Wednesday, April 25, 2018

I think Spielberg contributed very little in terms of Poltergeist's distinct stylistic elements.  He may have suggested a two-shot or two and other standard practice elements of coverage, in coordination with the storyboards (in collaboration or not with Hooper), but everything in Poltergeist is well within Hooper's wheelhouse at the time, with the knowledge he is working in Spielberg's register.  Probably exhausted my good will on Twitter (@jayjayabramzon) with the Poltergeist tweets, so I'm moving over here.

Imagine a Poltergeist that felt as cartoony or comic-book-like or flippant as Close Encounters or Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I could.


Anonymous said...

Do you think Spielberg thinks of himself as the actual director of Poltergeist, his ego preventing him from seeing what Hooper clearly contributed to the comception and ultimate realisation of the film? (Didn't the other writers on the screenplay have to take legal action to get their names recognised in the credits?) Because the power to squash the ghost director rumour was in Spielberg's hands, over the years he could have set the record straight, why not a joint commentary or joint interview for a Poltergeist special edition, something that would have shown everyone that the film exists as it does because of both of them! That this never happened suggests to me that Spielberg is happy to have people thinking he directed it.

JR said...

Thanks for your willingness to discuss this topic. XD

I do not think he thinks about it that much... I don't think he thinks he directed it - I think the film before him would make it impossible for him to delude himself as much - but he acknowledges the factors are nuanced enough that the controversy still exists, and he knows nothing he can say can clear up all the details that have lead to this point of endless questioning, e.g. Hooper being a laid back presence, making so many in the crew look also to him and think Hooper wasn't doing anything. He cannot take that back, he probably cannot convince the more mistaken of outspoken crew people otherwise no matter what he says, and the best thing to do is not bring it up at all.

I think Richard Edlund is a real reason the 25th Anniversary Special Edition didn't come to fruition. He is mentioned as one of the people WB contacted and had agreed to get interviewed, and I can only imagine his interview expressed the same condescending attitude toward Hooper. I think maybe, at that point, WB decided there was no way to do this SE without all this baggage coming out. (Scream Factory would probably be more intrepid about getting the conflicting voices collected together, mixing and matching Edlund's non-diplomacy and cast members more generous toward Hooper!)

So I don't think the power is in Spielberg's hands. Or he thinks he's done what he could, and addressing it more would really just diminish his brand. "No, I swear, I did not direct this really well-directed movie!" It is self-defeating and below him. :P As for getting interviewed about it, the controversy is too real for him to come out of in a good light. I'm a firm believer there was a concerted effort in the press to edge Hooper out of credit and recognition because he wasn't of "industry metal," no matter his artistic contributions to the film, so there is too much baggage for Spielberg to speak about the film freely. I think he didn't act his best on the set (and neither did an inexperienced Hooper), and dredging that up is just not an option.