- "Cheating bitch."
- ― MacReady loses his temper with the Chess Wizard.
R.J. MacReady was an American helicopter pilot stationed at Antarctic research station, U.S. Outpost 31. The main protagonist of the 1982 film The Thing, the character was portrayed by actor Kurt Russell. He also appeared in the 1991-93 Dark Horse Comics series The Thing from Another World and the 2002 video-game The Thing.
The Thing (1982)
Antarctica, Winter 1982
During the establishing shots of U.S. Outpost 31 helicopter pilot, R.J. MacReady, he plays a game of chess against the Chess Wizard chess computer, while enjoying a glass of J&B Scotch whiskey. Losing the game, a frustrated MacReady destroys the machine by pouring the glass of Scotch into it. Pursued by a Norwegian helicopter, an Alaskan Malamute makes its way into the camp as the science station's crew (including MacReady, who has left his cabin) looks on in confusion. Through reckless use of a grenade, the helicopter is destroyed and its passenger killed in the resulting explosion. The surviving pilot fires at the dog with a rifle, grazing one of the researchers. The Norwegian is shot and killed by Garry, the station commander and not knowing what to make of the incident, the station crew adopts the dog. Surmising that the Norwegians had suffered a mental breakdown, Copper persuades MacReady to make a risky flight to the Norwegian camp to assist any remaining researchers (whom MacReady repeatedly refers to erroneously as 'Swedes').
They find it destroyed, most of its personnel missing, and one member dead of apparent 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. Later that night, MacReady overhears howling and pulls a fire alarm, gathering everyone at the kennels. There they find almost the entire sled team in the process of being assimilated by the Malamute, which has transformed into a monster. MacReady and Garry shoot the creature to no avail, Childs incinerates it with a flamethrower. A subsequent autopsy by Blair reveals that the stray dog was an alien capable of absorbing and perfectly imitating other life-forms. MacReady leads a second helicopter expedition and discovers an alien spacecraft unearthed by the Norwegian research team, revealing that the creature had awakened after being buried underneath the ice for thousands of years. Returning to the outpost, the men discuss ramifications of the discovery. Bennings and Windows quarantine the remains of the dog-creature and the Norwegian cadaver in the storage room, while Fuchs confers with MacReady in the Snowcat that Blair is becoming unstable and his research indicates the burned creatures are still alive. Moments later Windows alerts MacReady to Bennings' assimilation by the cadavers; the team corners the alien in mid-transformation and burn it with fuel. Shortly after disposing of the Thing's remains Blair suffers an apparent mental breakdown and (to prevent the alien from escaping) sabotages the helicopter, tractor, kills the remaining dogs, and proceeds to destroy the radio room until MacReady and the team overpowers him and locks him in the tool shed.
Now isolated, the crew realizes that they might be contaminated and speculate on how to determine who is human. They find that the medical blood supply has been destroyed, eliminating the chance of blood tests that could reveal the infected party; because the perpetrator used Garry's keys to access the blood, the team nearly dissolves into rampant paranoia as to who is guilty. MacReady assumes command of the group and puts Garry, Copper, and Clark into isolation, ordering Fuchs to continue Blair's work before an encroaching Arctic storm forces them inside tight quarters. As the storm hits the facility, MacReady decides to create an audio record of the events and laments that 'nobody trusts anybody'. Further into the storm, Fuchs goes missing shortly after a power failure. MacReady organizes a search team and locates the researcher's severely burned remains; leading the pilot to speculate that Fuchs used a flare to burn himself before the Thing could get to him.
MacReady himself comes under suspicion when a scrap of torn clothing 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 stand-off, Norris suffers a heart attack. When Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, the Norris-Thing transforms and kills him. As MacReady burns it, the creature's head detaches from its body and attempts to escape, leading MacReady to theorize that every piece of the alien is an individual animal with its own survival instinct. He then burns the head with his flamethrower. In an altercation that precedes a test proposed by MacReady, Clark in an act of mutiny tries to stab him with a scalpel, but is shot by the pilot in self-defence. 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 begins to threaten McReady as a killer. 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 MacReady, Childs, Garry, and Nauls 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 tunnelling 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. 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 Blair and the entire facility.
MacReady wanders the burning ruins to face his fate with a bottle of Scotch and encounters Childs. Childs claims to have been lost in the storm after pursuing Blair, but MacReady is unconvinced. With the polar climate closing in around them and with no way to determine whether or not either of them is really human, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a drink as the camp burns and the cold returns.
