Making John Carpenter’s The Thing Nearly Cost One Actor His Hand

Keith David showed up to work on The Thing's first day of showing with a severely broken hand, panicking director John Carpenter.

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

Frequent collaborators John Carpenter and Kurt Russell re-teamed for their famous remake of 1951’s The Thing From Another World, simply titled The Thing. The unknowable alien lifeform that ends up terrorizing the crew of Outpost 31 created the opportunity for lots of body horror. However, in a report from SlashFilm, on-set body disfigurement was too much for the legendary horror director to handle, sending Keith David to the hospital.

Another actor that worked with Carpenter multiple times, notably in They Live, Keith David broke his hand one day before shooting was to begin on The Thing. Desperate to make a good impression on the first day, David made the choice to sleep on the injury and showed up to work anyways. In his own words, the Pitch Black star had a problem as “By the time I had to be at work in the morning, my hand had swollen up to the size of a boxing glove.”

Keith David’s character, Childs, isn’t supposed to be injured during the first part of The Thing, and because of the nature of the film’s alien, any body deformity would have an impact on the plot. Eventually, David had to admit to the director and producer he was injured, with the scenario playing out according to him as “Their eyes grew to the size of saucers when they saw my hand. “What happened to you?!” They immediately sent me to the hospital, where they put two pins in my hand.”

Had Keith David stayed on set and continued filming without seeking medical treatment it’s likely that his injury would have only become worse. On-set injuries happen but in this case, it was from a car accident prior to the start of filming. The Thing is already a gruesome film and it did not added help in making audiences squirm.

Kurt Russell and Keith David in The Thing

If anything were to happen another actor on the set of The Thing, Keith David would be the second worst following Kurt Russell. The two actors played the only survivors of the alien attack, or do they? As with some of the best sci-fi films of all time, the ending is ambiguous in a similar way to Blade Runner, another 80’s classic.

In fact, upon its original release The Thing was negatively compared to Blade Runner, Tron, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with critics lambasting the dark cynical tone and graphic scenes. At the time, the special effects were considered to be disappointing and didn’t live up to the other recent sci-fi films of the time period. Making only $19 million at the box office, it wasn’t a home VHS release that the film became a cult classic.

In the early-aughts The Thing was adapted into a controversial video game notably filled with fuse boxes and then followed by a prequel starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton. Now considered one of the greatest horror films of all time from multiple news outlets and fan-sites, even John Carpenter thinks it’s his greatest film.

Thankfully, the Thing never claimed Keith David as a victim.