Interview: Kim Bubbs, The Thing

Kim Bubbs has been working hard at acting for a long time, appearing in many, many films and television shows. Being from Canada originally, she has had the advantage of working in both English and French productions. And now, she is about to go from “actress” to “star actress”. Why? Because this year she will be in two heavily-watched films, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and the prequel to John Carpenter’s “The Thing”.

Kim called me in July 2011 and we talked about her latest projects…

GS: In “On the Road” (2011), you play Laura. Who is Laura?

KB: Laura is Sal’s one true gal after driving across the country, looking for love in all the wrong places. Laura is the woman he wants to settle down with and change his life.

GS: What sort of experiences did you or your character get to take part in during the course of the shooting?

KB: My character is the good girl, she’s the girl you bring home to Mom. She’s the girl who believes in Sal and just wants to have an honest future with him. She’s not the bohemian kind of, darker, adventurous girl he likes in the rest of the film. She’s more stable. I mean, she’s fun-loving, but she symbolizes a change and true love. [Gavin notes: The character of Laura is based on Joan Haverty. Joan and Jack Kerouac met, were married two weeks later, and their marriage lasted eight months. In the meantime, she became pregnant. Nine months later, already divorced, she gave birth to Jan Kerouac. So, regardless of how the book or movie may play out, don’t be fooled — Laura cannot tame Sal Paradise.]

GS: Were you familiar with the Kerouac novel?

KB: Yes, absolutely. It’s a classic. What’s really interesting, too, is that his parents were French-Canadian, so it was a lot of fun working with actors who speak French. It was fun throwing in French expressions from Quebec, especially with Sam Riley (who plays Sal), who is English.

GS: Did being familiar with the novel help you bring your character to life more than just reading the script would have?

KB: Yeah. I mean, it’s an excellent script. It really is, it’s very well-written. But yeah, it always gives you more in-depth information about what the writer originally intended. A script is an adaptation and can’t include everything that was in the book. So it definitely helped.

GS: So, you play the boring character…

KB: Nooooo!

GS: I’m sorry, but it’s true. Did you get any time on set with the big names associated with the film — Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi?

KB: I spent lots of time with Garrett Hedlund (who plays Dean Moriarty) and Sam Riley. They were amazing, they were a lot of fun. Generous, down to Earth. A lot of time we were freezing our butts off outside. We were supposed to be in New York, but we were in Montreal. It was maybe 12 degrees outside and I was wearing a strapless dress for one of the scenes. The crew and director (Walter Salles) were wearing snow pants and covered from head to toe. Sam Riley was very nice to me, offering his jacket.

GS: Any last words for this film?

KB: I’m really excited about “On the Road”! We had a fabulous director, Walter Salles. I think it’s going to be big and I’m proud to be a part of it.

GS: Awesome, let’s switch to “The Thing” (2011), where you play Juliette.

KB: Alright!

GS: Same question as before — who is Juliette?

KB: In the prequel, it takes place at the Norwegian base in Antarctica. And I am the lone French geologist among these Norwegian guys. We’re all scientists doing studies in Antarctica, going about our lives innocently enough. (laughs)

GS: Was there a language issue between the Norwegians and the rest of the crew?

KB: Yeah, a bit. The director (Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.) is Dutch. I speak English and some French. Many of the Norwegian guys were actually played by Danish actors who all knew English. So there was no problem in directing them, but when they spoke to each other we could not understand a word of it.

GS: When the Norwegians are speaking on camera, how does Matthijs know that what they are saying is correct and not something ridiculously silly?

KB: (laughs) We had people who were in charge of the Norwegian aspect of it to make sure their lines were coherent. But all of our actors were trustworthy professionals, too. They do ensure that what is being said is what should be said.

GS: Where was Antarctica filmed?

KB: I’ll tell you, it’s not what you might think. We actually had heat issues. It was shot in Toronto in the spring and summer. And when we were outside, we had the full Antarctic gear. It was really, really warm out — this was an unusually warm spring. We actually had ice packs on our necks. The hardest part was probably keeping the sweat out of our faces! You see, it’s always that way. In “On the Road”, I wear a strapless gown when it’s freezing and now, when it’s warm, I have full Antarctic gear.

GS: I am a huge fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Please tell me about working with her.

KB: Oh my, yes! Mary is incredible — she’s just the sweetest, most professional… I can’t say enough wonderful things about Mary. I adore Mary! Very together, very professional, great to be around, great to work with.

GS: I know you probably can’t say anything bad, but let’s see what happens. How do you think fans of John Carpenter’s “The Thing” will accept the prequel?

KB: A lot of care was put into respecting Carpenter’s vision. One thing that was remarkable about John Carpenter’s version was that there was no CGI back then, everything was done by hand with puppetry and such. And even today it looks phenomenal, respectable. It stands true. The producer and the director wanted to pay homage to Carpenter’s version and they wanted the prequel to blend seamlessly into his version. So there is some traditional effects work — it’s not just CGI. They wanted those original elements to be incorporated. I really, truly believe that fans of the original will not be disappointed.

When we were on set, we weren’t just working with green screen. We were working with physical things that had been created by the special effects crew. There was some green screen, and we had people dressed in green, but you have to incorporate the more modern elements, as well — if you have the technology, why not use it? But they put a lot of care in paying homage to Carpenter. We know his film is a cult classic and there is a huge expectation on our film, so we wanted to do it right.

GS: There’s a rumor that John Carpenter was supposed to make a cameo at some point, but the timing just didn’t work out right. Do you know anything about that?

KB: Yeah. I heard that rumor. I also heard that he was going to be involved in the music, but I don’t know anything beyond that…

GS: Thank you so much, Kim. Wanna wrap this up?

KB: Thank you, Gavin. The die-hard fans will not be disappointed. And I think it’s great that there are two girls in this movie — get the females in there!

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