western stars, or their films; John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Snake, being based on Clint, has the added irony that Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef were in several “spaghetti westerns” together, who also stars in this movie.

7 – Stargate (1994)

An interstellar teleportation device, found in Egypt, leads to a planet with humans resembling ancient Egyptians who worship the god Ra. In a magazine interview, James Spader said that he found the original screenplay “awful” but also that it was so bad it actually intrigued him. He then met with Roland Emmerich, was inspired by the director’s passion for the project, and decided to make the movie because he felt the energy and craziness of making such a film would translate into an exciting final film.

6 – Backdraft (1991)

Ron Howard directed film about two Chicago firefighter brothers, who don’t get along, who have to work together while a dangerous arsonist is on the loose. Kurt Russell, Kevin Casey, Scott Glenn, and William Baldwin did a lot of their own stunts, and the Stunt Coordinator Walter Scott was so impressed by their performances, that he credited them as stunt performers in the credits. William and Kurt went to a firefighter “boot camp” to learn the ropes. They even slept at a Chicago firehouse for about a month. Ron Howard described Kurt’s approach was “aggressive, but entertaining, and totally honest.” Kurt was originally considered for the lead role of Connor Macleod in Highlander (1986), which was written by the same writer of this film.

5 – Overboard (1997)

A cruel but beautiful heiress screws over a hired carpenter, who later is the first one to find her when she gets amnesia. Looking for a little revenge he convinces her that she’s his wife. Great romantic comedy by Garry Marshall and also starring Goldie Hawn, Kurt’s real life love. As of 2017, this is the third and last of three movies that real-life couple Goldie and Kurt appeared in together as co-stars. Their earlier collaborations were Swing Shift (1984) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968). Looking back on the film, Garry Marshall thinks that it’s “still one of the funniest pictures I ever made,” he said later.

4 – Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

An All-American trucker, Jack Burton, gets dragged into a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown. Kurt Russell confessed on the DVD commentary that he was afraid of starring in the movie, because he had made a string of movies that flopped at the box-office. When he asked John Carpenter about it, he told Kurt that it didn’t matter to him – he just wanted to make the movie with him. It did flop at the box office initially, but became a huge hit on video and DVD years later. Now it’s considered a cult classic. John and Kurt explain on the audio commentary that the first test screening was so overwhelmingly positive, that both of them expected it to be a big hit after they made it. However, 20th Century Fox put little into promoting the movie, and it ended up being a box-office bomb. According to John and Kurt in the DVD commentary, the story was originally written as a western, but Carpenter decided to set it during modern times. They even mention that instead of Jack Burton’s truck being stolen, it was originally his horse. Kurt Russell turned down the lead role of Connor MacLeod in Highlander to appear in this film. Both movies were made and released by 20th Century Fox. An interesting side note, in the scene where Kurt is attempting to infiltrate the brothel, he is wearing the same outfit that he wore in Used Cars.

3 – Tango and Cash (1989)

The original idea for this film was to get Rambo and the Terminator together for a buddy cop film. They couldn’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger back then so it became a Rambo and Snake Plissken film. Not really, but it had Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell, two action stars in one movie. Kurt was originally considered and offered the role of Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon (1987), but he turned it down, and it went to Mel Gibson, with whom he worked on Tequila Sunrise. His character in this film is loosely based on Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon.

2 – The Thing (1982)

It’s no secret that I love this movie. I write about it in a blog post: http://brothers-ink.com/2016/02/the-thing/

It’s the finest horror film ever made and is about a research facility in Antarctica that comes across an alien force that can become anything it touches with 100% accuracy. The members must now find out who’s human and who’s not before it’s too late. John Carpenter has stated that of all his films, this is also his personal favorite. John Carpenter’s film is a much more faithful adaptation of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s original novella “Who Goes There?” than The Thing from Another World (1951). For example, the 1951 version introduced female characters including a “love interest” for the hero. This film, like the original story, has no roles for women. Also, the use of a hot needle, to check the blood of the characters to see if they were still human or not, was taken directly from the original novella, and was not used in the 1951 movie. When the crew are all discussing what the alien spacecraft might be, one of them explains it by saying “Chariots of the Gods.” This is a reference to the famous 1968 book by Swiss-German author Erich von Däniken entitled “Chariots of the Gods?” which hypothesized that many of the world’s great historical monuments, such as the Egyptian Pyramids, were built with the aid of technologies and religion provided by extra-terrestrial beings, who were treated as deities by ancient peoples.

1 – Tombstone (1993)

I mention this film as the top film for a list for Val Kilmer as well in a post from our blog: http://brothers-ink.com/2016/12/top-15-val-kilmer-movies/

It’s the best film you can find about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and the fight at the OK Corral. Unbelievable cast with Kurt, Val, Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott, Powers Booth, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Dana Delaney, Charlton Heston, and Michael Biehn. In an interview with True West magazine in October 2006, Kurt admit that after original director Kevin Jarre was fired, he directed a majority of the picture. According to Russell, George P. Cosmatos served merely to make things run smoothly. Also, in the True West interview, Kurt stated that the film was nearly cast with Richard Gere as Wyatt Earp, and Willem Dafoe as Doc Holliday.

