O: How did you come to direct Poltergeist?
TH: I'd known Steven Spielberg from the time I came to L.A. He and I were talking, and I said I wanted to do a ghost story. And he said, "Cool." I mean, I don't know if he said "cool," but he said let's do it. I mentioned The Haunting, the Robert Wise film, and that had also been a favorite of Steven's when he was growing up. So it came out of that moment.
O: History has shifted some of the credit toward Spielberg. Can you set the record straight on that?
TH: I've kind of talked that one to death, really. I've been asked that so many times that I feel the record should be straight already. The genesis of it came from an article in The L.A. Times: When we were shooting the practical location on the house, the first two weeks of filming were exterior, so I had second-unit shots that had to be picked up in the front of the house. I was in the back of the house shooting Robbie [actor Oliver Robins] and the tree, looking down at the burial of the little tweety bird, so Steven was picking those shots up for me. The L.A. Times arrived on the set and printed something like, "We don't know who's directing the picture." 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. Really, that is my knowledge of it, because I was making the movie and then I started hearing all this stuff after it was finished. I really can't set the record much straighter than that, because Steven did write the screenplay and there are other credits on there, but it came down to Steven and myself sitting at his house. He wrote the screenplay, and we gathered around a poltergeist textbook for the research, which was actually Robert Wise's research book that he had on The Haunting. When I got my offices at Universal, a couple of books had been left behind. Robert Wise had just moved out. It's an interesting connection, kind of logical, because there had only been a few ghost stories on film that had made it, or that had worked: The Uninvited, The Haunting... You can put Legend Of Hell House in there because it was a kind of successful film. But then Poltergeist. It's curious that this ghost-and-haunting subject had kind of been untapped.