Copper was a physician stationed at American Antarctic research station, U.S. Outpost 31. The character appears in the 1982 film The Thing and was portrayed by actor Richard Dysart. His fate is also briefly touched upon in the 1991 comic series The Thing From Another World.
During the winter of 1982, the Norwegians were chasing an Alaskan Malamute around the outpost, the pilot was killed when he accidentally dropped a grenade and the passenger was killed by Garry thinking that he was hostile, the crew adopted the dog, Copper later treated Benning who was accidentally shot in the leg earlier by the Norwegian, Unable to contact the outside world via hand radio, Copper and the helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady risk a flight to the Norwegian camp only to find it destroyed, its personnel missing or dead (some of them committed suicide). Finding evidence that the Norwegians had dug something out of the ice, the pair return to the station with the partially-burned remains of a hideous creature which bears some human features.
During the night, he was woken up by the fire alarm that was turned on by MacReady, he saw an unknown creature assimilating the dogs, MacReady ordered Childs to bring the flamethrower and ordered him to incinerate it. Bennings was later assimilated by the remains of the Norwegian Thing, MacReady later incinerates the Bennings replica. Blair suffers a total mental breakdown, he destroyed the helicopters, tractor and radio with an axe, and killed the remaining sled dogs, containing further contamination. The team overpowers him and locks him in the tool shed. With all contact to civilization cut off, the crew wonders how to determine who is still human.
A torn shirt is found, confirming that the alien has indeed already assimilated at least one other person in the camp beside Bennings, but the name tag is torn out and the shirt cannot be matched to any one individual because they all wear the same size. Paranoia quickly sets in as the first attempt to develop a test using uncontaminated blood samples is sabotaged by an unknown party. Fuchs' body is found severely burned. MacReady speculates that Fuchs used a flare to burn himself before the Thing could get to him. He and the others then suspect MacReady had been assimilated by the creature when a scrap of torn shirt containing his name tag is found at the camp, and locks him outside in a severe blizzard.
MacReady somehow finds his way back to camp without a guide line, breaks into a storage room and threatens the rest of the crew with dynamite. In the course of the standoff, Norris suffers a heart attack. Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, however Norris' body transforms and violently tears off Copper's arms with its jaws, he then quickly dies due to shock and blood loss.
Later after conducting a makeshift blood test to determine who is still human, it is discovered that Copper had not been assimilated by The Thing and was human at the time of his death.
The circumstances of his passing would seem to make it obvious that he was not himself a Thing (another Thing violently attacked and killed him), so the blood test might appear superfluous. Possibly, MacReady wanted to safeguard against the possibility that the infection Copper would have been exposed to could spread through even a dead body, Copper suddenly "resurrecting" as a Thing. If he had already been a Thing before his death, MacReady would have to assume that Copper-Thing was attempting an elaborate ruse where he would be "killed" by another Thing and so seemingly proven human, then playing dead until the time came for a surprise attack. Whatever MacReady's reason for testing him was, the test only demonstrated that he was, indeed, uninfected.
- Richard Dysart (Copper's actor) was for a while the oldest living cast member of The Thing. He died April 5th, 2015 due to a long illness. Richard died at 86 years old.
- During the scene in which Dr. Copper has his arms severed, a double amputee stand-in was used wearing a Richard Dysart mask. The audience focuses on the bloody stumps while the mask goes unnoticed.
- Copper (much like Sam Carter did) had a piercing, albeit on the nose rather than the ear. Look at the right nostril during close-up shots of his face.
- The infamous "defibrillator scene" in which Copper dies never happened Who Goes There?, in which Copper actually survived.
- In an older draft of the Script, Copper survived the Norris-Thing attacking him and instead he died by the Palmer-Thing eating his entire head.