The Thing (Video Game)
In the 2002 video game sequel, The Thing, R.J. MacReady returns to assist the game's military protagonist, Captain Blake, in destroying an enormous Thing from the air. It is never explained how MacReady survived exposure to the Antarctic cold after the destruction of Outpost 31, nor how he managed to acquire a functioning helicopter after three months (the time-frame between the conclusion of the film, and the beginning of the game). It is possible that he was captured by bio-tech company Gen Inc and held as a possible test subject for their experiments, only to eventually escape, and steal one of their helicopters. The character delivers the game's final dialogue, revealing his identity to the protagonist and flying off into the horizon.
Dark Horse Comics
After the destruction of U.S. Outpost 31 MacReady and Childs somehow make it to the Antarctic coastline. The latter attempts to return to the outpost, while MacReady is found by the crew of a Japanese whaling ship, the Misaki Maru. Restrained for his own safety, MacReady cuts his bonds and after quickly making sure he isn't infected, he steals the ship's helicopter and flies back to the ruins of Outpost 31 to incinerate the remains of the Thing. He is only partially successful and is frustrated by the arrival of an American military unit, who assume that MacReady destroyed the outpost after suffering a mental breakdown. Before leaving the outpost's remains however, one of the marines, Pybus foolishly touches the remains of a Thing and minutes later, as the team and MacReady are about to be picked up, he suddenly transforms, slaughters most of the unit and destroys the helicopter. MacReady and the squad leader, Erskine are able to destroy the Pybus-Thing with a grenade. The two reluctantly agree to team up and drag the two survivors (one of Erskine's squad, and the helicopter pilot) to a nearby Argentine base. During the journey the marine dies, and then the three remaining survivors get lost thanks to MacReady's intentionally misleading directions. A fight breaks out and before they can seriously hurt each other, a team from the Argentine base arrives, with Childs among them.
Despite MacReady's concerns, he and the other Americans are brought to an isolated part of the Argentine base, where blood tests can be carried out. MacReady passes his test, as does Childs, but the pilot is revealed to be a Thing and flees. MacReady, Childs, Erskine and the Argentinians pursue it, but are unable to find it, and have to call off the search due to the impending nightfall, despite MacReady's protests. Childs then falls down a crevasse, which turns out to have been created by the now-huge Thing to hide itself in. The team rescue Childs and destroy the Thing with high explosives, before returning to the base. As Erskine goes off to the communication shack to "report in", MacReady suddenly realizes that Erskine was never actually tested. The two hurriedly follow him, only to find the comms crew dead, and the communication equipment destroyed. MacReady determines from the log that Erskine called an American submarine, and the two chase him down on a snowmobile. MacReady shoots Erskine with his rifle and hits him in the head, but the wound has no effect, proving for certain that Erskine is a Thing. Seconds later, the submarine emerges from underneath the ice, and with its cover blown, the Erskine-Thing becomes completely inhuman, breaks into the submarine and begins slaughtering its crew. MacReady and Childs follow it on-board, but in the confusion the submarine goes into a dive and then collides with an outcropping of rock, badly damaging it.
MacReady explains the situation to the survivors, but they point out that fire cannot be used against the Erskine-Thing since it would, at best, rapidly use up all their oxygen and cause them to suffocate, and at worst trigger an explosion that would cause the submarine's hull to collapse, killing them all instantly. They begin making their way to the submarine's escape pod, but the Erskine-Thing attacks them on the way, and begins assimilating the surviving crewmembers. In a last-ditch effort to drown and kill the Erskin-Thing, Childs blows the submarine's exterior hatch, blasting MacReady out onto the ice fields above, which leaves him alive, but freezing to death, ending the comic on a cliffhanger.
Climate of Fear
At the beginning of The Thing from Another World: Climate of Fear a group of Argentine soldiers rescue MacReady and take him to a scientific research base in mainland Argentina to recover from his hypothermia (but not before one of their number is assimilated by the Erskine-Thing). MacReady's encounters with the Thing have left him violently paranoid however, and he quickly sets eyes on the flock of sheep kept at the base. That night, MacReady escapes, steals a machine gun and slaughters most of the sheep, before he is knocked out with a tranquillizer dart. The base commander, Sgt. Agapito Quitana, orders that the watch on MacReady be doubled and shortly afterwards MacReady is proven correct - one of the surviving sheep is revealed to be a Thing. Over the course of the night, tensions are high between the base's personnel and several more team-members are assimilated. When the remaining personnel wake up, Dr. Viale finds that Agapito has been tied up, and that MacReady has escaped, stolen the flamethrower and torched their communications shack. The soldiers search the base and appear to have tracked down MacReady to a disused aircraft hangar, only to find a Thing in the process of building an escape craft. As it attacks the Argentinians, MacReady arrives with the flamethrower and torches it. Part of the creature escapes and is pursued by MacReady, who is surprised to see it torched by an American commando unit lead by Childs. MacReady leads them back to the base, where the Americans restrain the Argentinians for testing. MacReady is first to be tested, only for his blood to suddenly jump out of the dish when Childs applies a flame to it.
