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Photo: POLTERGEIST (1982) Warner Brothers

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Tobe Hooper Pretended to Direct ‘Poltergeist’ for Steven Spielberg!

Tobe Hooper Pretended to Direct ‘Poltergeist’ for Steven Spielberg!

One of the worst kept secrets in horror history is that Steven Spielberg actually directed Poltergeist (1982), which is credited to the great Tobe Hooper. It’s a weird Hollywood myth that causes such conflicting emotions in us horror fans because, well, we love Hooper but this is a huge knock against his legacy. If it’s not true, it’s an awful and horribly insulting rumor that continues to infect the director’s reputation. That said, where there’s smoke there’s fire.

In fact, we’ve sort of confirmed this here on Bloody Disgusting multiple times. One piece of evidence was shared this past February, in which a mini-doc ended the debate once and for all. Before her passing, Zelda Rubinstein, who starred in the film as Tangina, had told AIC this shocker back in 2007: “I can tell you that Steven directed all six days I was there. I only worked six days on the film and Steven was there. Tobe set up the shots and Steven made the adjustments.

While there have been shreds of evidence over the years, it’s hard to understand why this happened. From the outside looking in, it’s hard to not think that Spielberg was saving the film from Hooper’s incompetence. Even Rubinstein suggested in the aforementioned interview that he was allowing “unacceptable chemical agents into his work.” Revisionist history is allowing this to become the facts even though there’s actually a much more believable reason.

Promoting his new film Wish Upon, director John Leonetti not only confirmed that Spielberg directed Poltergeist but that Hooper was used as a pawn to allow this to happen. You see, his brother is cinematographer Matt Leonetti, who was Director of Photography on Poltergeist. Because of this, John was assistant camera and was on set for every single shot of the film, which is how he learned the truth behind this long-debated mystery.

It was a very intense, very fun, very technical movie to work on,” Leonetti told Shockwaves. “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. But, had I known you were going to ask me that question, I would’ve brought this one picture I have, which is the whole movie in one shot!”

Below is the shot in question, which he further explains. “It’s the scene where the tree comes in to grab the boy, and we have two cameras set up. In the foreground on an apple box is (an excited) Tobe, standing right behind him is Spielberg pointing. Next to him was my brother on camera and me.

Photo: POLTERGEIST (1982) Warner Brothers

While Zelda was only on set for a week, the Leonetti’s where there for every. single. shot. Hearing this from John’s mouth is the best confirmation we’re going to get next to Hooper or Spielberg finally coming clean. This brings us back to the aforementioned question I asked, WHY? John explains and it gives us motive:

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. 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.

There you have it. The 35-year-long mystery has been solved. Poltergeist was always supposed to be a Steven Spielberg-directed movie and a young Tobe Hooper played the role to avoid a shut down in the midst of a director’s strike. It all makes sense, and now that it’s in the open it would be pretty cool if Hooper or Spielberg would come clean and talk about it in length. No matter, I think Hooper has carved out a nice legacy for himself and Spielberg doesn’t appear to care one way or another who gets the credit so long as his company delivered a quality product to moviegoers. You have to respect that.


130 Comments
  • Saturn

    I don’t give a shit whether Hooper or Spielberg directed it – I only care that I love the damn movie, and the remake had disappeared already, while the legacy of the original lives on.

    Do I want more Poltergeist movies? Yes – but not remakes/reboots/whatever – I want direct sequels to the original movies. Of course Carol Anne will need to be recast – but come one Hollywood. Give us a 30 years later movie where Carol Anne’s kids are the ones being targeted by a vengeful Kane.

    • Brandon MisterJuicy Alexander

      i always thought of that show “medium” as a sort of “after effect” of those films on carol anne.

      blond lady running around solving ghost mysteries 😀

      • Saturn

        Ah yes, Medium – I actually really enjoyed that show – although I still have to watch the last 2 seasons (like the last season of Dexter) but due to a few family health issues these last few years, kinda fell off.

        Is it really weird of me that often when I watched Medium I had “we’re the dream warriors!” playing in the back of mind?

        • Brandon MisterJuicy Alexander

          im american, but i moved to europe right around the time that show started.
          my wife (from over here) got hooked on it, as it was the first american tv show she had actually “watched”.

          its pretty funny. whenever i would watch it with her (i was not a fan at all..procedural dramas and all that), i would spend half the time imagining that the whole thing was a ruse by freddy to get her well into adulthood 😀

    • Schwifty

      Er, no thanks — everything after the original is fucking horrible.

      • Saturn

        I dunno, Poltergeist 2, although a step down, has enough merit to consider it a decent sequel. Poltergeist 3 though was dogshit.

        • Sablefool

          _Poltergeist 3_ had amazing practial effects. It looked great. And the idea of a haunting in a high-rise amidst the hustle and bustle of a big city was great. But the loss of most of the cast, and the narrative hoops (no pun intended) they had to jump through because of it, effectively sunk the film. I felt like it was an A excecution of D material. A shame.

  • Ocelot006 .

    One the greatest things about Spielberg is he’s sort of an anti-auteur. He was willing to direct a movie knowing he wouldn’t be credited for it. He didn’t battle for story credit for E.T. despite the fact that it was his story.

    He was the sole credited screenwriter on A.I. and mentioned how it wasn’t anything unusual and he always works on his screenplays there just wasn’t another guy there suggesting he’s not obsessed with the big auteur ‘written and directed by’ credit despite the fact it seems like he could go for it.

    I don’t think he’d ever be a Steve McQueen crying about not getting screenwriting credit because it will destroy his ‘auteur’ label.

