The internet has made it easier than ever to argue a variety of opinions about a variety of subjects, for better or worse. In the world of horror cinema, one argument has been raging passionately amongst fans the past few years, which revolves around a question many have had since 1982: Who really directed Poltergeist?
The supernatural horror movie is credited as being directed by Tobe Hooper, creator of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Hooper stepped in for director Steven Spielberg, who wrote the movie and was incredibly involved in its development, when Spielberg opted to direct E.T. before an impending industry strike. Considering how similar the final product feels to many of Spielberg's other projects, there's no question that he was heavily involved, but the question remains of who should ultimately take credit for the iconic haunted house film.
In a tribute to Hooper, who passed away suddenly last month, the Mick Garris-hosted podcast Post Mortem discussed the director's career and legacy, one which is sure to influence filmmakers for decades to come.
"Tobe directed that movie. Steven Spielberg had a lot to do with directing that movie too," Garris claimed. "That controversy still hangs there, but Tobe is so much a crucial part of that movie. And watching both of them work on that film was a fascinating learning experience for me."
Hooper's Big Break
Garris, a filmmaker in his own right, thanks to having written a variety of horror films and directing Stephen King miniseries adaptations, clearly understands the misconception about Hooper.
"I was doing publicity on Poltergeist, and a lot of people were talking about the Spielberg and Tobe Hooper situation," Garris revealed of his involvement on the film. "From my perspective…it was Tobe's first studio movie. Here he is on a studio lot. On a big sound stage. Steven Spielberg had written the shooting script, was on the set and was producing. And Spielberg is a consummate filmmaker. He lives and breathes movies. Very passionate, very intelligent, very articulate."
He added, "And yes, I would see him climb on the camera and say, 'Maybe we should push in on a two-shot here or do this/that there.' And Tobe would be watching…Tobe was always calling action and cut. Tobe had been deeply involved in all of the pre-production and everything. But Steven is a guy who will come in and call the shots. And so, you're on your first studio film, hired by Steven Spielberg, who is enthusiastically involved in this movie. Are you gonna say, 'Stop that…let me do this'? Which [Tobe] did."prevnext
"It’s a Tobe Hooper film."
One of the biggest strengths of Hooper's with Texas Chain Saw was how gritty and grounded the experience felt. The film itself seemed to ooze atmosphere and radiated a Texas heat, something that most studio films fail to capture.
"Tobe was a terrific filmmaker," Garris points out. "I don't think it's that Steven was controlling. I think it was Steven was enthusiastic. And nobody was there to protect Tobe. But all of the pre-production was done by Tobe. Tobe was there throughout. Tobe's vision is very much realized there. And Tobe got credit because he deserved credit. Including…Steven Spielberg said that."prevnext
This latest confirmation contradicts claims made by a Poltergeist crew member earlier this year, who spoke very confidently about Spielberg deserving the credit.
"It was a very intense, very fun, very technical movie to work on," Leonetti, assistant camera on Poltergeist, explained. "There's a lot going on. And candidly…Steven Spielberg directed that movie. There's no question. However, Tobe Hooper — I adore. I love that man so much."0comments
"Hooper was so nice and just happy to be there. He creatively had input. Steven developed the movie, and it was his to direct, except there was anticipation of a director's strike, so he was 'the producer' but really he directed it in case there was going to be a strike and Tobe was cool with that," Leonetti noted. "It wasn't anything against Tobe. Every once in a while, he would actually leave the set and let Tobe do a few things just because. But really, Steven directed it."
With Hooper gone and Spielberg most likely wanting to preserve his collaborator's legacy, we might never get an official answer on the subject.prev