Poltergeist‘s JoBeth Williams ” width=”560″/>
JoBeth Williams knows a thing or two about the trials of getting movies made. The actress who made a splash in films like Poltergeist and The Big Chill (and who appears on Dexter as the tough-cookie mom of the serial killer’s girlfriend) is also the director of an Oscar-winning short, and has become well acquainted with the hardship that awaits filmmakers even after deals are signed. That’s why she doesn’t feel particularly threatened by news that MGM has hired Boogeyman scribes Juliet Snowden and Stiles White to scratch together a new Poltergeist script.
“A lot of ideas get thrown around, writers are hired, and still sometimes the film never sees the light of day,” says Williams, who is always on the lookout herself for material to direct. “There have been a couple of projects that I dearly loved where the writer and I tried to get financial backing for and they haven’t happened yet. That side of production is not my strong suit — it takes extreme patience. My friend Diane English, whose film The Women comes out this week, had that script for ten years. It was considered ready to move ahead and get made five or six times. You think you have the money, or you think you have the cast, and even then, it still takes a long, long time.”
To outraged fans of the original Poltergeist, this may seem like a pretty practical reaction to the remake, but Williams also has a more personal take: “Poltergeist is special in its own way, and I hate to see movies that are sort of special — like Psycho for
example — get remade. They don’t capture what the original did.
They’re made in a different time, with a different sensibility, and
it’s very hard to update stories that we remember in our heads from
previous times,” she says. “There are still great ideas for horror
stories out there, they don’t have to do this. If the original was no
good, like an old B-movie, and you think you can improve it, that’s one
thing… ” And the remakes aren’t limited to horor: “Someone told me
they were thinking of doing another The Big Chill. Not a sequel, but an updated remake… I would hate to see that happen.”
Williams, who also directed a film for Showtime starring Mischa Barton, credits her Poltergeist
experience with encouraging and informing her directorial work: “The
whole thing was an incredible education for me because Steven Spielberg
was very intimately involved in making every part of that movie. To be
around him and watch how he worked, absorb his extraordinary energy and
excitement at making movies was thrilling.” For the time being, expect
to find her working on both sides of the lens. “Unfortunately I haven’t
been able to do as much directing as I’d like, partly because I’m still
acting,” comments Williams. “Joanna Kerrns told me she didn’t really
start getting hired much as a director until she made the choice to
stop acting. It was almost as if people didn’t take her seriously as a
director in the meantime. That’s a shame… Men do it all the time!
Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner don’t have a problem doing both. It’s
Just as frustrating — the trend of remaking every popular horror movie from the last 30 years. After covering the Rocky Horror brouhaha as
well, it’s refreshing be reminded that not all of these projects will
come to fruition. “So many things can happen between the first day you
have the idea and the first time you say ‘…Rolling!’ Maybe I’ll be
old enough to play the grandmother by the time it gets made,” Williams
says devilishly. Or maybe she could direct it: The job is being negotiated as we speak.
Better watch out for JoBeth Williams, Vadim Perelman… after all, she
was there the first time things went weird in Cuesta Verde.