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|ABOUT THE PRODUCTION|
"We're just making a movie to entertain the folks," grinned producer Frank Marshall.
Without pretentions, Spielberg and Marshall hope that "Poltergeist" is "a very scary movie" –– but they choose to say little else about it.
Aside from a few minor cuts and abrasions suffered by the Freelings, the filmmakers chose not to rely on blood-letting, gore and untimely deaths as the catalyst for their jolts of horror.
"There are no knifings, no murders, and no decapitated heads," said Spielberg. "We do have one scene which appears to be instantly violent and gory, but it turns out to be a quick hallucination."
"It is an uphill battle," continued Spielberg, "especially these days when competing with films that generate good box-office through bloodletting and spectacular violence. Having joined a similar genre, we don't offer blood or violence as a means of explaining 'Poltergeist.'"
He is quick to add, however, that "some of the scariest things in our film happen in broad daylight."
The filmmakers earmarked a full one-third of the production budget for special effects. "Believe it or not, there are over 100 optical effects shots in this movie," notes Spielberg. "In 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' we only used about forty throughout the entire film."
At the helm of the massive special effects effort was George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic Operation (ILM) undertaking "Poltergeist" as their last project prior to the start of "Return of the Jedi," the next chapter in the "Star Wars" saga.
The special effects in "Poltergeist" range from matte paintings –– to superimpositions –– to state-of-the-art optical innovations. "We are blazing all sorts of new trails," said Spielberg.
Even with the large number of special effects, Spielberg wanted to keep within the range of plausibility. "There are things in this movie that motion picture audiences have never seen before."
ILM's visuals are but a part of "Poltergeist's" elaborate special effects. Wind, rain, smoke, moving furniture, and a whole assortment of practical, mechanical effects had to work in front of the cameras during production.
Los Angeles may have its earthquakes, but hurricanes are unheard of in this city, so MGM's Soundstage 12 was used to create one. The effects were so authentically devastating, one passerby recommended the set for federal disaster aid.
Mike Wood, who spearheaded the day-to-day operation of the special effects and his crew seldom had a moment's rest throughout the twelve week shooting schedule.
Craig Reardon's make-up is another of the integral elements special effects package. His life-like creations enhance numerous scenes, creating another dimension of awe and wonder, plus dose of terror.
Elaborate sets were built on three soundstages at MGM Studios, where portions of "Poltergeist" were filmed.
"These sets were unique because we had to install a swimming pool and needed a crawlspace for special effects," Spielberg explained. "Since we couldn't dig through the concrete floor of the soundstage and had to construct another set on the stage with a removable floor, we had to build the key set fifteen feet above the ground."
Production designer Jim Spencer created both the interior and exterior of the Freeling House, plus the backyard and swimming pool on MGM's Stage 12. Spencer also had to match the exterior of the house to the one that served as principal dwelling during the company's eight days of location shooting in Simi Valley, California.
The upstairs bedrooms were constructed on another stage and equipped with a device that could trigger a simulated earthquake. The entire master bedroom was constructed on a moveable tract to allow room for cameras and special effects.
"What you see on the screen is a typical suburban household," Spielberg said, "but when you see the number of special effects that had to occur, you'll see why we had to go to Hollywood and shoot it the old-fashioned way."
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Producer STEVEN SPIELBERG is one of the most successful of the new breed of filmmakers, a technical virtuoso with uncanny cinematic instincts. Starting in television at the age of twenty-one with an episode of "Night Gallery," Spielberg went on to direct such motion picture features as "The Sugarland Express," "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and "Raiders." With "Raiders of the Lost Ark" destined to be another blockbuster, Spielberg is responsible for an unprecedented three of the top ten highest grossing films of all time.
Spielberg who conceived the idea for "Poltergeist" previously served as executive producer on "Used Cars" and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."
His fascination with film began when his father took him to see Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show On Earth." He was amazed by the power of the cinematic experience and soon started to make movies with friends and members of his family. By high school, he already had a 2 1/2 hour, 8mm feature, "Firelight," to his credit.
