When Movies.com was asked to take part in hosting one of the Alamo Drafthouse's Summer of '82 screenings, we immediately called dibs on John Carpenter's The Thing. It's an all-time favorite of several of us here on staff (Scott Weinberg will have a piece dedicated to the film later this week), plus we were just dying to see it on the big screen at our favorite movie theater on the planet. Shortly after confirming the film for us, though, a sad thought occurred: Mondo has already done a poster for The Thing, which meant they probably wouldn't be doing a second one just for this series.
We shouldn't have underestimated the mad minds at Mondo.
Not only is Mondo releasing a new poster for The Thing, but they're reaching all the way back to 1982 to do so. They're releasing a limited edition screen print of Drew Struzan's original artwork for the poster. No titles, no taglines, no names; just Struzan's glorious painting.
Every print will be personally signed by Struzan, and they'll be on sale at Friday's Movies.com-presented screening of The Thing (hope you got tickets!), with the remainder of the run going on sale online at a later date. Here's the info:
26" x 38"
Regular - Edition of 440 @ $250
Variant (glows in the dark) - Edition of 150 @ $350
Mondo and Struzan teaming together again thankfully afforded us the sincere pleasure of chatting with one of the greatest poster artists of all time about its creation and his continued work as an illustrator and artist. And on a personal note: It's a severe understatement to say that Drew Struzan is one of the kindest, nicest, most humble people I've ever had the honor of speaking with.
Movies.com: The last time we chatted you said you were just enjoying being a grandfather and working on your own art. Has anything significant changed in the last year or so?
Drew Struzan: That was a great dream. It wasn't quite that simple, I'm afraid. I'm still working on my own ideas and my own art, trying to fulfill my childhood dream of being an artist, but the world doesn't seem to want to leave me alone. The documentary they've been making for the last several years is about to premiere. They're looking for distribution and it looks like it's going to happen. We were daycaring our grandson and now we have a granddaughter that will be staying with us, so that's keeping me busy. And last year I did Frankenstein with Mondo, and that worked out so well we're doing a couple more this year, and I'm working some other ideas as well. That and many, many other things.
Movies.com: Do you feel like you still haven't fulfilled your dream of living as an artist?
Struzan: [Laughs] It's hard for me to put it in the proper terminology. As a kid I wanted to be an artist and paint beautiful pictures for people. As an adult I got married and had our son and so what I had to do was make a living. So much of my concentration became illustration because I could make a living off of it, so I did that for forty years. Now I'm laying back and saying maybe I'll fulfill my own childhood dream, which is just to paint; not just what I want, because it is out of a desire to please other people, but it is generated out of my own perspective instead of someone else's.
Movies.com: I understand. Well, we're talking because of a sort of meeting point between your own art and work for other people. I know that creating the art for The Thing was an unusual process over 30 years ago. Can you tell me what happened?
Struzan: [Laughs] Well, they probably had an idea of who I was back then and had already been considering me for work because as it turns out I was able to work faster and more accurately than a lot of guys. So when they ran into trouble they would give me a call, which was okay since I was trying to make a living. At the time I was living in Lake Arrowhead, which is like a hundred miles from LA, so I didn't have a lot of physical connection with Hollywood. I got a phone call, the simplest phone call I ever got, saying, "We have a job, we want to know if you can do it, the catch is we need it by tomorrow."
So they're talking a major motion picture with a full color, painted poster and they wanted it by the next morning. [Laughs] I said, "Sure, what is it?" and they said, "Do you remember the movie The Thing from the '60s?" "Yeah, I saw it. Neat movie." "Well, we're redoing it. That's what it is." "Okay, cool. You need it when?" "Tomorrow morning. We don't have any photos for you, we don't have any concept stuff, we just want you to do the drawing of what you think you'd do and then do a painting of it by tomorrow morning." "That's it? You spent millions of dollars on this thing and you don't have any reference materials, just make it however I feel? Sure, I'll try." [Laughs]
It was a very odd experience. I got an immediate concept, which is not unusual for me; I usually have something roving around in my mind. I dressed up in a winter snow outfit and my wife took a Polaroid of me. This was 30 years ago, back in the stone age when the only way to communicating a hundred miles away was the telephone or the fax machine. So I did the drawing and I faxed it back to the studio and they said, "Fine. We need it by tomorrow morning." I went to work. We stopped for a moment and I took some more photos with my wife, this time with a 35mm camera. She developed the film for me and I just started drawing, then painting through the rest of the day, then painting through the rest of the night. At 9 am a guy shows up at my doorstep and says, "Is the painting ready?" I had about an hour to go, so I finished painting it and he took it away. Since then it's done more traveling than I have. [Laughs] It's been around the world many, many times.