Top 15 Val Kilmer Movies

 

Over the years I’ve really enjoyed Val Kilmer and his movies.  I find him to be very funny in person, as you can see from any interview he’s ever done or if you’ve ever seen any of his blooper reels…but his acting is top notch too. He’s gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years, but I can appreciate that he acknowledges that he could have been easier to work with at times over the years. He’s mellowed a lot with age and by all accounts a real joy to be around for the most part, engaging, funny and authentic.

Here’s my top 15 movies that feature Val Kilmer:

15 – Comanche Moon (2008)val-kilmer-comanche-moon

Great cast, interesting western.  Kilmer once said that he would play in a bad western on a great horse any day and this mini-series can live up to that assessment. It’s a Larry McMurtry story, with his characters from the Lonesome Dove series and stars the ever likable Steve Zahn as well as Karl Urban, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Studi, Adam Beach, Linda Cardellini, and Rachel Griffiths. Some of the scenes were filmed on Val Kilmer’s ranch in New Mexico. Val Kilmer’s work with the New Mexico Film Investment Program over the years fueled a nearly 40-fold growth in the state’s annual film production revenue, from $3 million in 2002, up to $117 million in 2006.

14 – Top Gun (1986)val-kilmer-top-gun

This film would probably be in the top 5 on most people’s lists for Val Kilmer, but I’ve never liked it over some of his other movies.  Besides, I’m not sure if you would consider, Top Gun to be “his” movie…but he sure is cool in it.  Originally, Kilmer did not want to be in this film, but was forced to as he had contractual obligations. However, it became one of his most iconic roles in his career. His humor shines through and his perchance to improv while on the set, when the guys, as students, were first being spoken to by Charlie in the hanger, Maverick explains that he gave “the bird” to a MiG. She asks how he saw the MiG up close, and he says he was flying inverted. Right then, Val Kilmer as Ice coughs “bullsh*t” and the guys laugh. The “bullsh*t” line is ad-libbed. According to co-star Anthony Edwards, “A lot of the humor was discovered at the moment. The script was skeletal.”

13 – Batman Forever (1995)val-kilmer-baman-forever

Some people don’t like this Batman movie, but I loved it. How can you go wrong with Val Kilmer as Batman and then a cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Chris O’Donnell and Drew Barrymore. (most people at this point, go, “Drew Barrymore?”, yep, she’s in there, take a closer look.) Most of Val Kilmer’s bad press comes from this movie as he didn’t get along with director Joel Schumacher that well. I think the moments where he could have been a little more helpful in the filmmaking are blown way out of proportion over the years. He has said later, “I probably complained more when I was younger. The movie industry can be frustrating but I think sometimes I could have been more helpful, approaching a film as a partnership rather than being critical of a director’s ignorance. I wasn’t sensitive to the fact that it’s very hard to direct.”

12 – Heat (1995)val-kilmer-heat

In this film, there is a huge shootout in the middle of the city between Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer and their crew and Al Pacino and the cops. They had to do a lot of training to be able to shoot the guns realistically. Kilmer was thrilled to learn that the moment in the gun battle scene where he runs out of bullets and rapidly changes his magazine is regularly shown to Marine recruits as an example of how to perform the action properly. Also, in order to prepare the actors for the roles of McCauley’s crew, Michael Mann took Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Robert De Niro to Folsom State Prison to interview actual career criminals. It helped that Danny Trejo, who plays a member of the crew, had in real life been an inmate at Folsom Prison. It’s interesting to note, before Danny Trejo was cast, both Edward Bunker, a writer, and Trejo were hired to be armed robbery consultants, since they both did time for these crimes and knew the ins and outs of performing such crimes. After meeting Trejo and talking with him at length, Michael Mann would later offer him a role in the film.

11 – Mindhunters (2004)

MINDHUNTERS, Val Kilmer, Will Kemp, Kathryn Morris, Jonny Lee Miller, Patricia Velasquez, Clifton Collins Jr., Christian Slater, LL Cool J, 2004, (c) Dimension

This little gem, directed by Renny Harlin, was caught in a studio’s bankruptcy and held for release up to two years later, even then it was silently released straight to video…but it’s actually a really fun film. Has some really good moments and has Jonny Lee Miller, LL Cool J, Christian Slater, Patricia Velasquez, Clifton Collins Jr, and Eion Bailey in it.  It reminds me of an FBI training version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which I love a lot. This one would be on the top of the list of films that were made with her plot device of people dying one by one in a remote place, trying to figure out which one of them is the killer. You can see my blog post on that by clicking here.

10 – At First Sight (1999)

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

This one has Val Kilmer playing a blind man that regains his sight. His sister is played by Kelly McGillis, his co-star from Top Gun. The cast is excellent with Nathan Lane, Steven Weber, Mira Sorvino, Bruce Davison and Ken Howard.  Val Kilmer prepared for his role by studying with a sculptor friend of his in New Mexico who had lost his sight in Vietnam. At 49:30 (NTSC) he is admiring a sculpture when he first visit’s Amy’s flat. Now, if you want to see how good an actor Kilmer is then watch this movie as he’s very good in it. There are a few times when I think he really should have gone up for an Oscar nomination at the very least and this is one of those performances. Other performances where he deserved recognition would be as Doc Holliday in Tombstone and as Jim Morrison in The Doors.