    • Saturn

      I’ve seen plenty of interviews with him over the years, and the thing that impresses me most about him?
      No ego.
      And considering the amount of great movies he’s made he could be all about “me” but isn’t.

    • Sablefool

      As a screenwriter, he’s a collage -artist. _A.I._ was spawned from a Brian Aldiss short story, “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” and had screenplays/treatments by Brian Aldiss and another SF author Ian Watson. Both produced multiple drafts which featured work from Stanley Kubrick as well. And the sole screenplay credit is Spielberg’s.

      • Ocelot006 .

        I mean yeah inherently a movie that has been in the works for twenty years will have had a few people writing before you decided to take over.

        • Sablefool

          Absolutely. So if the initial genesis of an idea is from a literary source and the intended director expands upon it with another writer and a later writer follows most of what they have written, how is it that the last writer gets sole credit? Oh yeah, he’s Steven Spielberg. I’m not objecting to his having credit, but sole credit? That’s criminal.

          • Ocelot006 .

            Well the other guy still got screen story credit so nothing criminal to be had. So technically not the sole credited screenwriter.

          • Sablefool

            He bought a donut, put sprinkles on said donut, and got credit for making the donut. There might be an acknowledgement of “Based on the donuts of Voodoo Donuts,” but it’s still disingenious at best. But I guess we are of differing thoughts here.

          • whatthewhereis

            A.I. didn’t go through any form of arbitration?

          • Sablefool

            Not that I’m aware of. Ian Watson was only aware of much of his contributions being used after the film was out. He didn’t pursue it, but some of the books that have come out confirm various bits of it.

          • Ocelot006 .

            Spielberg was the final screenwriter so as far as I’m concerened him getting ‘Screenplay by’ credit and Ian Watson getting ‘Screen Story by’ credit seems pretty fair and tidy. I don’t see how it is at all disingenuous.

            And how is ‘Story by’ not screenwriting credit?

          • Sablefool

            It’s not about who the final screenwriter is. It’s about how much they are actually responsible for. When you are the producer, or what-have-you, you have to produce even more to get the credit let alone a sole credit. From the _What’s the Difference_ book:

            A “story by” credit is given to the person or team who came up with the essence of a film (such as the plot or main characters) and who may have written a treatment, but who didn’t write the screenplay.
            Similarly, a “screen story by” credit goes to a person or team who
            adapted other material such as a novel, a TV show, or a news article for film and made it substantially different from the source.

            A “screenplay by” credit is given to the person or team who wrote the scenes and dialogue of a screenplay but didn’t generate the idea for the story.

            There were screenplays before Spielberg’s. His contains work from there’s. He’s not responsible for all of the scenes or dialogue. So not to credit the other screenwriters for the screenplay is disingenious to me, but obviously not as problematic to you. So we shall agree to disagree.

            Right now, I’m more concerned with Bloody-Disgusting removing my posts on this article. Seems they can besmirch Tobe Hooper, but do not much care for it in return.

          • Ocelot006 .

            So you’ve personally read Ian Watson’s screenplay I take it? And there’s certainly enough horror shows about screenwriting credit to prove it’s not as simple as your pull from that book.

          • Sablefool

            No. I’ve read about it. I’ve read about the production of _A.I._ as well as his memoir of his time with Kubrick (available on his website). He discusses these things. When you start reading all of the memoirs and memories of people involved with this film, what they produced, et cetera — you find that Spielberg simply acted as a magpie insofar as the screenplay is concerned.

          • Ocelot006 .

            I mean you’re not really giving much specific here beyond ideas of his were used which sounds about fitting for ‘screen story by’ credit.

          • Sablefool

            You are correct. It is not as simple as it is indicated in that book. But, you have someone that is not really a screenwriter. Somebody who went to arbitration over _Poltergeist_ and had to accept shared screenwriting credit. Ian Watson relates that he forgot about the Flesh Fair scenes. Yet the Stanley Kubrick Archives at the University of the Arts, London revealed that he authored those scenes. Apparently, much of this is detailed in A.I. Artificial Intelligence: From Stanley Kubrick to Steven Spielberg: The Vision Behind the Film which I do not yet have. So that may be a resource to look into.

          • Ocelot006 .

            I’m still not seeing how ‘Screen Story’ is not a fair credit. Ideas of Watson’s were used. He got ‘Screen Story by’ credit. I still don’t see why you believe he deserves equal credit to Spielberg. I mean did Watson in fact even write or screenplay or just a treatment?

          • Sablefool

            I’ve read that there were screenplays produced pre-Spielberg by various writers. Whilst Watson’s treatment is frequently mentioned, different sources indicate he also wrote some screenplay drafts. For example, in John Baxter’s biography of Stanley Kubrick he writes, “Writing continued with Watson. He lived too far away to work at Childwick Bury, so Kubrick installed a fax machine in Watson’s house so they could correspond quickly. Watson completed a first draft script, for which, he boasted, he was paid ‘an eighth of a million pounds’.”

            In addition to writing the source material, Brian Aldiss worked extensively with Kubrick on the film in two different decades. He wrote drafts of screenplays. Kubrick also hired Bob Shaw for a time, but it sounds like that didn’t work out at all. He tried collaborating with Arthur C. Clarke again, and whilst Clarke gave him some input and ideas, he wouldn’t work with Kubrick again. And apparently Sara Maitland was the last writer he worked with on the screenplay. According to her there were reams of material, a great amount of it unfinished screenplays.

