Last June, I wrote an entire essay about the ongoing controversy over who exactly directed Poltergeist: Tobe Hooper (who is credited is the director) or Steven Spielberg, the man who produced the film. To recap:
For those not aware of the immense complexity of the production, it may seem like a silly question; IMDB says Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist, so that’s the end of the story right? As for how some people got the idea that Steven Spielberg was the actual director, well, that’s just a misunderstanding. Spielberg was the producer of Poltergeist and, as the most famous filmmaker affiliated with the movie, his name floated to the forefront. There are plenty of film fans who refer to The Orphanage and Mama as Guillermo del Toro films, even though those movies were directed by J.A. Bayona and Andrés Muschietti respectively; del Toro produced both films, which explains the misconception.
Related Article: Tobe Hooper vs Steven Spielberg: Who REALLY Directed “Poltergeist”?
While my exploration eventually hypothesized that Spielberg was, in fact, the true director of Poltergeist, we now seem to have proof in what many horror historians have assumed for years.
Filmmaker John Leonetti has been doing the rounds in support of his most recent offering, Wish Upon, which brought him to the Shock Waves podcast, produced by Blumhouse, last week. In addition to Wish, his previous work was discussed. Leonetti has lent his talents as a cinematographer to genre classics Child’s Play 3, Insidious, and The Conjuring, but one of his very first gigs was as Director of Photography on Poltergeist.
When the interview eventually turned towards the infamous question of who actually directed Poltergeist, Leonetti didn’t mince words.
“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.”
Leonetti also supplied a picture that he says epitomizes the situation on set:
“It’s the scene where the tree comes in to grabs 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.” Have a gander at the picture he’s referencing below.
While this only supports what has already been regarded as one of Hollywood’s worst kept secrets, it looks like we can finally put the issue to rest. Congratulations Spielberg; Hooper, we still love you! You can listen to Leonetti’s entire interview on Shock Waves, HERE.