9 – Top Secret! (1984)kilmer-top-secret

Kilmer’s first movie and it’s flat out hilarious! My brother and I love this movie. He’s so funny in this.  It’s done by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker right after they did Airplane and Police Squad…so they were really on a roll. You can thank his casting in this film to Kilmer’s first Broadway acting role in 1983 in a play called Slab Boys which also starred Kevin Bacon, Brian Benben, Sean Penn, and Jackie Earle Haley. Kilmer would sing all of the Nick Rivers songs in the film himself, which would help him later when he decided to do The Doors.

8 – Ghost and the Darkness (1996)val-kilmer-ghost-and-the-darkness

This is based on a true story and is quite a good thriller. It’s about 2 lions that start to hunt and attack construction workers on a railroad track in Africa. The title of the movie is the nicknames for the 2 lions. Michael Douglas’s character Remington is fictionalized for the movie. In real life, Val Kilmer’s character John Patterson killed both lions (both nearly nine feet long). The real Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson published a book about his experiences, titled “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo“, which the movie is based on. The book is still available after nearly 100 years, and well worth reading.  Originally, the movie was only to be produced by Michael Douglas, with Kilmer as the lead character, but somewhere in pre-production he insisted on having the Remington character created for him and as filming progressed his part was widened to what is in the film now. He eventually got top billing. Despite having top billing, Douglas still doesn’t appear on screen until 45 minutes into the movie.

7 – Red Planet (2000)sizemore-kilmer-red-planet

This is a really good sci-fi thriller that again seemed to be released straight to video, but is definitely worth finding, if you haven’t seen it. It has another fun cast with Tom Sizemore, Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt, Terence Stamp and Simon Baker.  It didn’t help the release of the film that another Mars movie was in production at the time and often gets confused with it; Mission To Mars. It also didn’t help that the movie’s release date was pushed back twice. The original release date was slated March 31, then it was pushed back to June 16, and again it was pushed back to November 10. Studio officials said it was due to the movie’s extensive, expensive special-effects work.

6 – Real Genius (1985)val-kilmer-real-genius

Now, here’s a movie that my brother and I just love, but if you were to take Val Kilmer out of the movie, then we wouldn’t even like it probably, he’s that good in it. He really stands out and it’s this movie that convinced us that he was going to be a big star. I think the studio knew it too, that why the title seems to refer to him and all the posters feature him by himself, when he isn’t even the main character. The marketing strictly pushed him as the whole film.

5 – The Doors (1991)val-kilmer-the-doors

The singing that Kilmer does in the film is so close to the real Jim Morrison that even the real band members of the Doors couldn’t tell a version of a song sung by Morrison than that of Kilmer. In one scene during the filming of the movie, Kilmer broke his arm badly when he performed a jump from the stage into the crowd. The stuntman failed to catch him, leaving Kilmer with an abnormal growth on his right elbow. The growth is clearly visible in Heat, when McCauley discovers Shiherlis sleeping in his living room and begins briefing him on their itinerary. Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan were also in Top Gun together. Incidentally Kilmer worked with director Oliver Stone on this film and Tom Cruise worked with Stone on Born on the Fourth of July.

4 – The Saint (1997)elizabeth-shue-val-kilmer-the-saint

I just like this movie, even though a lot of people who loved the Saint TV show was disappointed with it. Val Kilmer got to use several disguises in the film, which I thought were a lot of fun.  Plus it had, Elizabeth Shue…what’s not to like?  Fun Fact – the poetry written by Simon Templar’s disguised-long-haired artist character, Thomas Moore, was actually written by Val Kilmer himself.  Kilmer decided to do this movie instead of Batman and Robin. It was the first big-screen Saint film since the 1950s. Plans for a Saint film date back to the 1980s, when Pierce Brosnan was reported to be a leading contender for the Templar role in a Saint movie that was to be produced by Roger Moore, the original TV Saint. This project never materialized. The Saint (Simon Templar) over the years has been played by Vincent Price (over the radio), Roger Moore on TV, Louis Hayward, George Sanders, Hugh Sinclair, Felix Marten, Jean Marais, Simon Dutton, and Ian Ogilvy at the movies.

3 – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)val-kilmer-robert-downey-jr-kiss-kiss-bang-bang

Anyone who wants to see how truly funny and spontaneous Val Kilmer can be should watch the blooper real to this movie. Robert Downey Jr., who is incredibly witty in his own right has a hard time keeping up to the laughs Kilmer produces. Val Kilmer met Robert Downey Jr. for the first time at a Hollywood party. A week later he received the screenplay for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and agreed to do it before he’d even finished reading it. Upon agreeing, and much to his delight, he was informed that Downey Jr had already been cast. As a sign of support to Robert Downey Jr.’s recovery from alcohol and drugs, Val Kilmer refused to drink during the entire production. I’m a big Raymond Chandler fan and I learned that Shane Black read several stories by Raymond Chandler when writing this script. As a result, the story is divided into chapters and the chapter titles come from Chandler works. Specifically: 1. “Trouble is My Business”, 2. “The Lady in the Lake”, 3. “The Little Sister”, 4. “The Simple Art of Murder”, and Epilogue: “Farewell, My Lovely”. The title makes reference to James Bond, Thunderball where a song was produced and recorded for the film called, “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” has since become a slang description of the James Bond-style spy genre. The film’s original title was “You’ll Never Die in This Town Again”. When Harmony is seen on the bus leaving Indiana at age 16, she’s asleep with the Johnny Gossamer book, “You’ll Never Die in This Town Again” in her lap.