            So returning to the question of credit. This was strictly an adapted screenplay. It was based on a short story. So the expansion of the story owes to Kubrick, and seemingly, Ian Watson most of all. But there were other hands/minds involved in the decades of development this film underwent. I suppose it is possible that Spielberg produced all of the dialogue (though it does seem unlikely to me), but too many of the scenes are related by various people as originating with Kubrick and others for Spielberg to get credit for that. And that is a facet to the screenplay credit.

            Now what prompted my initial, and follow-up, responses was where you wrote, “He was the sole credited screenwriter on A.I. and mentioned how it wasn’t anything unusual and he always works on his screenplays there just wasn’t another guy there suggesting he’s not obsessed with the big auteur ‘written and directed by’ credit despite the fact it seems like he could go for it.” He was the sole, credited screenwriter, but he wasn’t the only screenwriter. It really does seem like he was obsessed with the “written and directed by” credit to me. Though, apparently, not for you. I’m okay with that.

          • Ocelot006 .

            How the fuck does it seem like Spielberg was obsessed with the ‘written and directed by’ credit to you? Especially when there exists a single film in his entire filmography with such a credit? Please do explain.

            I’m still not seeing any reason Watson deserves anything more than ‘Screen Story’ credit. He worked on earlier versions the film. Spielberg used those ideas. Sounds accurate enough for me.

          • Sablefool

            Well, I meant more on this film. When he has involvement in something, though, he seems to want to take most of the credit. Of the three feature films that he directed that he has a writing credit on, on two he is listed as the sole screenwriter despite several earlier writers working on those films. He attempted to get sole screenwriting credit on _Poltergeist_, but failed to get it in arbitration.

            So okay, to revise what I said: He isn’t so much obsessed with the “written and directed by” credit as much as he wants to take the sole credit for work that others contributed to/are responsible for.

          • Ocelot006 .

            The only real sole screenwriting credit is ‘written by’. Not ‘screenplay’ by with a screen story credit given to another.

            I mean even if Watson wrote any actual full screenplays, Spielberg could have only been working from treatments he wrote in which case Watson would definitely not deserve a ‘screenplay by’ credit.

            If you believed Spielberg was obsessed with sole credit, why only one film with ‘written and directed by’ out of about thirty movies the man has directed? You have zero case here.

          • Sablefool

            I said when he has involvement in something, he seems to want to take most of the credit. So of his three features that he has both writing and directing credits for, on two of them there is not another credited screenwriter despite their having been previous screenwriters. Sara Maitland has spoken of the numerous unfinished screenplays. Brian Aldiss talks about writing screenplays for Kubrick. I even quoted a Kubrick biography above about Watson writing a first draft.

            Why does only one Spielberg film have a “written and directed by” credit? Because he’s not a writer. When he does write something, he doesn’t want to share that credit. Watson and Aldiss, whilst writers, were not established screenwriters; that is to say, they were not in a position to put up much of a fight. On CEotTK, I don’t know how he managed to get sole credit with at least six other writers involved. On _Poltergeist_, he attempted to get sole screenwriting credit and lost. Not to mention the whole impling that he directed it thing.

            You wrote, “One the greatest things about Spielberg is he’s sort of an anti-auteur.
            He was willing to direct a movie knowing he wouldn’t be credited for it.” Not so humble and giving when he’s trying to deny the contributions of others and implying that he directed it.

          • Ocelot006 .

            Trying to deny the contributions of others? Who? Watson has his credit. He was denied nothing.

            No one is denying previous scripts were written, the question was were any of those previous scripts used enough to deserve screenplay credit? The jury declares no on that one.

            If he was obsessed with taking sole credit for the works of others why isn’t every movie of his ‘written and directed by’? You keep declaring him obsessed yet why isn’t this plastered all over his filmography then?

          • Sablefool

            Well, like I said, on _Poltergeist_ he tried to deny Mark Victor and Michael Grais. There were at least six other screenwriters involved on CEotTK, but no credit for them.

            You say “The jury declares no on that one,” but there was no trial in regard to _A.I._ (I realize you are being proverbial, I am replying in kind). Much like on _Poltergeist_, you have inexperienced screenwriters without much power. He probably wasn’t expecting to have them fight, and lose that fight, on _Poltergeist_, but insofar as I am aware there was no fight on _A.I._. Perhaps the writers were happy with the money they were paid. Perhaps they were not savvy to the ways of Hollywood. Perhaps they simply were not in the position to fight the most powerful man in Hollywood. This is a man who got a new rating created simply so that the young could still see his film. This is a man who was able to seize Rick Baker’s work and effectively get him gagged from talking about it.

            Again, as previously stated, not every film of his is a “written and directed by” venture because he is not a writer. But when he has a hand in the writing, he doesn’t want to acknowledge the contributions of others. He’s not going to try to claim he wrote a blacklist screenplay or something of the Coens. But if there’s something in development with someone green; or if he hires someone to work with him on something, the odds are good that he’s going to fight for a substantial, if not sole, credit for himself.

          • Ocelot006 .

            But you only know which films he is credited for writing. Very possible he wrote more.

            I mean I don’t see you upset at Spielberg not getting well deserved story credit for E.T., so what is the personal grudge here?

          • Sablefool

            I wouldn’t be upset if he had a story credit on _E.T._. I’m actually shocked that he hasn’t retroactively fought for it.

            Spielberg is an incredibly skilled director, but I also find him to be something of a reprobate. If someone were to denigrate his mastery of the medium, I would vehemently disagree. If they made accusations of shallowness or sentimentality, depending upon the film, I would probably have to agree. At this time, being late at night and finishing up watching a film, I don’t really want to get into why I dislike him, but it’s not a personal grudge.

