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When asked about Poltergeist before its release in 1982, producer Steven Spielberg called it his “land Jaws.” The film, which became a commercial and critical success, spooked audiences with its realistic approach to ghosts – something which the team didn’t think was fictional.
Spielberg said, “Every fourth person you know has had an empierce of some sort with a poltergeist or a ghost. You just have to ask around. You’ll find out.”
Go behind-the-scenes of the film below!
1. Another child star was considered.
Drew Barrymore said in a 1983 interview, “They interviewed me for Poltergeist first, and [Steven Spielberg] said, ‘She’s not really like the girl… in the script.’ So Kathy Kennedy, the producer of ET, said, ‘Maybe’s she’s right for ET.”
2. The clown was dangerous.
That creepy clown wasn’t just dangerous in the film… While filming the scary scene where he strangles Robbie, actor Oliver Robbins was actually choking because the prop’s arms grabbed him too tightly. When the young boy said he couldn’t breathe, everyone thought he was improvising. Finally, Steven Spielberg realized that he wasn’t acting and rushed to his aid.
3. The chairs didn’t really move.
That “movie magic” moment when the chairs create a pyramid on the table was actually the work of rushing crew members. When the camera looks away, they quickly ran to set up the pre-made pyramid so that when the camera looked back, the chairs had come together.
4. Real skeletons were used.
But JoBeth Williams didn’t know at the time. Rather, she was little more worried about being in a swimming pool surrounded by electrical equipment. To ease her fears, Steve Spielberg jumped in as well. The sequence took four or five days to shoot, which was especially hard since Williams had to get into the mud again and again. “It was a real nightmare,” she said. “I found out — as did the whole crew — that they were using real skeletons, because it’s far too expensive to make fake skeletons out of rubber. And I think everybody got real creeped out by the idea of that.”