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John R. Leonetti: Steven Spielberg directed Poltergeist

07.17.2017by: Cody Hamman

Poltergeist Tobe Hooper Steven Spielberg

"Who really directed POLTERGEIST?" is a question that fans and the press have been pondering ever since the film was released in 1982. Although Tobe Hooper is credited as director, and there certainly are Hooper touches throughout the film, it does feel much more like a Steven Spielberg movie overall, Spielberg having been the producer and writer.

It has been established that Spielberg had a lot of creative control over the film. He was on set every day and completely took over in post-production. Some actors have said that Spielberg was the only one giving them direction while they were on the set, but others have said that Hooper's contribution shouldn't be minimized. In interviews at the time, Spielberg said he didn't want to direct POLTERGEIST because he was scheduled to start filming E.T. just one month after production wrapped, but once filming began on POLTERGEIST he found that he couldn't just walk away from it. Hooper wasn't "a take-charge sort of guy", so Spielberg took charge - and it's a situation he said he would never want to put another director through.

WISH UPON director John R. Leonetti had an up-close view of what was going on with Spielberg and Hooper during the making of POLTERGEIST. His brother Matt was the film's cinematographer and John was working on the set as assistant camera, pulling focus, which means he had to be there for every shot of the film. While appearing on the podcast Shock Waves, he was asked who directed POLTERGEIST and answered, 

It was a very intense, very fun, very technical movie to work on. 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.

... 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."

During the conversation, Leonetti referenced a picture that he described as being "the whole movie in one shot".

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. Next to him was my brother on camera and me."

That picture can be seen below.

When it comes down to it, it seems like the situation on the set was very much like the finished film itself - the presence of Hooper can be felt, but his presence is overpowered by the vision of Spielberg.

Extra Tidbit: Are you a fan of POLTERGEIST?
Source: Blumhouse.com

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