          • Ocelot006 .

            Well you say he is obsessed with getting writing credit when he’s done some work, so then why hasn’t he fought for E.T. credit? I mean this isn’t in your favor with your painting of Mr. Obsessed With Taking All The Credit.

          • Sablefool

            True, it’s an outlier. But Mathison was on-set during filming, an associate producer, and in a relationship with Harrison Ford. So not as easy, or comfortable, to make a credit grab there.

            Additionally, as people openly talked of it being his story, perhaps he didn’t feel the need for a “Story by” credit. Surprising all the same.

            Other factors could be other contributors that would muddy the waters of his authorship of the story. Some vital elements came from John Sayles’ _Night Skies_ screenplay, but Sayles was asked not to ask for credit and he conceded. And then there were the later plagiarism accusations by Satyajit Ray. I’ve never read _The Alien_, so I don’t know how much water they hold, but given that Ray was a major figure in world cinema, a dispute over the story credit could have been ugly.

            Even though the circumstances were different with _E.T._, I do admit it is something of an outlier.

          • Ocelot006 .

            But for a guy obsessed with credit as you say, he should have felt the need to get that credit. Your whole point here is this obsession of his to get sole screenwriting credit when he’s done some work and it’s not really panning out here.

          • Josh Blitzenbrox Myers

            Seriously, someone probably marked it as spam because they saw that it was an extremely long diatribe. I got roughly 3/4 through and just lost interest because it was mostly a rant. That thing was massive, and not exactly insightful. Learn to abbreviate a bit man.

          • Sablefool

            Again, long — or a rant — does not equate to spam. You may have lost interest and not found it insightful, but I’d argue that such a reaction says more about you than what I wrote.

          • Pat

            “Story by” means you came up with the story.

            “Screen story” credit is given when a screenplay is based on source material, but the screenplay’s story is new and substantially different from the source material’s.

            “Screenplay by” means you wrote the script.

  • Sablefool

    At best, this is muckraking in the worst way (which seems to have plagued the _Poltergeist_ series), but more likely this is just irresponsible and ill-informed. This “story,” and seemingly it is that — more fiction than fact — should not have been printed without an attempt to contact the respective camps of Hooper and Spielberg.

    Let’s start with some background: Spielberg initially intended to make a sequel, thematic not literal — to _Close Encounters of the Third Kind_. That film, CEofTK, had initial drafts written by Paul Schrader, David Giler, and about four or five other writers; however, Spielberg receives sole screenplay credit. Remember that — it wasn’t the first, and would not be the last, time that Spielberg grabs as much credit as he can whilst trampling upon others. Anyway, the prospective sequel to CEotTK became _Night Skies_ whose screenplay was written by John Sayles. It featured one friendly alien; Rick Baker designed all the aliens. Spielberg changed his mind and elements of _Night Skies_ split into _E.T._ and _Poltergeist. Rick Baker wanted a new contract for _E.T._, Spielberg didn’t want to pay him anymore, so Rick Baker’s work was seized, seemingly given to Carlo Rambaldi (whom Baker already had issues with — see _King Kong_), and he was prevented from showing/discusing the work he had done on the film. What of the other film — _Poltergeist_?

    At that time, Tobe Hooper had an office at Universal which previously belonged to Robert Wise. In the office was a book about “poltergeists” that Wise presumably referred to for _The Haunting_. Spielberg approached Hooper about directing _Night Skies_, but Hooper instead suggested some manner of ghost story and showed him the poltergeist book. So the transition from alien siege tale to ghost story was Hooper’s. As was his way, Spielberg hired others to write the screenplay and then attempted to claim all the credit; however, this time, due to arbitration, the writers — Michael Grais and Mark Victor — actually received some credit. Someone of the three actually stole a great deal of _Poltergeist_ from the Twilight Zone episode “LIttle Girl Lost” which was based on a Richard Matheson short story. In all likelihood, it was Spielberg — he was familiar with him having directed an adaptation of _Duel_ and being a child of TV and avowed Twilight Zone fan. So, again, although thought of as the writer of Poltergeist, the initial idea was from Hooper, he had cowriters, and much of the plot was cribbed from an old television show.

    If you’ve read John Kenneth Muir’s wonderful tome about Tobe Hooper, _Eaten Alive at a Chainsaw Massacre_, you find that he ably breaks down the structure and cinematic grammar of the film. And the author of those elements is much more aligned with the films of Tobe Hooper than Steven Spielberg. Was Spielberg frequently on set? Absolutely. Betwixt the two of them, was he the one holding the power? Absolutely. Did he, as he would do again, step on the toes of the director he was producing? Absolutely. Did he direct _Poltergeist_? Beyond some second unit, absolutely not. Did he have creative input? Absolutely.

    The great David Lean was to make a final film based on Joseph Conrad’s _Nostromo_. Marlon Brando was petitioning to act in it as David Lean was amongst his favorite directors. Spielberg lobbied to produce it, but he wished to be a “creative” producer. David Lean bristled at Spielberg’s interference. So Spielberg abandoned the project taking the financing with it. He’s done this manner of thing many times. The steak that crawls across the counter in _Poltergeist_? It was originally maggot-infested. Spielberg objected and overruled Hooper; as such, some departments went to Spielberg instead of Hooper for approval. So yes, Spielberg had creative input, but you can think of it like this. Tobe Hooper is a very strong drink. Spielberg is water that weakens the drink.

