SFX 201 Preview: So, Who Really Directed Poltergeist?

Was it Spielberg? Was it Hooper? Both men involved have been noticeably vague on the subject, but the new SFX uncovers some new evidence about who was really calling the shots literally and figuratively

It’s a question that has intrigued film fans for decades now – who really directed Poltergeist ? Tobe Hooper ( The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ) has the official credit, but at least one of the film’s actors went to her grave swearing that Spielberg was the one calling the shots on set. On the other hand, Spielberg took out advertisements in the Hollywood trade papers in order to insist upon Hooper’s authorship of the picture. So what is the truth? The answer, as is so often the case, may not be black and white.

In an extensive article in the new SFX (issue 201, on sale Wednesday 22 September) on the making of Poltergeist we uncover a few new snippets about what was going on behind the scenes from Craig Reardon, the man behind the film’s superb make-up effects work. And here’s a little taster:

““The nature of my job had me in a workshop for a lot of the shoot. But whenever I was on the set Spielberg was there. Later I was able to talk my way into the recording of Jerry Goldsmith’s score and Steven was there too – making home movies… I would say that Steven is an enthusiast. He is not an old time movie mogul who sits in his office and I don’t think Tobe was ever in a position to say ‘get that guy off my set’ in a typical, ballsy, Hollywood tough guy manner. Besides which, that’s a good way to politic yourself out of the business [laughs]. Tobe was always very deferential to Steven and it is true that I did see things being set up by Spielberg and he was also involved with talking to the actors. I never saw him say action or cut – Tobe did that. But in some instances you were left with the impression that is all he was permitted to do… If there was a sense that Spielberg was injecting himself more and more, it was less to do with Tobe as a director than it was he maybe wasn’t moving along fast enough.”

Read the rest in the latest issue of SFX .

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.