Yesterday, I spoke with actress Kim Bubbs about her role in The Thing, the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic. The Thing releases tomorrow, and you’ll be able to read our review of it bright and early. I also got to talk with her about her work in the hotly-anticipated adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s infamous novel On the Road.
Now, we kind of got into some spoiler territory here, so here’s what I’ve done. I’ll present you with our conversation, minus the spoiler parts, and if you really don’t mind getting part of The Thing spoiled for you, you can continue past the spoiler warnings I’ve posted and read to your heart’s happy content.[Headshot courtesy of Mark Cartwright]
Flixist (Alex Katz): What’s your opinion on the 1982 version, and what, in your opinion, are some of the key differences between the movie you guys made and the 1982 one?
Kim Bubbs: First of all, it was really important that, from the get go, nobody wanted to remake Carpenter’s film, because it was so well done. They likened it to painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa, something they just didn’t want to touch. The great thing is, and I thought this was such a brilliant idea, that Carpenter’s film lends itself so well to the prequel because we visit the Norwegian base, we see it completely decimated, but we never truly know what exactly took place there. So that’s where our film goes, to explore all of that.
Talk to me about some of the more tonal and stylistic differences. The Carpenter movie had more of a paranoid thriller bent to it, who is and isn’t the Thing, and all. How does your movie approach that aspect of the core story?
Well, it was important to incorporate a lot of those elements. Personally, I find those elements the most compelling parts of Carpenter’s film. The paranoia, the isolation, the cabin fever. The prequel does touch on that. I think that it’s, well, this is more of a technical aspect, but we did incorporate puppetry, and that was something that was very important as well, to the director, to have handmade effects as well. That’s what made Carpenter’s film so ahead of its time in 1982. I love the paranoid, all of those psychological aspects. That’s what makes it so rich, you know?
Going off of that, in terms of your character, how much practical work did you have to work with, and how much CG did you have to work with?
Across the board, we had so many physical, tangible things to work with, which was fantastic. We did have some green screen, but we were never in a situation where it was 100% green screen and we didn’t have anything to play with. We always had something, and it’s just so impressive to see the craftsmanship and the artistry in all these physical props and in the puppetry.
In terms of the challenge as an actor for your role, you’re the only female member of the research team, and indeed, you’re the only female character other than Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character. On top of that, you’re working in this prequel environment, with the language barrier. What was you experience there, as an actress?
It was wonderful. It was wonderful to have that international flavor to it, and we really were an international cast. I’ve played a lot of, I guess, outspoken, kind of strong female characters. Juliet has strength to her, but she’s more cerebral and quiet, more fearful and overwhelmed, but she does have a quiet courage within her. Just playing with all the paranoia, the not knowing who to trust, wanting to help out, not sure. Everybody’s completely unsure in this film. It’s really rich territory.
You just finished wrapping the adaptation of On the Road for next year
Did you have any kind of background with Kerouac’s work, for that?
You know, it’s really interesting, I’m French speaking, from Canada. My mom’s from Québec, so it was interesting to know that his parents were French Canadian. I didn’t know that, so it was fun to see Sam Reilly on set learning how to speak French and all these Québécois expressions, and he’s British, so that was a lot of fun. I think that Walter Selles is such an amazing director. He’s so meticulous in his work, and I’m so excited because I think this is going to be a very beautiful adaptation.
How does the tone work out, as it’s a really sexually charged kind of book, and you’ve also got adapting Kerouac’s really poetic style. I think On the Road is always on those lists of “unfilmable” books. How did you grapple with all that?
Well, it is a road movie with these really off-the-wall characters present in the book. In terms of language, it’s more, I guess, colloquial language or standard language.
I mean, of course you have to make those changes.
Yeah, just to get the spectator into the story! It’s a series of vignettes, so it’s gonna be really interesting. Only Sam and Garret got to work with everybody. We were all in our own little bubble, our own little universe.
That’s got to be kind of interesting. You’ve got this whole big thing, but you get to just focus on your one part of it, even more so in The Thing with a larger ensemble you’re working with every day.
Yeah, it’s just a series of little universes, you know?
What are the next couple of projects you’re looking at?
Well, I have something I’m not at liberty to discuss right now, which is great for an interview! I’m a writer too, actually, so I’ve got a number of projects in development in Canada right now.
Oh, you’re a screenwriter?
Yes! I can say, at this point, there’s two projects. One of them’s kind of a dark comedy, and the other’s a touching drama. I like variety!
THIS IS THE SPOILER PART
PLEASE TURN BACK IF YOU DON’T LIKE SPOILERS. OR IF YOU’RE GOING TO WHINE ABOUT THEM.
I know that was one of my biggest fears is that there’d be a lot more CG [in The Thing]than physical puppetry, so it’s good to see that there’s a mix. I remember there was a rumor a while ago that there were some extensive reshoots on the movie specifically to add more CG. Can you comment on that?
For me personally, they did make an animatronic me, for the puppet, which was very frightening to look at.
That’s got to be such a weird experience, to see yourself as such a crazy monster like that.
It is! It was pretty cool! Thankfully, my face is still better than the puppet’s face in terms of expression! Which keeps me working, which is good. So, we went back and actually laced my actual face and facial expressions on top of that animatronic face. They preferred my more human, I guess, facial expressions. So that’s kind of consoling, for me as an actor.
That’s really cool, just from a technical standpoint that they made that work. That’s really awesome.
It’s got to be great to incorporate your performance more than if they were just CGing a face in.
Absolutely, and it’s kind of a perfect example of how they used…when I become the creature, there’s a woman wearing a green bodysuit wearing my puppet, and yet it’s my face that’s been CGI’ed on top. So it truly is a blend of both mediums.