    Tobe Hooper is very much Horror’s Orson Welles’. He’s a great talent who found early success (with the help of great collaborators), but thereafter he was never allowed to make a film without interference and sufficient resources. _Poltergeist_, as a whole, is a better film than most of Hooper’s oevre, but that’s in part because a film with interference from Spielberg is going to work out better than simply a film with interference from the studio. But Spielberg being Spielberg, he lusts for that credit. So he initially attempted to get as much as he could — from the fight for screenplay credit to undermining Hooper’s decisions to implying that he directed the film. If the film turned out to be a dog, he would have gladly given all of the credit to Hooper. But a success? Spielberg couldn’t pass up wanting more and more of that credit. In the end, _Poltergeist_ had many authors — Hooper WAS the director, but he was undermined by a producer — Spielberg — with too much power.

    As far as “the brother of the cinematographer” accusation? Could be down to perspective/interpretation; or could owe to him having a film coming out.

    P.S. “. . . which is credits to the great Tobe Hooper” should be “. . . which is credited to . . .” I’d point out other infelicities of language in this article, but why act as both your ethicist and editor without pay?

  • Munchie

    Lol ok.

  • discochic

    Who cares, Hooper is a hack. His worst of all time, Is, not surprisingly the worst horror of all time , the very dull and boring TCM.

    • Darkknight2149

      “…not surprisingly the WORST horror of ALL TIME , the very dull and boring TCM.”

      • Necro

        Agreed!

        • discochic

          oh look, here’s a girl screaming for 45 mins, oh look, a guy in a mask, who could’ve easily got her 10 times over, but due to poor direction, he’s just walking to avoid getting her, oh look – dull, annoying characters who serve no other purpose then to be killed. Yawn.
          Black Xmas and Deranged are far superior films from the same time, and Deranged is the definitive Ed Gein film, not this piece of shit which it is meant to be ‘based’ on.

          • Necro

            Well I’m a fan of all these films and respectfully to each their own.

          • Travis_Bickle

            Another weak troll post. Beware….this person spams with a half dozen dummy profiles. Ignore these and block immediately.

          • Travis_Bickle

            Oh Look…a girl constantly upvoting her own posts with dummy profiles. Everyone should block ALL the profiles this person has in an effort to get them off these boards!

          • discochic

            Do you feel threatened by a female? I dont know whether to laugh or cry at you.

    • Hack Snyder

      Shitty bait, no one seriously believes TCM is the worst horror film of all time. There are hundreds of slashers that are objectively worse than TCM in every way. Here’s an example:
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8ceb849a927541279ed1d1c8c3737132b389663c5e4602eadc23a74803613dfc.jpg

    • Josh Blitzenbrox Myers

      Simmer down there edgelord

    • Travis_Bickle

      Don’t reply to any of this persons posts unless you want spam from there 5 dummy profiles they use to upvote there worthless troll posts.

    • Meisha’s Taint

      The worst of all time huh?

  • Sablefool

    Well, I see Brad is updating this. Here’s some more for you:

    1) Tobe Hooper is 74; Spielberg is 70. So “Poltergeist was always supposed to be a Steven
    Spielberg-directed movie and a young Tobe Hooper played the role to
    avoid a shut down in the midst of a director’s strike” is inaccurate. Hooper was 39 when the film was released. Hardly young.

    2) “It’s a weird Hollywood myth that causes such conflicting emotions in us
    horror fans because, well, we love Hooper but this is a huge knock
    against his legacy.” Why “weird?” Also, not a myth, but a rumor. “such” is unnecessary.

    3) “. . . insulting rumor that
    continues to infect the director’s reputation.” Infect? Hound, tarnish — so many words that make sense, but “infect” is just (more) bad writing.

    4) “That said, where there’s
    smoke there’s fire.” Nice, inaccurate cliche there. There can be smoke without fire. Or the appearance of smoke. And if we are applying that analogy to this story, it may simply be that you’ve misidentified the fire.

    5) “In fact, we’ve sort of confirmed this here on Bloody Disgusting multiple times.” “In fact, confirmed,” and “we’ve sort of” do not go together. You don’t sortof of have a fact unless you are part of the Trump administration. What you mean to say is that you’ve previously written about allegations that Hooper did not direct the film.

    6) ” One piece of evidence was shared this past February, in which a mini-doc ended the debate once and for all.” Evidence or hear-say? Also, if it ended it once and for all why the need for this shit story?

    7) “I can tell you that Steven directed all six days I was there. I only
    worked six days on the film and Steven was there. Tobe set up the shots
    and Steven made the adjustments.” So the person making the adjustments is the director? She acknowledges that Tobe set up the shots. That’s like crediting an editor over a writer as the author of the work.

    8) “. . . the great Tobe Hooper . . .” and “. . . we love Hooper . . .” and then “From the outside looking in, it’s hard to not think that Spielberg was saving the film from Hooper’s incompetence.” Inconsistent there. And such a poisonous, shitty thing to write.

    9) “Revisionist history is allowing this to become the facts . . .” based on what you wrote, it should be “. . . become fact.”

    10) “Because of this, John was assistant camera and was on set for every
    single shot of the film, which is how he learned the truth behind this
    long-debated mystery.” Wrong. This may be pedantic, but there were multiple units shooting at once. Unless he perfected cloning, he was not there for every single shot of the film.

    11) “And candidly… Steven Spielberg directed that movie. There’s no question.” and ‘Below is the shot in question, which he further explains. “It’s the
    scene where the tree comes in to grab the boy, and we have two cameras
    set up. In the foreground on an apple box is (an excited) Tobe, standing
    right behind him is Spielberg pointing. Next to him was my brother on
    camera and me.”’ If Tobe wasn’t there, he’d have a point. It just means the producer/co-screenwriter, who also happens to be an esteemed director, was also there. By his logic, by his presence, Matt was the DOP not his brother.

