- "Cheating bitch."
- ― MacReady loses temper with the Chess Wizard.
R.J. MacReady is a helicopter pilot that was stationed at the American Antarctic research station Outpost 31 and the main protagonist of The Thing. MacReady is one of only two survivors of the Thing infestation at Outpost 31. He is portrayed by actor Kurt Russell.
An army chopper pilot during Vietnam, something during the Lieutenant's tour caused him to inwardly snap. From the Tet Offensive to Mai Lai or worse, MacReady came home changed. From his anti-social attitude one can surmise he wasn't given a hero's welcome either. It's possible he fought against unknowledgable peers, family and community. Now brooding behind alcohol and solitude, who knows how many opportunities fled once MacReady returned home from the war.
Antarctica, Winter 1982Edit
MacReady was playing chess wizard while in his shack, however he lost and didn't take it very well so he pours a glass of J&B into the computer, causing it to short circuit. He then spots the Norwegians firing at an Alaskan Malamute, the Norwegian pilot, Matias was killed when he dropped a grenade and the passenger, Lars, opens fire at the dog which results in him being shot and killed by Garry, who thought that Lars was hostile, the dog was then adopted by the group. MacReady and Copper decided to check the Norwegians' research station not far from the outpost, but found it completely destroyed and they discovered the burned remains of an unknown creature and brought it back. During the night, MacReady hears howling and knows that something is wrong, he uses the fire alarm to warn everybody else and heads to the kennel, he faces an unknown creature and shoots it, to no avail. The creature grew arms and tries to escape, but is burned by Childs. After the creature's remains were examined by Blair, he concluded that the creature was in fact an alien able to assimilate into other lifeforms. A second helicopter expedition discovers an alien spacecraft unearthed by the Norwegian research team, revealing that the creature had awakened after being buried within the ice for thousands of years. The creature's remains were stored at the storage room, the creature assimilates Bennings and MacReady destroys the Bennings replica. He then help subdue Blair who is suffering a mental breakdown. Blair had destroyed the helicopters, tractor and radio with an axe and killed the remaining sled dogs, containing further contamination.
Paranoia quickly sets in as the first attempt to develop a test using uncontaminated blood samples is sabotaged by an unknown party. As the storm comes, MacReady decided to make some tapes, he then subdues Blair, who has become paranoid after discovering the creature's capabilities, MacReady and the others discovered Fuchs' remains, he speculates that Fuchs used a flare to burn himself before the Thing could get to him. MacReady comes under suspicion when a scrap of torn shirt containing his name tag is found at the camp, and he is locked outside in a severe blizzard. Somehow finding his way back to camp without a guide line, MacReady 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. When Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, Norris' body transforms and bites off Copper's arms and he bleeds to death. Norris' head detaches from his body and the alien uses it in an attempt to escape as the others burn the body, but the head is discovered and incinerated. Afterward, MacReady theorizes that every piece of the alien is an individual animal with its own survival instinct. In an altercation that precedes a test proposed by MacReady, Clark in an act of mutiny tries to stab MacReady with a scalpel, but is quickly shot in the head and killed by MacReady in self-defense. The rest of the crew complies with the test; blood samples are drawn from each member of the team including Copper and Clark and jabbed with a hot wire to see whose blood will react defensively. Upon realizing that Clark was not infected, Childs denounces MacReady as a murderer. Palmer, the backup pilot, is unmasked as an imitation, and manages to kill Windows before being destroyed by MacReady with dynamite, who also torches Windows' body with a flamethrower as it begins to transform. Confirming that Childs, Garry, Nauls, and MacReady himself are still human, the surviving crew set out to the tool shed in order to administer the test to Blair, only to find that he has escaped by tunneling his way underground. They follow the path and discover that not only had Blair been assimilated, but he had been constructing a small flying vehicle of alien design underneath the tool shed in order to reach and infect the mainland. They return to the surface to witness Childs inexplicably abandoning his post at the main gate, followed by the facility losing power.
Realizing that the creature now wants to freeze again so a future rescue team will find it, the remaining crew acknowledge that they will not survive and set about destroying the facility in hopes of killing the creature. While setting explosives in the underground generator room, Garry is killed by the infected Blair. Nauls follows the sounds of the creature and is never seen again. The only indication of Nauls' fate is sealed by a lone noise MacReady hears from the other underground chamber. Alone, MacReady prepares to detonate the charges when the creature, larger than ever, emerges from beneath the floor. MacReady attacks it with a stick of dynamite, which sets off the rest of the charges and destroys the entire facility. After some time, MacReady is shown wandering alone in the flaming rubble. He encounters Childs, who claims to have seen Blair and gotten lost while chasing him in the storm. With the polar climate closing in around them, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a drink as the camp burns and the cold returns.
Where Childs died of exposure to the harsh arctic climate, MacReady somehow managed to survive (possibly by being captured by Gen-Inc), and eventually managed to acquire a helicopter, which he then used to assist U.S. Military Captain Blake in defeating the mutated Colonel Whitley. Once Whitley is defeated, MacReady and Blake escape the Antarctic.
In addition to military wisdom gained during his tours of Vietnam, one could guess MacReady had some college before shipping off, particularly if he was an officer. Since the Lieutenant rank is only mentioned in the Dark Horse comics stories, and is solely Naval rank, it's not canon. To speculate further about what type of chopper pilot Mac could have been, Medic isn't out of the realm of possibility, but his familiarity with weapons and the enemy makes a fair guess that he was a pilot in an Assault unit.
- The Chess Wizard game that MacReady wrecked at the beginning of the film belonged to Production Manager Robert Latham Brown. It is an Apple II computer and the game is Sargon II. In an odd twist of reality-meets-fiction from a software standpoint, Windows was "deleted' by Mac.
- Originally there was a scene with MacReady and a female blow-up doll, but it was cut from the final film.
- His weapon of choice seems to be a 12 gauge Ithaca 37 shotgun which is seen in use when he went to search the Norwegian base and when they encounter the Kennel-Thing attacking the dogs. Later on Garry gave him his .357 magnum Colt Trooper Mark III revolver.
- In the video game sequel, "The Thing," it is never explained how MacReady survived exposure to the artic cold after the destruction of outpost 31, nor how he managed to acquire a functioning helicopter after three months (the timeframe between the conclusion of the film, and the beginning of the game). It is possible that he was captured by Gen Inc , and held as a possible test subject for their experiments, only to eventually escape, and steal one of their helicopters.
- He is most likely based on the main character Captain Patrick Hendry (played by Kenneth Tobey) from the original 1951 film, due to both characters being the main protagonists of each film and having military-aviator experiences during conflicts held in the Cold War in their backgrounds (MacReady being a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War and Hendry being part of the U.S. Air Force during the time the original film when it was filmed and set (the 50's, the earliest years of the Cold War)).