Universal Studio executives signed Spielberg to a contract in 1969 after viewing a 24 minute, 35mm short subject, "Amblin'," which he wrote, directed and edited. Just 21 years old, at the time, he was the youngest director ever signed by a major studio. His first assignment was to direct the pilot episode of Rod Serling' "Night Gallery," which starred the late Joan Crawford.
A number of other television assignments followed, including episodes of "The Name of the Game," "The Psychiatrists" and "Marcus Welby, M.D.," as well as the movies "Something Evil," "Savage" and the critically acclaimed suspense-thriller, "Duel," a feature-length ABC Movie of the Week.
A record-breaking theatrical release in foreign markets, "Duel" won the Grand Prix at the Festival du Cinema Fantastique in France, and the Silver Spotlight Best-Picture-of-the-Month Award in Germany. It also earned the Gariddi d'Oro Award for "Best Opera Prima" at Italy's Taormina Film Festival and a special mention for direction at Monte Carlo's 11th Annual International Festival of Television.
The recognition Spielberg gained from "Duel" gave him the opportunity to direct his first feature film, "The Sugarland Express" for which he also co-wrote the story. Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown produced the film and then tagged the 26 year old director to helm "Jaws," based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Spielberg was an English major at California State College, Long Beach, but devoted most of his time to filming experimental movies, for which he received no academic credit. A meeting with Dennis Hoffman, who was interested in producing films, led to the short subject "Amblin" which won awards at both the Venice and Atlanta Film Festivals. Following that, Universal Studio executives not only signed him to a contract but released "Amblin" with "Love Story."
Producer FRANK MARSHALL reteams with Spielberg after serving in the same capacity on their blockbuster hit, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," a project Spielberg termed "the best produced film I've ever worked on."
Marshall worked on his first film in 1967 while he was a student at UCLA following an introduction at a party to Peter Bogdanovich, who invited Marshall to work on "Targets." Although he graduated with a degree in political science, Marshall opted to enter the motion picture business.
He became a member of Bogdanovich's production crew on "The Last Picture Show" and "What's Up Doc?," then served as associate producer on "Paper Moon," "Daisy Miller," "At Long Last Love" and "Nickelodeon."
He also served as line producer on Orson Welles' forthcoming "The Other Side of the Wind" and on Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz." For director Walter Hill, Marshall was associate producer of "The Driver" and executive producer of "The Warriors."
Also known as "Dr. Fantasy," magician, Frank Marshall's magic shows have become a wrap party tradition.
Director TOBE HOOPER distinguished himself with "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." The film, made for only $155,000 is considered a classic of the horror/terror genre. In its latest release, "Chainsaw" outpaced nearly all of its more recently made competition, evidence of the timelessness of its terror.
Hooper also directed the highly acclaimed four-hour special, "Salem's Lot," for CBS. The movie, based on the bestselling book by Stephen ("The Shining," "Firestarter") King and starring David Soul, was released successfully in a feature length version in foreign markets.
Hooper began his film career making documentary and industrial films as well as commercials in his native Texas. One of his documentaries chronicled the pop-folk group "Peter, Paul and Mary." After assuming the post of assistant director of the University of Texas film program, he continued his filmmaking while working with students.
His first feature film was "Eggshells," a modest piece reflected the late 1960s sensibilities of its creator and he another horror film, appropriately titled, "Eaten Alive."
Teamed with fellow Texan Kim Hinkley, Hooper wrote, directed and produced "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Since its initial distribution in 1973, it has become one of the most controversial films of all time and has remained in virtually constant release.
Just prior to "Poltergeist," Hooper directed the feature film "Funhouse."
Associate Producer KATHLEEN KENNEDY left a secure position as producer of a San Diego TV talk show to break into the motion picture industry as a production assistant on Steven Spielberg's "1941." Her gamble has paid off handsomely as evidenced by her steady progression through the production ranks to her present status as Associate Producer of "Poltergeist." She serves as co-producer of Spielberg's other current film, "E.T."