    12) “No matter, I think Hooper has carved out a nice legacy for himself and
    Spielberg doesn’t appear to care one way or another who gets the credit
    so long as his company delivered a quality product to moviegoers. You
    have to respect that.” Hooper’s “legacy” has been blighted by these rumors and shoddy stories such as this. And Spielberg doesn’t care one way or the other? He insinuated to writer Dave Pollock in an interview that he directed it. He said, “[On future films] If I write it myself, I’ll direct it
    myself. I won’t put someone else through what I put Tobe through, and
    I’ll be more honest in my contributions to a film.” He made so many comments like that, that Tobe had to go to the DGA who found Hooper was the director. Spielberg doesn’t care? They also had to get after him for his credits on the poster dwarfing Hooper’s in size thereby suggesting that it was a Spielberg-directed affair.

    From the same interview as the previous, “I thought I’d be able to turn ‘Poltergeist’ over to a director and walk away. I was wrong.” You can view him as a collabator or a producer overstepping his bounds. Both are accurate.

    Spielberg directed some second-unit scenes. He originated/stole the story, but it was Hooper who suggested a ghost story. He was frequently onset giving his input. Some, knowing him as strong-minded and the producer, deferred to him over Hooper. The effects people, et cetera. Remember Hooper’s cut was not used. This is not the first time this had happened. The only film that was truly Hooper’s was probably _Texas Chain-Saw Massacre_. He was still the director of those other films, but they were not his undiluted vision. In this instance, it was Spielberg doing the diluting.

    • Miguel Cruz

      Warren Buckland does a deep dive into Spielberg’s technique and choices in his book “Directed by Steven Spielberg.” He comes to the conclusion that in the aggregate Poltergeist is very much a Tobe Hooper film.

      • Sablefool

        John Kenneth Muir did something similar for Tobe Hooper in his book _Eaten Alive at a Chain-Saw Massacre_ and he reached the same conclusion. I also reached this conclusion based on studying both of their grammars, but no book to show for it.

  • Necro

    Honestly I don’t see the big deal. I could see if Hooper was screwed out of directing it by Spielberg or something along that line. Really it almost seems like Hooper was doing him the favor. With the directors strike and all. IMO this doesn’t tarnish either of their names or careers. Both have gone on to do good things. Now I could see if this was about Spielberg secretly directing ‘TTCM’ then I’d be a little upset.

    • Sablefool

      I hear what you’re saying, but directing for these guys is as much of an avocation as it is a vocation. Why would an artist agree to pretend he made something that he didn’t? It could only harm his reputation and make people question everything he did do. So from my perspective, this is a big deal. It’s yet another instance of slighting the little guy. Hooper was already neutered on the film by Spielberg, but now to get no credit? That’s unjust. So easy to give all the credit to the Hollywood golden boy whilst forgetting the power that Hooper is capable of producing.

      • Necro

        Yeah good point! Plus I’m more of a Hooper fan than Spielberg.

  • zombie84_41

    doesnt matter to me
    movie kicks ass regardless who did it

  • J Jett

    i was just reading about this over on Reddit! i still don’t understand why this happened. if the reason is because of a possible looming director’s strike, wouldn’t both Hooper & Spielberg then be unable to direct the film since both men were directors?

    • Wadsworth Van Hagar

      Hooper was probably not in whatever union was going to strike. That way if the strike happened, Tobe wouldn’t be “forced” to stop production.

    • Sablefool

      The story is mostly likely incorrect; however, I think the implication is that Spielberg wanted both films (_E.T._ and _Poltergeist_) out sooner rather than later, so having the films made in tandem was an attempt to get in under the wire (the strike).

    • Schwifty

      The part that wasn’t explained in the article above is that Hooper was (and still is) a non-union director, and therefore, wouldn’t have had to shut down the set if there had been a DGA strike. Spielberg is a union director, and had he officially been the director on POLTERGEIST during the strike, the movie would have been shut down. Therefore, Hooper was the “director” and Spielberg was just “producing”. What no one is pointing out about this, however, is that none of this was ever supposed to actually be made public — Spielberg would have essentially violated DGA union rules and lost his card if he’d been caught actually directing during a strike.

      • Sablefool

        The DGA website lists Tobe Hooper as a member. And it seems odd that the DGA would launch an investigation involving a non-union director; as such, this seems to be apocryphal.

  • Sablefool

    My two substantial replies has been labled as spam. One is now completely removed. They are obviously not, but may be censorship from a Spielberg fan, Hooper hater, or Bloody Disgusting staff. I hope not though. Hope it’s just mistake.

    • Josh Blitzenbrox Myers

      Or it may be that it is a rant, and it’s a rant that is nearly as long as the actual film.

      • Sablefool

        Even so, a rant isn’t spam.

        • Josh Blitzenbrox Myers

          Agreed. It probably gets auto flagged by the system when someone reports it. Since it’s the weekend they probably take forever to manually check it to decide what is and isn’t legit

    • Satanzilla

      When someone tries to control the conversation about a given post on BD, which it seems pretty clear you’re trying to do, the site runners are orobably going to respond.

  • Bodenland

    When Spielberg received AFI’s Life Achievement Award in 1995, clips from all his directed movies were played. The list included Poltergeist.

    • Sablefool

      That doesn’t really prove anything, but it does prompt me to ask if it included any of the other films he produced — _Gremlins_, _The Goonies_, et al?

