I'm happy that you liked the film, but my enthusiasm for the project passed with Heather.
So, I read somewhere that one of your favorite horror flicks was the original Psycho. As a filmmaker and horror fan how did it make you feel when they remade Psycho?
My first thought was "WHY?"... I found an overwhelming conceit in the thought that anyone could, or would even want to try, to improve upon the master. In my early career, because of my reputation for long, complex dolly shots (i.e. the seven and a half minute tracking shot in Deathline), I was asked to consider a remake of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. My response to the studio was exactly the same as the answer to your question about Psycho... WHY?
The tragic death of Heather on the set of Poltergeist 3 is well documented, but in the end I personally really liked the film. Looking back, do you think you did the best with what was available? Now that you've had time to reflect, what are your impressions of the finished product?
I'm happy that you liked the film, but my enthusiasm for the project passed with Heather. I really didn't want to even finish it. All that fueled me was only the knowledge that if I didn't complete it, MGM would have brought someone else in to do it. I was not happy with the completed picture. Maybe if some time had been allowed to pass I may have been able to find a bit of inspiration, but I admit all I wanted, at the time, was to get it finished. I was truly displeased with the finished product and, in actual fact, have not sat through the whole film since its release.
I was watching a program about the Poltergeist series and there was a story about a stunt mishap involving a parking garage and an explosion on the set, can you tell us about that?
It wasn't a mishap as much as it was a bad situation. Because they feared losing their insurance by admitting the possible inadequacy of their volunteer fire brigade, the local government of this Chicago suburb refused to allow us to bring in, at our expense, a professional group of firefighters qualified to handle a pyrotechnic of the scale we had planned.
The scene was the explosion of a car's gas tank that was to ignite a firestorm in a closed underground garage. We had explained in detail, as well as demonstrated for the representatives of this municipality, just how big the explosion was going to be. Our SFX team spent many hours working with the town's fire department, advising them of every detail of the explosion and the flames that would ensue. After a multitude of dry rehearsals the Mayor and Fire Chief assured us they could handle the situation.
The plan was to ignite the explosion. Count to 10. Then, hoses primed and ready, the firemen were to put out the ensuing fire. Instead, the firemen became so frightened by the initial explosion that they just dropped their hoses and ran.
When they refused to re-enter the burning structure, our Stunt and SFX team went in to secure the cameras and make sure no one was left behind. Once that was done, we were ordered by the town officialdom to just step back and let the structure burn. Over $1 million dollars of structural damage occurred.
A subsequent insurance investigation cleared us of any blame and the township was forced to hire a professional fire department or they would lose their insurance.
There is a long list of tragic things and various mishaps that plagued the making of all 3 Poltergeist films, as someone involved in the series, do you think that there is a "Poltergeist Curse" like some people have suggested?
A very short answer... NO.
Poltergeist 3 is probably most well known for it's amazing optical and mirror FX. What was your inspiration for the type of ambitious FX in that film?
I have always been fascinated by mythologies surrounding mirrors and mirror images. I had studied, both in school and on my own, about optics, refraction and reflection. The idea of portraying this mythology by using its own technology became almost an obsession to me.
Looking back on how difficult the shoot was, would you ever undertake anything that ambitious again?
Only if it was a project that I knew I would be very proud of in the end.
Anyone who came up with those frightening FX must have nightmares. Do you have any recurring nightmares? What is the worst nightmare you ever had?
Recurring nightmares? No. But there are certain fears, especially in the area of confrontation with overwhelming forces, that create panic in me that can lead to nightmares.
Do you keep current with the horror genre?
No, not really. Although I do watch for really good films in the genre and make sure I see them.
What was the last horror film you watched?
I don't want to mention any that I've seen and hated. And, unfortunately, it's been a while since I've seen one I really loved. And that was The Sixth Sense.
Yes! Hopefully there will come a time when "scary movies" will gain the respect of studios and critics that they deserve. Then, maybe, top filmmakers can make genre films without feeling they are slumming.
I see you lived in England for a time in the 70's, did you find any differences in the way the film business works in England as opposed to the states?
The film business in general has changed so drastically over that period of time that it is really hard to compare. Although, it is probably still true that in Europe the filmmaker enjoys a much greater deal of respect from studios and distributors that one receives in the states.
Horror films seem to center on fear, one of mankind's most primitive emotions, what is your biggest fear?
Death is not a great fear of mine. I am in much greater fear of having my quality of life being reduced by injury, sickness or having my free will taken from me.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently writing a 7 hour mini-series that takes place 800 years in the future. Also, I am toying with the idea of directing a very, very small little love story in which, believe it or not, no one gets killed or maimed, there is no confrontation or anything scary. On the other hand, there is also a script of mine about an incredibly heinous and horrific crime, entitled Toxic Love, which is about to go into production for Lifetime.
Any chance of seeing you back in the genre any time soon?
Well... There is a producer who is trying to talk me into that at the moment. But I haven't yet decided.
If you could do your whole career over again, is there anything you would change?
Looking back, the one thing I can say unequivocally is that I've had a great time and had the opportunity to work with a lot of amazing people. I've created a lot of product that I am proud to have made and a few that I wish my name wasn't on. The latter I wish I hadn't done. Yes, there are some regrets. But why look back? There are still some good films to be made, hopefully I will have the chance to make them.