Academy Award winner RICHARD EDLUND, whose technological wizardry earned him the coveted gold statuette Oscar, for his work on "Star Wars" is the visual effects supervisor for the crew from Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas' pioneering optical effects house. Edlund and ILM were also associated with Spielberg and Marshall on "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Film Editor MICHAEL KAHN marks his fourth consecutive project with Steven Spielberg, having previously edited "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "1941," and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." His other feature film credits include "Buster and Billie," "The Eyes of Laura Mars" and "Return of a Man Called Horse."
Kahn began work in the film industry at 19 as an apprentice editor at the legendary Desilu Television Studios. His first feature film work was accomplished on "Rage," directed by George C. Scott, who had admired Kahn's editing of the long-running CBS series, "Hogan's Heroes."
Veteran cinematographer MATT LEONETTI and his Ultracam System are responsible for the photography on "Poltergeist." Leonetti, who cut his teeth in television and important movies of the week, was the director of photography on "Raise the Titanic," among others.
Production Designer JIM SPENCER has his work cut out for him on "Poltergeist," an enormously complex motion picture with particular emphasis on visual presentation.
Eighty-five percent of the film was shot on sound stages at MGM's Culver City Studios where Spencer and his crew duplicated the Freeling House and suburban environs shot on location during the first weeks of production. Spencer worked closely with the special effects department creating sets in which the effects were operable.
His previous credits include "Stripes," "King of the Mountain," "Die Laughing," "Rocky," and "Bound for Glory."
Special Effects are an important part of "Poltergeist" and Spielberg and Marshall have assembled the top names in the business. Led by Supervisor MIKE WOOD, the special effects team includes JEFF JARVIS, MITCH SUSKIN and CRAIG REARDON.
ABOUT THE ACTORS
JOBETH WILLIAMS and CRAIG T. NELSON both share 1979 as the year of their brilliant motion picture debuts in two of that year's most important films. Miss Williams had an awkward meeting with young Justin Henry when she appeared as Dustin Hoffman's girlfriend in the Academy Award winning film "Kramer Vs. Kramer," while Mr. Nelson squared-off against Al Pacino when he played a determined prosecuting attorney in "...And Justice For All." In 1980 they shared the screen in the comedy hit, "Stir Crazy," with Williams seen as the sassy social worker, who falls in love with Gene Wilder and Nelson essaying Deputy Ward Wilson, the prison convincer. Now, they not only share the screen but also top billing starring as Diane and Steve Freeling in MGM's "Poltergeist."
Texas-born JOBETH WILLIAMS honed her acting skills at such prestigious regional repertory companies as the Trinity Theatre, in Rhode Island, The Walnut Street Theatre, in Philadelphia, The Charles Theatre in Boston, and at the Arena Theatre in Washington, D.C., after graduating from Brown University. She then spent the next two-and-a-half years performing in the New York-based daytime serials, "Somerset" and "The Guiding Light."
Other television credits include guest-starring roles in the two-hour drama, "Fun and Games," WNET's American series production of "Feasting With Panthers," and a regular berth on "Jabberwocky" for National Children's Television.
Most notable of her many stage appearances are the American premiere of D.H. Lawrence's "The Daughter-in-Laws" and her New York stage debut in the off-Broadway production of Michael Weller's "Moonchildren." Her most recent New York stage appearance was in "A Coupla White Chicks Sittin' Around Talkin'" with Louise Lasser. Williams also co-starred with Linda Lavin and Sam Waterston in the San Diego production of Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya." Her most recent feature film credit prior to "Poltergeist" was in "The Dogs of War" opposite Christopher Walken.