      • Bodenland

        The special featured clips from all his directed movies and Poltergeist. All those clips were accompanied by an actor or a friend telling memories from the shooting of each film. JoBeth Williams recalled the shooting of the scene from Poltergeist where she was dragged up the wall and across the ceiling.

  • thatsnomoon

    Spielberg owed his next film as director to another company and they wouldn’t let him do Poltergeist first, so went around that by having Hooper ghost direct. It wasn’t a strike issue.

    • Josh Blitzenbrox Myers

      No offense but I tend to believe the first hand account of the guy who worked on and was there for every single day of the film. Pretty sure he knows what he is talking about

      • thatsnomoon

        Hey, no skin off my ass.

      • GuyX

        No. He’s right. The strike thing had nothing to do with it. Think about it. The beard was shooting E.T across the lot while Poltergeist was in production. Why would a pending strike have anything to do with this?

        • Killian H Gore

          Wait, what? Spielberg was supposedly directing E.T. at the same time? Does that mean someone else was secretly directing E.T. whilst Spielberg directed Poltergeist?! Maybe it was Tobe Hooper?!

          • GuyX

            Both films were shooting on the same lot(Infact both films were released only a couple weeks apart). Julia Phillips talks about how worn out Spielberg was during this time, in her book “You’ll never Eat Lunch in This Town Again”. He was racing from set to set constantly. Much to her surprise one day he came and asked her for a Joint so he could mellow out.

            I’m not saying the beard directed all of Poltergeist, because it’s known that he didn’t. He *was* at the very least a co-director though. The scene where Mr. Freeling has a remote control clicker battle with the next door neighbor is pure Spielberg. Same with the old man riding the bike with beer cans as they spill out on the ground? Plus we know he directed the scene when Mrs Freeling ends up in the pool with the skeletons(the actress wouldn’t get in the water due to her fear of being electrocuted by a low hanging light, so Spielberg got into the muddy water with her). Then we have Zelda Rubensteins account.

      • Pat

        He could have gotten the strike portion of it wrong through either misremembering or hearing/being given bad/incomplete info about it.

    • GuyX

      Yup. This is the correct answer. Universal wouldn’t let Spielbeg direct another film while he was shooting E.T. It was in his contract. It has nothing to do with a strike. Spielberg was directing E.T at the very same time as Poltergeist was in production so why would the strike have any bearing at all? It was his Universal contract that Sid Shinberg(spelling??) locked Spielberg into.

  • I Am Colossus

    Really? I thought this was common sense. The movie has absolutely all of the sensibilities and tropes of a Spielberg flick. Tobe Hooper’s movies, both before and after, are stylistically different. I guess it is good to hear the truth but…..

    • Sablefool

      All the sensibilities of a Spielberg flick? Let’s see: dope-smoking parents, visceral horror, satirical about American values of the time (yuppies and the like), critical of TV,

      and a non-traditional structure that includes two climaxes. If it’s the aspects dwelling on children and childhood, I’d remind you that Hooper ably handled such things in his television adaptation of _Salem’s Lot_.

      • NixEclips

        Yeah, the question has never been who directed it, but how much was directed by whom.

      • Schwifty

        You’re talking about things from the screenplay, which Tobe Hooper most definitely didn’t work on. I believe what I Am Colossus is referring to are things like sweeping, highly polished wide angle vista shots that are virtually interchangeable with shots from E.T., CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, RAIDERS, etc., those Altman-esque people-talking-over-other-people dialogue exchanges that Spielberg has been pulling off since JAWS … stuff like that. None of Hooper’s other films play anything like that, before or since POLTERGEIST.

        • Sablefool

          Not all of these things are necessarily in the screenplay. Just glancing through it, I see that there is no pot-smoking and, in the ending, the TV set is not put outside.

          Largely based on film grammar, both John Kenneth Muir in his book _Eaten Alive at a Chainsaw Massacre_ and Warren Buckland in his book _Directed by Steven Spielberg_, arrive at the conclusion that it is a Hooper film. While some of those shots might feel like Spielberg, look at something like when Diane is in the bath. The doorway frame the shot, but it’s from a distance and it just holds the shot for an uncomfortably long time before cutting. It creates tension by implying a presence, but never confirms it. That manner of technique is very much Hooper. Unsettling shots that build in dread before cutting away without any resolution. So not only dread, but a sense of being off-balance. That’s pervasive in Hooper’s work.

          • I Am Colossus

            Holy shit….what is with the pot-smoking thing? Just because there were a couple of parents getting high while their kids were asleep, doesn’t mean that Spielberg didn’t direct it….

      • Meisha’s Taint

        He’s right. It’s nothing like any other Toby Hooper flick and these rumors have been around for decades. It’s very obvious

      • I Am Colossus

        Well, I hate to disappoint you but, Spielberg did this, it has his stink all over it, Salem’s Lot wasn’t that good…in fact it’s pretty damn boring….

  • Db

    Hey, are you guys hiring a copy editor or proofreader? It seems like you might not have one.

    “the Leonetti’s where there” should be “the Leonettis were there”.

    There were a few other issues, but this one was the most glaring.

    • sliceanddice

      brad is a fool. that’s all there is to it.

      • Kristoffer Groves

        I’m sure your horror website is much better than this one.

        • sliceanddice

          It is. I run the Daily Mail. Real horror show.

          • Kristoffer Groves

            I did not know that. I’m pretty loyal to this site and Dark Horizons because i’ve been visiting both of them since (more or less) day one.

    • Meisha’s Taint

      I’m pretty sure a drunken 12 year old is running this site.

