What Really Happened During the Making of ‘Poltergeist’

The strange neighborhood interaction

Williams acknowledged that the Freelings getting high on their own stash could be interpreted as explaining either of the two poltergeist‘s rather inexplicably offbeat moments. It happens early in the film when the Freelings can no longer deny that something supernatural is happening in their home and visit their confused neighbor to ask if something similar happened there. Steve and Diane giggle and giggle throughout the exchange, which begs the question — did they attend to calm their nerves before going next door?

“No, I think it was just the absurdity of what we went through because what we said was basically insane,” says Williams before changing course. “And I think, yeah, maybe we was a little stoned. I don’t know, we didn’t plan that! But it could have been like that.”

She says her suppressed laughter was actually real. They couldn’t stop laughing after Spielberg pantomimed them that bugs bothered them during the nighttime scene. “Steven said, ‘Well, there’s probably some mosquitoes,’ so we started hitting the mosquitoes, and we were really hysterical,” says Williams.

The downside of standing on your head

One of the most physically taxing scenes for Williams was when her character was slammed against the ceiling of her bedroom and thrown around by unseen forces. To achieve this, a replica of the Freeling bedroom was built on a massive gimbal, and rolled along the walls and ceiling like a sock in an empty clothes dryer. The camera and its operator were strapped to the “floor” and would shoot upside down while gravity ravaged the actress.

This created the illusion that she was actually weightless. But it was a penalty shoot out. “Let’s just say the charm wore off after about 12 takes,” says Williams.

“I had to be on a 360 degree film set that I had never heard of. And when they said, “You’re just going to ride this thing and slide along the ceiling,” I said, “Okay, I see.” What they didn’t say was that I was going to do 50 takes and end up doing my elbows and knees bled,” she recalls.

The scene takes place at a time when her character is at her most relaxed and vulnerable. She’s just had a soothing bath and is wearing little more than a baggy sleep shirt. So there was no way to hide the padding.

“And the poor cameraman who had to ride that thing like a ferris wheel…” she adds. “He was buckled up and had to get out and vomit several times because he was literally getting physically sick, but he kept going. And when I got out after a few takes, I was like, ‘Steven, I’m bleeding. My elbows and knees are bleeding!’ And he said, ‘That’s fine. We can just wipe the blood off. It will never show up.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I feel a lot better now. Many Thanks.’ I had to laugh.”

The Lost Children

Although this didn’t happen during the making of poltergeist, it’s difficult to watch the film now without thinking of the untimely deaths of two of the actors who played the Freeling children. 22-year-old Dominique Dunne was murdered by her boyfriend in the fall of 2022, just months after the film debuted. And Heather O’Rourke, who was five at the time of filming poltergeistdied unexpectedly in 1988 at the age of 12 from an intestinal disease.

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2022/09/poltergeist-at-40 What Really Happened During the Making of ‘Poltergeist’


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