2 – Willow (1988)marmartigan-2

Here’s pretty much his only fantasy movie, but it’s a great one. He plays a swordsman Madmartigan, a rogue and a really fun character. He had a real fun time working on this film with George Lucas, Ron Howard and Warwick Davis and met his future wife Joanne Whalley on. His comedy really came into play again on this one, and it’s documented that a lot of his dialogue is improvised. willow-poster

1 – Tombstone (1993)tombstone-val-kilmer-kurt-russell

This movie flat out rocks with a great cast of Kurt Russell, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Booth, Charlton Heston, Michael Biehn, Jason Priestley, Dana Delaney, Billy Bob Thornton, Thomas Haden Church and Stephen Lang. Kilmer would go on to say, “I liked being Doc Holliday. It’s fun to be insightful and aristocratic, to stand up for your friend and make sacrifices for him. It was fun to be arrogant like he was and have the goods to back it up. He was a very noble character. Although, let’s not forget, he did kill a lot of people.” Val Kilmer has also been quoted as saying that screenwriter Kevin Jarre insisted the actors wear real wool costumes, in accordance with the time period. In the Birdcage Theater scene, Val Kilmer says, a thermometer was placed on the set, and it read 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Kilmer suggested jokingly that this was the reason Doc Holliday killed so many people: “It’s just, like, he wore wool in the summer, in the Arizona territory, and that made him mad.”

Val Kilmer practiced for a long time on his quick-draw speed, and gave his character a Southern Aristocrat accent. The expression “I’m your huckleberry” spoken by Doc means “I’m the perfect man for the job.” It could indeed be a reference to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, then known as the sidekick of Tom Sawyer before Huck got his own book. The phrase also refers, rather ominously, to the pallbearers who carry a coffin or casket to the actual grave site & specifically the one elected to sit, completely sober, in case the grave bell rings. So saying, “I’m your huckleberry ” could also be a threat like “I’ll put you in your grave.” It’s interesting to me that this would be attributed to Mark Twain as later on Twain would be an inspiration to Kilmer and he would go on to write and star in 2 plays about the writer, and star as Twain himself.

The Thing and an Unused Treatment For The Prequel

 

Adam and I have always been fascinated with and loved the move, The Thing by John Carpenter. The things we especially loved about it was the isolated feeling of the movie, the distrust between characters, the paranoia that creeps in and the ultimate scenarios that play out throughout the film to ferret out who is a “Thing” and who isn’t.  It really ratchets up the tension in the film.thing-1982-03-g

So with this in mind, I felt compelled to write down and share our experience with, or I should say our near-experience with the making of what was to be a prequel of sorts, but with what ended up with an identical title,  (so as to confuse the audience even more; is it a prequel or is it a remake?!?) ultimately released to theaters in 2011.thing-logo-r

Now for some background, The Thing (1982) is already a sequel of The Thing From Another World (1951), which was a subject of a previous post of mine.  John Carpenter had the screenplay written by Burt Lancaster’s son Bill Lancaster. ( A little trivia about their relationship is shared in my post regarding The Flame and the Arrow where I mention another one of Bill’s scripts, The Bad News Bears where reportedly the Walter Matthew character is based on Burt.)

Anyway, the film was released with some real nifty marketing posters by a young Drew Struzan who would gain fame with the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter posters he would paint later. It had some strong competition that year, but really grew an audience on video and my brother and I loved it right away and to this day I think it’s the best horror film ever made.thing-struzan-screenprint

(Original Drew Struzan Concept For the Poster 1982)

So skip forward a couple of decades and Adam and I have written several screenplays by this time, written several book to script adaptations, and made a few films and even won an Emmy; generally seeing a spark of success which is very fleeting in Hollywood. Overall, feeling pretty good, getting our feet wet and having fun. In 2008, a company convinces Universal to let them produce a sequel to The Thing and posts in the trades a search for pitches and treatments for the production.

Antarctic Region Map
Antarctic Region Map
Bentley Subglacial Trench
Bentley Subglacial Trench

I have to admit, we got very excited about putting together a pitch for submission to see if we could possibly convince them to let us write the script.  We do a lot of research when we do a script and this treatment was no different.  We researched the location, the original film and story it’s based on and elements we wanted to put in our “prequel”.  Our idea was pretty similar to what was eventually put onscreen when it comes to general plot. We loved the idea of telling the story of what happened at the original Norwegian Station that was a catalyst for bringing the “Thing” to Kurt Russell’s movie in the beginning.  We also were excited to be able to make it possible to bridge the first film with a “third” film by providing a way for the “Thing” to hit the mainland at the end of our treatment.