  • GuyX

    Ok. This is not why the beard let hooper take credit. It’s because Universal had it in his E.T contract that he was not aloud to direct a film for a competing studio in for X amount of time. It has nothing to do with a strike. It was Spielberg’s E.T contract

    • Pat

      Exactly this.

    • Hash-Slinging Slasher

      The real answer is in the comments.

    • Justin McGill

      Interesting..I always figured that Spielberg thought it would be an easier sell from a horror director. Something that was a bit darker than his usual fare. So it let’s Spielberg do something darker and easily marketable with BOTH names in the Marquee.

  • macguffin54

    Whether or not not the reason was correct can someone explain how an impending strike was the supposed reason Tobe was the pseudo director? What does that have to do with anything? I mean, both Tobe and Steven are director’s, so if there had been a strike they both would have gone on strike, no? Logically, common sense-wise, how does the idea of having Tobe there help if there was a strike make sense to the writer of this article or the guy who is quoted as having said it?

    • Graham

      That’s what I’m wondering too. I mean in theory I guess it makes sense, but if there was a strike, would the film have carried on production without a formal director? That seems unlikely.

    • Poopispoopy

      Because then Tobe goes on strike and “producer” Spielberg keeps directing the movie.

    • Doug Halleran

      Tobe Hooper probably isnt part of The Directors guild like Speilberg is. If theres a Director or writers strike Not every director/writer in the world is on strike. just ones belonging to the guilds in Hollywood.

  • Jay Brezzy

    BD….Did you guys just seriously click-bait me?

    • Meisha’s Taint

      You must be new around here……

  • Jeff Arnette

    So I’ve seen several documentaries about this movie on E! Before it was the kardashians network. But anyway in the docs it was always said that Steven wanted to direct but contractually could not because he had signed on for another project for another studio (E.T. )? and they didn’t want him to have a conflict of interest l so they got hooper to “direct” but evidence is in the direction because hooper has some good films but nothing since has this feel to it. Nothing he’s directed since has a strong flow to it like this. He was there. But not in charge. Even the actors would say he was there every day that I was. Just a way to avoid saying the obvious

  • Right Is Right

    “Poltergeist” reeks of Spielberg—period.

    • Meisha’s Taint

      It never looked like a Toby Hooper film at all. This is common knowledge as far as I am concerned it was Steven

      • Tan Shearer

        Some parts reek of Tobe though. Collaboration would be a better word.

  • shawn lawson

    You guys are all wrong. Just finished the book ” you don’t have to go to Salem on Halloween the 31st to visit a 1000 corpse house rejected by the devil of El Superbeasto” written by.S.S. Werewolf and in it it states that both Spielberg and Hooper we’re in fact going around the studio to help tutor a young Rob Zombie. Get ya facts straight fellas

    • DrCakewalk

      *were

  • The_Gentleman

    Brad, with all due respect, you whine on Twitter all the time about others “stealing” your stories. This story is lifted almost directly from a story posted at Blumhouse on the 14th. Leonetti was on their podcast. That’s where the quotes come from. You don’t credit anybody in this story at all. That’s dirty pool, man. You’re no better than the people that steal your stories. Up your game or quit whining because the Twitter whining is really childish.

    • Ocelot006 .

      I wanna know who would sink so low as to steal a BD story? Did someone plagiarize the ‘I got fired from two jobs!’ sob story from last year?

    • Tiger Quinn

      You called out somebody’s Twitter actions on a message board? There’s a real world out there, I swear to God, that could use this kind of interest and energy.

      • The_Gentleman

        You’re ignoring the issue but feel free to carry on.

  • DavidMarkland

    Actually, Zelda Rubinstein was replying to a question I’d asked her in the 2007 interview (AIC even links to an audio of the interview). I wasn’t bothered that Quint didn’t attribute this scoop my way (it was a pool interview), but I was kinda proud to get that, even if I’ve never been credited.
    My article:
    http://creepyla.com/2007/09/28/poltergeist-actress-says-spielberg-directed-her-scenes/

  • Adam Doll

    This has been a real rollercoaster of who gives a crap.

    • Tiger Quinn

      They got your click, and your comment. That’s all they wanted.

  • B.

    Just because movie gossip is fun, there is a good chance that Poltergeist was a repackaging/rip-off of a concept pitched to Spielberg earlier called Housebound. Details here (as well as a lot of other fun stuff about all three Poltergeist films): http://www.poltergeist.poltergeistiii.com/wrote.html

  • DrCakewalk

    Too bad Spielberg didn’t ghost-direct John Leonetti’s movies, they might be watchable.

    • Evan3

      Oh snap!

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  • Evan3

    Amen – I wish these guys would come out and speak at length. It sounds like Hooper had some role to play, so there’s no reason to let his name get dragged through the mud. And let’s face it, most people think it’s Spielberg anyways. I even corrected my own dad on the subject.

  • Tan Shearer

    Regardless of who did what the film turned out perfectly.

  • michael35

    Either way Poltergeist will always be a true classic .

  • michael35

    Even more so both Spielberg and Hooper have also put out brilliant movies.

    Hooper is actually one of my horror favorites I have seen many movies he was involved in especially 1981s The Funhouse.

this week in horror

This Week in Horror - June 26, 2017 - The Evil Within 2, Jason...

The Evil Within 2 was shown at E3, Victor Miller is trying to get the rights back to Jason Voorhees, and Saw: Legacy has an official title! It's This Week in Horror with Whitney Moore!

Posted by Bloody Disgusting on Monday, June 26, 2017

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