Movies.com: Oh it's an iconic image, as so many of your works are.
Struzan: Well, that's what happens. Leave me alone and I'll deliver an iconic poster. [Laughs]
Movies.com: I'm assuming you've seen the movie since then.
Struzan: They had a showing a couple months back here at the Cinerama Dome, so we saw a beautiful print, up there huge. It was quite a memorable experience for me because most of the time I don't even see these movies that I work on, and I surely don't see them in a big theater.
Movies.com: So you never saw The Thing until recently?
Struzan: Yep, just a few months ago. I can see why people like it. It's actually kind of good!
Movies.com: It's very good! Do you ever finally see a movie and think, "Oh, well if I'd seen that first, that would have changed things"?
Struzan: I'm so busy that I don't have the time to look back, which is to say something of my personality. I'm the kind of person who likes to always look forward, so looking back and having regrets...nah. It's fine for what it is and they liked it and that's the thing about being a commercial artist. The client was happy and therefore I was happy.
Movies.com: Were you ever approached for the prequel for The Thing?
Struzan: Funny you should ask because that's actually kind of a funny story. Another phone call, well, actually an email-- we're in the modern age now. [Laughs] I got an email from Universal and they said, "We're doing The Thing again, only this time it'll be a prequel. Would you mind if we sort of just copied your original art from the '80s on the computer?" I said fine, do what you want, it's your art anyway. And that's exactly what they did. If you look at the poster, it's sort of like they copied my original poster from the '80s and just updated it a little bit in the computer.
Movies.com: At least they reached out and asked your formal permission to do so.
Struzan: People do that constantly to my work, but this was the first time anyone had the decency to call and ask first. That's why it stuck in my mind. It was nice of them.
Movies.com: This Thing screening is part of a program the Alamo Drafthouse is doing recreating the Summer of 1982, and while it sounds like you don't get out to the movies much, do you have any specific memories of that Summer at the movies? Or, more generally, do you have a favorite Summer of films that defines something for you?
Struzan: Gee. I don't count time, I suppose. The only way I remember something at all is by the events, not by the time. You talk about The Thing and I absolutely remember sitting at the drawing board and posing for the reference material. I remember the phone call, but I wouldn't remember the year if we weren't sitting here talking about 1982. I've spent most of my life standing two feet from a drawing board, because that's what I did. Hard work, you know? I didn't take much vacations. All it was about was working and my family and that's about as far as it went. I don't have a favorite. My favorite is next year when I actually get to paint the best picture I ever painted.
I don't count time. I'm always looking forward to the future. I only expect things to get better before they get worse.
Movies.com: So what is in the future for you?
Struzan: Well, I'm doing the Mondo thing, but you don't tell people about that before it's done. [Laughs] I'm doing lots of stuff, but I can't really talk about it. Advertising and marketing get to premiere it when they're good and ready, not when I am. I'm actually going to take a vacation this year for the first time in a long time. I'm enjoying my grandkids, I'm happily married 44 years and I'm still painting pictures. That's about a summary of who I am.
Movies.com: I think that's amazing. I think a lot of people would be envious of that.
Struzan: Yeah, well, there's a lot of hungry, sad people out there, so I'm just doing what I can to create something that might make people a little happier, even if for a short period of time, and I've done the best I could.
Movies.com: I think you've done a helluva job of it.
Struzan: That's very nice of you to say. I hope I have.
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