We quickly outlined what we loved about the Carpenter movie; the isolation, the desperation, the paranoia, the suspicions and key scenarios playing out pitting different groups of people against each other, in this case the different nationalities that were at work within our version.  I think the key thing that the new version got wrong was having a woman in the mix, I just didn’t think that worked and if we wanted to stay within the confines of the Carpenter version, we decided to keep it an all male cast.

Anyway, I’m going to let you choose for yourselves, if you think our version would have made for a fantastic companion to the Carpenter film, as I think it does. I’m going to print it here in it’s entirety.  Now, just for history’s sake, you know up front they didn’t pick ours.  We’re not even sure if we were in the running as we were never notified and none of our real elements seemed to make it into the film they ultimately made.  Right or wrong they went on to make the film they decided would do best, but ultimately I think they made another mistake by naming it the same name as the Carpenter film.  They should have added, The Thing: Exodus or something.

The Thing Prequel  (Treatment by Adam Montierth and Donovan Montierth, All Rights Reserved 2008-2016)

ANTARCTICA – 1982

On a routine reconnaissance mission under the Ronne Ice Shelf, HMS VALIANT, a British Nuclear Submarine discovers an anomaly of dense mass hidden under the ice in the Antarctic. CAPTAIN JAMES MUNRO,  a veteran of the British Fleet is notified as he feeds his pet mice. The Sub receives orders to investigate.

They drift along the Bentley Subglacial Trench at the lowest point of Antarctica and find a place thin enough for them to break through the ice and exit through the conning tower. As soon as the sub has settled, LIEUTENANT GILBRETSON, a big bear of a man, stations himself outside the sub and chain-smokes his way through several cigarettes.Ice Station

A group of five MEN, including Captain James Munro, and Roald Amundsen, a reluctant midshipman recruited as an interpreter, leave Lieutenant Gilbretson, as well as the remaining 122 crew members, and hike five kilometers to the geological research facility owned and operated by the Norwegian Polar Research Establishment with eight current occupants; six NORWEGIAN, one GERMAN and one ITALIAN SCIENTISTS.

They convince the scientists to go out and do some core samples where they find a spaceship buried in the ice. Captain Munro, concerned, ventures back to the Sub to receive his orders. Meanwhile, the scientists celebrate the historic discovery with a video camera and prepare to take samples from the spaceship.The_buried_UFO_(The_Thing_-1982)

Waiting for orders, Amundsen discovers an alien creature, the THING, frozen in the ice not far from the spaceship. Under protest from Amundsen, the scientists cut the block of ice containing the Thing out of the frozen tundra and drag it back to the research station using a snow tractor. KEEGAN GYLDEN, a top Norwegian scientist cuts a thin sample from the skin of The Thing and places it in a plastic container.Thing-in-ice

Captain Munro returns from the sub with an armed force of ten GUARDS to secure the station and to prevent the release of information regarding the spaceship. His orders are to retain all scientists and to collect all data, samples and specimens from the craft, until a proper research team can be deployed from Great Britain to examine the find properly.

The scientists are prevented from communicating back to their headquarters and are confined to the facility. Mistrust and anger, begin to grow between the two groups. The scientists continue to examine what materials they have from the craft, while the guards keep watch over them from room to room.

The Thing from the ice block, given time to thaw, slowly comes back to life and takes his first victim, WILLIAMSON, a guard passing between rooms.thingd

In the lab, Keegan removes the thin sample of The Thing and places it carefully on a slide and onto a microscope. He looks into the   microscope. The sample appears to be moving. Keegan rubs his eyes and looks back into the lens when a shout is heard from the next room. Keegan and the GERMAN rush out of the room to see what is going on.

It is the room with the block of ice, now empty. ALBIN, one of the Norwegians, is yelling at two guards and pointing to the empty block. As scientists and guards enter the room they become angry over the missing creature. The scientists accuse the guards of stealing the Thing from the ice block and the guards are suspicious of the scientists regarding the missing guard. Tempers rage and the scientists are sent to their sleeping quarters. As they sleep, the Thing, as Williamson, visits several men in their rooms.

Williamson Thing reappears the next morning, seemingly normal, except for slightly odd behavior, Amundsen notices. This doesn’t seem to mend the friction between the two groups but the scientists are allowed to continue their research. The language barrier enhances the groups frustrations as Amundsen is the only one who can speak Norwegian and it becomes increasingly difficult for him to mediate between the scientists and the guards.

Captain Munro takes a few men to go and examine the spacecraft a little closer. They get down to the ship and crack open a hatch in the top and go in. In the dark, they turn on the flashlights and make their way down several corridors. The ship is a frozen disaster. The inside of the ship lay in ruins, wreckage everywhere.thingSB Saucer in the ice 005

They find what appears to be a corridor with cells. Heavy iron doors with locks on the outside and little glass windows. One of the cells is busted outward, as if something massive broke through the door. A few dead bodies lay scattered about, ripped and frozen. Red ice glints off the floors and walls. Frozen blood everywhere. Captain Munro looks at the familiar body pieces and gasps when he realizes…they’re human.

