It's a rumour that's been whispered for decades, and now a crew member from the film seems to have confirmed that Steven Spielberg actually directed Poltergeist.
Tobe Hooper (of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame) is the man that was officially credited as the director of the 1983 classic but for many years fans have noted the the film's style was much more in line with that of Spielberg's who was the writer and producer of the film.
Now we have a first hand account from behind the scenes on the film. John Leonetti (the director of Netflix's latest original horror, Wish Upon) served as the First Assistant Cameraman on the film which was shot by his brother Matt Leonetti. John appeared on Blumhouse's podcast Shock Waves recently and was flat out asked about who really directed the film. Here's what he had to say.
"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. But, had I known you were going to ask me that question, I would’ve brought this one picture I have, which is 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.”
According to Blumhouse, it seems that this is the behind the scenes photo that Leonetti is referring to.
Leonetti claims that Spielberg didn't officially direct the movie due to anticipation of a director's strike.
“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.”
Spielberg has never publicly claimed to be the director of the movie. At the time of the film's release, Spielberg wrote a letter to Hooper in The Hollywood Reporter claiming that the press didn't understand the pair's "unique, creative relationship."