Tobe Hooper passed away on Saturday, August 26, leaving behind a filmmaking legacy that includes the influential classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the Spielberg-produced Poltergeist, and the just plain crazy Lifeforce. As we mourn the loss of the late horror legend, here are five intriguing nuggets you may not know about Hooper and his films…
HE REALLY DID DIRECT POLTERGEIST
After much speculation as to Steven Spielberg’s involvement behind the camera, Hooper eventually set the record straight on who really directed Poltergeist – he did. The misconception came about as a result of a set visit by the L.A. Times during which Hooper was shooting Robbie up in the tree at the back of the house, while Spielberg was picking up second unit shots. “The moment they got there, Steven was shooting the shot of the little race cars, and from there the damn thing blossomed on its own and started becoming its own legend,” Hooper clarified.
THE MAFIA INVESTED IN THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE
It may have been a massive hit but Hooper, cast and crew saw very little of the profits from the horror classic. The film’s original distributor, Bryanston Distribution Company, turned out to be a front for a Mafia operation set up to launder money from the profits from Deep Throat in 1972, creating a trail of debts and lawsuits for those involved with TCM. “We made a deal with the devil, and I guess that in a way, we got what we deserved,” production manager Ron Bozman told Cinefantastique magazine.
HE DIRECTED A BILLY IDOL MUSIC VIDEO
Back in 1983, it wasn’t uncommon for horror directors to helm music videos that featured macabre elements and themes. John Landis directed Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and in between Poltergeist and Lifeforce, Hooper made the clip for blonde Brit Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself, which featured a group of zombies scaling a building to get at the snarling singer.
HE WAS PROUD OF LIFEFORCE
Despite describing his 1985 sci-fi flop for Cannon Films as “career murder”, Hooper said he was proud of the film because “no-one will ever be brave enough to do a movie like that again.” As to the film’s subsequent cult status, he added “But I knew at the time it’d be cool. Quentin Tarantino told me he went to see it many times when it first came out. It’s one of his favourites. I’m kinda happy he understood how cool it was, even back then.” QT isn’t the only one, as the film’s legion of fans will attest.
HE WAS FIRED FROM TWO FILMS
Hooper was the original director of The Dark (1979) and Venom (1981) before being fired shortly after production commenced and replaced by John ‘Bud’ Cardos and Piers Haggard, respectively. Considering how both those movies turned out without him, it might have been a different story had they possessed the Hooper touch.