Back at the lab, the scientists go back to their work. The Italian, complaining about the working conditions, helps GUSTAV, a Norwegian, carry a metal panel from the ship over to a table just as Keegan gets back to his microscope. Keegan yells at the Italian to keep his voice down and peers down into the lenses just as the skin slice of the Thing explodes upward through the microscope and into Keegan’s eye.

Keegan’s head snaps back as the microscope explodes and he falls to the floor, dead. The Italian and Norwegian yell and scramble over to Keegan. Keegan’s eye dangles from the socket and blood pours from his head. A few scientists and guards rush in. Confusion erupts as the Italian attacks the guards thinking they have sabotaged their equipment and killed his colleague. They manage to subdue the Italian and handcuff him and Gustav.thingguy

The guards take the Italian and Gustav to another building and  lock them into a room by themselves. Williamson stays to watch over them. Keegan’s body is taken to a room and covered with a sheet.

Captain Munro gets back from the spaceship and seems shaken.  To try to ease tension, he sends a group of guards back to the Sub. Amundsen pulls him aside to let him know what’s happened. He takes him to view Keegan and then tells him that the men’s nerves are at their breaking points.

Meanwhile, in the room with the two handcuffed men, Williamson paces back and forth nervously as the Italian continues to barrage him with Italian insults. Gustav tries to calm him, but finally Williamson walks over to the Italian and faces him. The Italian shuts up. Just as he thinks Williamson is going to walk away, he opens his mouth and a long tentacle comes out and wraps around the surprised Italian’s head. The Thing starts to assimilate the Italian. Gustav freaks out and starts yelling at the top of his lungs.

A guard runs over from the other building and throws the doors open to find Williamson Thing and the Italian melted together. Gustav runs over to the guard and tries to pull a grenade from the guard’s belt, but Gustav’s handcuffs make it difficult for him to grab the grenade, and in his haste manages to only pull off the pin. When he realizes, he dives outside into the snow, leaving the guard fumbling with his belt to get the grenade off. A few seconds later the building explodes from the inside.thing fire

Captain Munro and Amundsen run outside just as the building bursts into a fireball. The remaining scientists and guards filter outside to see the aftermath. The scientists are asking Amundsen what is going on and the guards are all in shock. Confusion erupts as they grill Gustav as to what was happening. Capt. Munro stands in shock looking at the fire, when he notices Keegan Thing standing next to him looking at the fire as well.

Keegan Thing turns to face Captain Munro and reveals his eye still sitting on his cheek, but acting as if everything is normal. The guards and scientists all look at Captain Munro when he yells in surprise. Keegan Thing looks around as if confused as to what is wrong with him. Amundsen points at his face and mentions the eye.

When he does this, recognition sets into Keegan Thing’s face and the eye on his cheek looks up and then juts up from the socket on it’s own accord and begins to look where Keegan Thing’s normal eye looks. At this, a few of the guards pull their guns from their holsters. Keegan Thing’s not getting the response he’s expecting so the eye plunges back into his head, then he looks around again as if to say, “Is this right?”. The men back away.

Finally not getting anywhere, Keegan Thing’s head cracks open into a giant mouth and launches out at Gustav. The Thing quickly overtakes Gustav as he screams in sheer terror. After the guards overcome their surprise they open fire at the Thing. Wounded, it busts through the door and back through the building. The guards chase it into the main room, but the Thing disappears into the ceiling.

Everyone comes running back outside to get answers from Captain Munro. Captain Munro tries to calm everyone down and explains as best as he can that the alien from the spaceship must have been alive but dormant from his frozen state. Everyone, visibly shaken and upset, argues and rambles about what to do. Amundsen tries to interpret as best as he can to the Norwegians and the German. They all decide that they need to track the Thing down. They assign pairs of men, pass out guns and grenades and spread out to look.thing

Each pair of men take different areas of the station to try and find the Thing. They look down every corridor, store room and work shed, but find nothing. A man yells from the kennels and shots are fired. The guards and the scientists all run to the kennels to find the Thing in the middle of the room assimilating dogs. They open fire on the Thing and it stops moving as if dead.

Albin speaks to Amundsen that they should pull the Thing out to the snow and burn it. Amundsen translates to the group and they all agree. They get the snow tractor and pull the Thing out to the snow and pour fuel on it. As they all stand around watching, Captain Munro lights a match and the Thing goes up in flames.thing on fire

Confused, the scientists and guards argue about what to do next. Amundsen mediates as best as he can when he realizes that MIKAHIL, one of the Norwegians is speaking perfect English. He asks him  how he’s able to speak English fluently. The group gets quiet and stare at Mikhail Thing. The other Norwegians and the German all back up, scared. The guards take their lead and everyone distances themselves from Mikhail Thing and pull out their guns.

Mikhail Thing tries to explain himself, but nobody believes him. They know that he’s the Thing. He gets angry and lashes out at Albin and one of the guards shoots him. Mikhail Thing, jumps at Albin and he falls into the fire, screaming. The men scatter, afraid. The two remaining Norwegians and the German run into the main room, then the German gets into one of the labs by himself and barricades the door.