Childs prepares to torch MacReady, but Dr. Viale argues with him. In the midst of the argument, MacReady reveals one of the men to be a Thing and torches him. In the chaos MacReady escapes and hides in the jungle, where he performs a makeshift test on himself to allay his own fears about possibly being a Thing. That night, Viale comes across MacReady, and the pair are confronted by Childs, who reveals that he contaminated Mac's blood test and rapidly transforms into a monstrous form. The pair are chased through the jungle by the Childs-Thing, who is quickly destroyed by American commandos, who are themselves quickly killed by a Thing packed with explosives. MacReady and Viale only narrowly survive and make for the disused hangar, where they find the Things in the process of completing the ship. MacReady is visibly discouraged, but Agapito catches up with them and the three pour gasoline around the hangar and ignite it. Seconds later however, a gigantic spider-like Thing , nearly as big as the hangar itself, emerges from the wreckage and pursues the them. MacReady lures it back to what's left of the main base, and challenges it to kill him. Before it can do so, an airstrike arrives and bombs the Spider-Thing, destroying it and the base. MacReady only narrowly escapes, and meets up with Dr. Viale and Agapito again. Viale asks MacReady if it's over, but MacReady is unable to give her any real answer, and just tells her to focus on keeping Agapito alive until rescue can arrive.
During The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows, MacReady arrives in Wallace Harbour, New Zealand, to investigate several suspicious murders which have recently taken place. Caught testing blood samples from a recent victim, he is almost immediately arrested by Detective Sergeant Rowan and accused of the murders. However, MacReady has the alibi of only just having arrived on the island, and he brings Rowan and Captain Banks of the fishing trawler Gettysburg up to speed on the Thing; the duo then agree to begin testing of the ship's crew. The following morning, the Powell-Thing arrives at the ship, but is taken into custody and blood-tested by MacReady and Rowan. MacReady is able to set it alight with a flamethrower and as the Powell-Thing dies, it briefly takes on the shape all those it's previously infected, including a local woman... who MacReady and Rowan immediately realize wasn't a murder victim, and thus is obviously a Thing. The pair quickly make their way to her apartment and try to kill the Jenny-Thing, but she proves too fast and jumps out the window. MacReady gives chase but eventually loses her. That night, realizing that the Thing contagion is out of control, the Jenny-Thing sets fire to the town to eliminate the competition and sabotages MacReady's helicopter. He and Rowan realize that the Gettysburg is their only means of escape and they make their way through the burning, Thing-infested harbour. Rowan admits that he can't swim well enough to reach the ship, and holds the Things off long enough for MacReady to escape.
Aboard the Gettysburg, MacReady finds what appears to be the body of the Jenny-Thing. He realizes that the crew couldn't possibly have killed it using any means that would leave the body intact, and enlists the help of Captain Banks to search the ship. After testing the entire crew, MacReady accuses Banks himself of being the Jenny-Thing and demands that he submit to a blood test; sure enough, Banks transforms into a monstrous form and begins assimilating the crew to gain in size and strength. Unable to help them, MacReady begins pouring gasoline around the ship and setting it alight, and sabotages the ship's boiler. The Jenny-Thing, which is now a huge monstrosity consisting of several fused bodies, confronts MacReady on the deck, but he ignites the gasoline with a flare gun, causing an explosion. Enough remains for the Thing to reform into Jenny's original body, which begs for mercy, but MacReady has none, and he pours gasoline on the Jenny-Thing and sets it alight before jumping overboard. Seconds later the sabotaged boiler explodes, destroying the ship. As MacReady gets back to the shore, he's suddenly attacked by what remains of the Jenny-Thing, which has been reduced to a spider-like head. However, Jenny-Thing is too badly damaged to assimilate MacReady, who simply kicks it away into the ocean; before he can finish it off however, a large wave knocks him to the beach, where he hits his head on a rock and passes out.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)).
- In the scrapped mini-series, Return of the Thing, MacReady and Childs' frozen bodies would have been discovered six months after the events of the 1982 film. Both would have been human.