CRAIG T. NELSON began his show business career as an award-winning writer/performer on the popular "Lohman and Barkley Show" in Los Angeles. For his efforts, he and his writing partners Barry ("...And Justice For All") Levinson and Rudy ("Silent Movie," "Caveman") DeLuca, won local Emmy Awards in 1969 and 1970. He continued to write for the next three years for such programs as "The Tim Conway Show," an Alan King TV Special and made guest appearances on most of the major TV Talk Shows as well as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." In 1973, Nelson and his family moved to a retreat near Mt. Shasta, in Northern California. After four and a half years in the mountains, he produced a series of 52 half-hour films documenting the reasons why America's artists move to a rural lifestyle, which were syndicated under the title "American Still." In 1978, he returned to Los Angeles and acting, acquiring a reputation for playing "heavies" on such television series as "Wonder Woman," "Charlie's Angels," "How The West Was Won" and the television movie "Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker."
In addition to "...And Justice For All," Nelson's credits include "Where the Buffalo Roam," with Peter Boyle and Bill Murray, "The Formula," with Marlon Brando and George C. Scott, "Private Benjamin," co-starring Goldie Hawn, and his starring role in the new MGM-TV series "Chicago Story" on the NBC Network.
BEATRICE STRAIGHT, winner of the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the late William Holden's wife in MGM's "Network," stars in "Poltergeist" as an expert parapsychologist. In addition to her numerous Broadway, Off-Broadway and stock stage appearances, Straight has vigorously supported theatre as a producer. As a founder of Theatre, Inc., she was instrumental in bringing the famed English Theatre company, The Old Vic, to the U.S. for the first time. She is also well known to television audiences from her role as Mrs. Hacker in the critically acclaimed series "Beacon Hill," and is currently starring in the new television series "Kings Crossing" on ABC. Prior to "Poltergeist," Ms. Straight's most recent motion picture appearance was in MGM's "The Formula."
RICHARD LAWSON plays Ryan, a scientist, in "Poltergeist." Lawson first attracted attention when he starred in a San Francisco Bay Area production of "Golden Boy." The former law student subsequently moved to Los Angeles where he opened in the Westwood Playhouse production of "Streamers," and won the Los Angeles Drama Critic's Award. He has made guest appearances on many episodic television programs, appeared in the television movies "Buffalo Soldiers" and the critically acclaimed "Jericho Mile" co-starring as Peter Strauss' buddy.
MARTY CASELLA, a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts with a degree in Drama, makes his motion picture debut in "Poltergeist." He began his career as a production assistant on Steven Spielberg's "1941" and remained as Spielberg's assistant for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" all the while harboring the training and desire to act and write. He's done both. While "Poltergeist" was being filmed, Casella was appearing in the Bank Playhouse production of "The Lion In Winter" in Pasadena, and will have a play that he has penned performed during the summer at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
ZELDA RUBINSTEIN appears as Tangina in "Poltergeist." She is just a thesis away from her Masters Degree in Drama, but has seriously concentrated her efforts on acting during the past three years. Her voice is familiar to young television viewers from her weekly incarnations on "The Flintstone Comedy Show" as Atrocia Frankenstone. She was most recently seen in the feature film "Under the Rainbow."
DOMINIQUE DUNNE, OLIVER ROBINS and HEATHER O'ROURKE co-star as the Freeling children in "Poltergeist."
Dunne is a veteran of regional theatre and episodic television with roles on most of the major series to her credit.
Oliver Robins was selected after Spielberg, Hooper and producer Frank Marshall held an open casting call for the role of Robbie. This is his first film following two commercials.
Heather O'Rourke, the blond-haired, blue-eyed darling of the Freeling family, was discovered by Spielberg in the MGM commissary when she joined her mom and older sister, who appeared as one of the juvenile dancers in MGM's lavish "Pennies From Heaven," for lunch. When Mr. Spielberg approached their table, Mrs. O'Rourke, not recognizing the filmmaker, thought that she was about to be asked to leave because of Heather's age but to everyone's surprise, Spielberg invited them to his office after lunch, arranged for a screen test and three days later had found his young star.
"Poltergeist" marks Heather's feature film debut, but the San Diego resident is no stranger to cameras. She has appeared in numerous commercials including one of McDonald's longest running spots and is featured in Mattel toys campaign for "My First Barbie."
Other prominent members of the "Poltergeist" cast include veteran character actors JAMES KAREN, DIRK BLOCKER, MICHAEL MCMANUS.