Amundsen runs out of bullets as they fight Mikhail Thing. He runs inside and finds an axe. Mikhail Thing disappears behind one of the buildings. Inside, the Norwegians step toward Amundsen and he threatens them not knowing who to trust. The guards and Captain Munro come inside and try to calm Amundsen down. He looks at everyone as if they could be the Thing. The guards rush him, trying to get the axe away from him. Amundsen swings the axe and hacks one of the guards in the leg, he goes down on the ground screaming.thing axe

HAYES, a guard, grabs Amundsen. Amundsen chop one of Hayes hands off. The hand hits the ground and Hayes holds his amputated arm in pain. The Captain holds the men off and tries to reason with Amundsen that their fight is not with each other but with the creature. Amundsen argues that anyone can be the creature, how can they trust anyone. Captain Munro talks to Amundsen to try and keep him busy while the guards step closer and closer. Finally they all jump on Amundsen and he takes one last swing and embeds the axe in the door.

They hold Amundsen on the floor until they realize that Hayes, who just moments ago got his hand amputated, now has two hands again.  He is helping to hold Amundsen down. The guards look at his two hands then look at his third amputated hand on the ground. They look back up at him and Hayes Thing gives them a “what?” look. The amputated hand suddenly grows spider legs out of the fingers and two eyes pop out of the back of the hand. It crawls frantically towards the guard that is laying down bleeding profusely from his leg.

The guards all jump up and pull out their guns and point them at the Hayes Thing on Amundsen. Hayes Thing immediately runs out of the room and the men follow, firing. The man on the ground bleeding, screams as the spider-hand crawls over and embeds itself into his bleeding leg. His leg and the spider-hand fuse together as one, as the Thing attempts to assimilate him. Captain Munro shoots the bleeding man dead. His leg continues to move. Munro drags the body outside and throws it into the fire.

The guards come back and shake their head as if to say the Thing is gone. All men become paranoid and point guns at each other suspecting everyone of being the Thing. The Norwegians try to calm everyone down. They speak as Amundsen translates. They explain that the Thing is learning how to act human. He mentions that they can identify the men that are the Thing, by amputating fingers and seeing who’s grows back.

Reluctantly, everyone agrees. The Norwegians get a surgical kit out and with scalpels cut a finger off of everyone’s hand one by one. They all hold up their bloody hands to show that none have grown back. The remaining men; four guards, two Norwegians, Captain Munro and Amundsen are all human.

The lights and heaters in the facility go out. They run outside to the generators to find Hayes Thing and Mikhail Thing are destroying the generators together. The men open fire at the Things and they both go down as if killed. To make sure they pour fuels on the bodies and burn them in the snow as the Norwegians check the generators.thing dog

They explain to Amundsen that they are not repairable and only have a few hours left before everything at the station freezes. A dog comes around the side of the building and everyone realizes that they haven’t killed all of the Thing. The dog runs away. The Norwegians tell Amundsen that they can’t let the Thing live and that they will use the helicopter to find it and kill it. After they are done, they will fly to the nearest city. Captain Munro lets them know that the rest of them are going back to the sub to report what has happened at the station. The Norwegians take their guns and grenades and start the Helicopter. Captain Munro, Amundsen, and the rest raise their amputated hands in a four finger salute, signifying still human. The Norwegians return salute and fly away.thing1

The four remaining guards, Captain Munro and Amundsen head out to the sub. Forgotten and barricaded in the lab, the German cuts his wrists knowing that the cold will kill him soon. Sadly, he cuts his own throat.thingEnd_game_x-files

thingEndGameThe men get back to the sub to find Lieutenant Gilbretson back outside waiting for them. Amundsen notices that he is not chain-smoking and casually asks him about it. Gilbretson looks at him confused. This alarms Amundsen and the guards all pull their guns on Gilbretson. Captain Munro tells Gilbretson that they will have to cut a finger off to prove he is human. Just as a guard goes to cut his finger off, Gilbretson Thing morphs into a GIANT THING and grabs the surprised guard and tears him in half.

The guards open fire on the Giant Thing and Captain Munro and Amundsen throw grenades at it. They find cover just as the grenades go off and open a fissure in the ice. The Giant Thing slips into the water and screams like a banshee. The salt water reacts as acid to the Giant Thing and it foams up and dies horribly, sliding back into the sea.

The three remaining guards, Captain Munro, and Amundsen enter the sub to find it a ghost ship, everyone is gone and the communications boards are destroyed. They are concerned but relieved that they are back aboard and seal the sub back up and make arrangements to go home. Captain Munro leaves one of the guards in charge and goes to get some sleep in his cabin. He finds his mice alright and feeds them. Just as Captain Munro lays down, one of the mice grows tentacles and lashes out.

Amundsen, still unnerved from his ordeal, seals himself in his room and begins to record his fresh thoughts into a tape recorder. Later, he makes his way back to the navigation room. The three guards and Captain Munro are busy at the controls of the sub. They all ignore Amundsen as he enters and they stare at a TV monitor which shows them what is outside the sub.

Amundsen, curious, peers to see what they are looking at. Underwater, outside the sub, they are scanning another spaceship. As the sub moves further, Amundsen sees more ships and what appears to be a spaceship graveyard. Deathly, dark and sinister ghost spaceships lay scattered along the bottom of the sea where they have fallen.thing graveyard

Amundsen looks at Captain Munro and notices that he has all of his fingers again. Smiling, Captain Munro Thing looks directly at Amundsen and begins to explain that he was a captive on a ship headed for another place long ago. He managed to take over the ship, but crashed here in the process.

Amundsen looks at the guards to see if they notice that the Captain is now the Thing. All of the guards turn to face Amundsen. Eerily, they all stare at him along with Captain Munro Thing, and speak to him in perfect unison.

They explain that they sent a distress signal and had wondered what happened to those that followed. They now realize that they landed here and the sea swallowed them up.

After sending the signal, when they couldn’t wait any longer, they exited the spaceship and the weather was too much for them and they froze. Until Amundsen came and found them in the ice. They tell him that now they will survive and take over the planet, thanks to Amundsen.

Amundsen pulls out a gun and points it at Captain Munro Thing, who smiles and says that it won’t be long before he joins them. Instead of shooting Captain Munro Thing, Amundsen quickly aims at the pipes above their heads and a stream of salt water fills the cabin. The Things all scream together and scramble to reach Amundsen and find cover. Amundsen seals them in the room and soon the Things foam up once again in a horrible death, ending Amundsen’s worst nightmare.

Beaten and worn, Amundsen quickly programs the subs computers to the nearest port. Soon the sub reaches land and is seen entering Christchurch, New Zealand harbor.

Off in the small confines of the sub, a small Mouse Thing grows tentacles and lashes out.

The End

Now you can see from our version that we got some inspiration from Ice Station Zebra (1968), as they are also on a mission to get to one of the Science Stations, in that one under the guise of a rescue mission in ours, an exploration mission.  This is great because we can now explore more of what’s underneath the ice, we maintain the claustrophobic feeling and now we also have a vehicle that can take the danger to the mainland for the possible 3rd movie.ice

Anyway, we would have loved to see our version as I think it really had a chance of creating a new Franchise for the film series and I for one would have LOVED to see the possible 3rd movie where the THING hits a population and then really can do some damage.  Oh, well, I hope you liked our version too, we can only hope that someone somewhere gets the idea to keep this film series going again.

Zoe Bell and Deathproof

 

Although the main bad guy in this film is called, “Stuntman Mike”, it is a stunt-woman that performs the spectacular stunts in the chase scene at the end.  Zoe Bell is riding the hood during the long and grueling chase with Stuntman Mike.  For those of you that were upset that I didn’t give the Best Movie Stunt to Kill Bill vol. 1 or vol.2 can, at the very least, be assured that Zoe Bell the stuntwoman for Uma Thruman in those movies for Quentin Tarantino gets the nod for this movie.Zoe Bell in DeathproofZoe Bell was born on Waiheke Island, New Zealand, to Tish, a nurse, and Andrew Bell, a doctor. She has a background in gymnastics and martial arts. She began working as a stunt woman when she doubled Lucy Lawless on the cult favorite TV series Xena: Warrior Princess (1995). Bell also appeared as a double in the ABC thriller Alias (2001) before starting work with Quentin Tarantino on the Kill Bill flicks.  Deathproof

They shot the chase sequence in Death Proof for six full weeks.  Zoe Bell said in an interview about the sequence, “We got a hell of a lot of footage. The takes we were doing were so long, we would just drive from one end of that road to the other over and over. I know that road backwards with my eyes closed! We would pretty much shoot the whole way. I couldn’t hear anything once we started rolling because I’m strapped to the bonnet with wind and stuff. I would rehearse whole sequences and we would just go for three or five minutes straight. Exhausting, mate!”Crash in Deathproof

Deathproof was directed by Quentin Tarantino for Troublemaker Studios.

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

Zoe Bell

Quentin Tarantino

Troublemaker Studios

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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Covert Operations Mission Objective: Infiltrate Bad Guy’s Hideout

 

When sneaking past security to infiltrate a bad guy’s fortified compound, my mode of covert subterfuge would have to be the often underused yet effective…walk through the front door disguised as the telephone repairman ruse. Bruce lee in Fist of Fury

It consists of the following:

  • Thick black-rimmed glasses
  • Goofy smile
  • An air of indifference to whatever evil plot is seen or overheard while in the presence of said bad guys, while pretending to fix a fully functional telephone receiver
  • Helpful prop would be a tool belt while holding at the bear minimum, a few handy telephones, in best case scenarios, a nifty screwdriver
  • No telephone ID’s needed, as the best infiltrators can just talk their way through security

A good example would be Bruce Lee in The Chinese Connection (Fist of Fury) 1972.  You can see the scenes in this clip, starting at 2:09.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFghe514COY

Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China

An effective use of the disguise can also be seen by Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China, 1986, twice when he infiltrates the brothel and later with telephone in hand at the lair of the bad guy, Lo Pan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBJSfGM5dGY