Press Kit



Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc.
A Gary Sherman Film

Poltergeist III

Tom Skerritt                            Nancy Allen

Heather O'Rourke
Zelda Rubinstein

Director of Photography
Alex Nepomniaschy

Joe Renzetti

Special Effects Make-up Consultant
Dick Smith

Production Designer
Paul Eads

Written by
Gary Sherman and Brian Taggert

Produced by
Barry Bernardi

Directed by
Gary Sherman

Executive Producer
Gary Sherman

©1988 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Released by MGM/UA Distribution Co. in the United States and Canada and
by MGM/UA Communications Co. through United International Pictures in the rest of the world

Poltergeist III

Production Notes

Carol Anne and her "friends" are back!

The young heroine of "Poltergeist" and "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" once again faces the terrifying forces from beyond, and this time they're more ferocious than ever.

Everything seems to be going well for her, now that she's living in Chicago with her Uncle Bruce, Aunt Pat and cousin Donna. But today, at school, something happened. During her session with Dr. Seaton, a therapist who is seeking an answer to the riddle of her past experiences, she became mesmerized by the mirror behind him.

That night, while at home alone, she sees a movement at the window, reflected in her own mirror.

Nothing is out there. So Carol Anne turns to the mirror, presses her hands against the glass, stares at her own image. Suddenly, skeletal-like hands burst out through the mirror and snatch her wrists. She screams, staring into the face of her own reflected image. It is her face, but grotesque in its malevolent evil...

They're back!

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc. presents a Gary Sherman Film, "Poltergeist III," starring Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O'Rourke and Zelda Rubinstein. Directed by Gary Sherman and produced by Barry Bernardi from an original screenplay by Sherman and Brian Taggert, the film utilizes the special effects make-up expertise of Dick Smith. Cinematography is by Alex Nepomniaschy, music is by Joe Renzetti.

In "Poltergeist III," the character of Kane is played by Nathan Davis, replacing the late Julian Beck, who originated the role in the second of the "Poltergeist" films. Others in the cast include Lara Flynn Boyle, Kip Wentz and Richard Fire.

"The 'Poltergeist' movies are not really based on blood and gore," states director Sherman. "They're based more on the fear of the unknown and the whole concept of death and afterlife. And they're a little more than mystical; they're a little more ethereal than a horror movie. What's evolved from the first two films is that the one character, Kane, who is the leader of the poltergeists, was insane in life and, in death, his insanity has grown to become a beast."

Zelda Rubinstein, who starred in the first two "Poltergeist" films, finds merit in the entire concept behind them. "I have always felt that there were phenomena that we don't understand. I think there probably are poltergeists, ghosts, things that go bump in the night." Co-star Nancy Allen agrees. "I believe in poltergeists, too," she says simply.

Whether believers or nonbelievers, all of the actors in "Poltergeist III" had to behave as though they were caught up in the nightmare events taking place around them.

"You can't be an actor if you can't pretend," says Rubinstein. "It is basically suspending your own disbelief while performing, to allow something to exist that may not be there at the present moment.."

The movie was filmed entirely in Chicago, which is director Sherman's hometown. When he and Brian Taggert were given the assignment to write "Poltergeist III," they decided to set the new story in an urban setting, where big buildings were the norm. Sherman's familiarity with Chicago made it a perfect choice.

"The original film had been suburban, the second was rural," says Sherman. "So I thought it would be really interesting to do 'Poltergeist III' as a totally urban story, to do a ghost film in a highly-congested metropolitan area. I pictured a high-rise building, and I guess that five or ten of the tallest buildings in the world are in Chicago."

"We have set the film in a building that's 1O2 stories high -- that's six stories of retail stores and seven stories of garages, then 30 stories of offices, two stories of condominium common area with a swimming pool, health club and a supermarket. Then, above that, up into the nineties, there are apartments. Above those is a restaurant and an observatory and radio stations. On top of it all is the mechanics for the building -- on the 98th and 99th floors. Above all that is the window-washing rig, which is like a huge railroad train that runs all the way around the outside of the building and drops a board which goes all the way down to the sixth floor."

A multi-purpose steel and glass edifice located in the heart of the city's near north side was used for the actual filming of "Poltergeist III." The "George Wellington Streeter Center" serves as the home of Bruce and Patricia Gardner (Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen), who work and reside in the combination office and apartment complex. He is the general manager of the building and she owns one of the fashionable art galleries housed there.

"You get a very urban feeling in this film and a feeling for all the things that are frightening about a high-rise building -- the elevators, the stairways, the height, the roof. All of that is very much involved in the fright, in the fear that we establish during the picture, and which makes it exciting and scary."

"One of the things I think is very special about this film," adds Sherman, a former teacher of animation and optical effects at the Illinois Institute of Technology, "is that the special effects are all live." All optical effects were done on the spot, aided by the expert use of glass, mirrors and camera lenses. Says he, 'It's all just a matter of reflecting and refracting light. As you do that, it changes the light and therefore changes the image that is coming through the glass and/or mirror."

"We're using many different kinds of mirrors," he adds. "Front surface, rear surface, plastic mirrors, mirrors with different densities, minors that reflect and absorb different amounts of light."

"Then there is the angle that the camera is placed to get an effect," he continues. "Angles will give you different mirror images. We also built rooms with mirror images. What is on one side is mirror-imaged exactly on the other side. Our actors were trained by a mime to react exactly as their mirror image does. The opticals were accomplished in the camera, not in a laboratory," Sherman concludes.

"Poltergeist III" will be released in the United States and Canada by MGM/UA Distribution Co. and by MGM/UA Communications Co. through United International Pictures in the rest of the world.


The Performers

TOM SKERRITT is a newcomer to the "Poltergeist" family as Bruce Gardner, the amiable, understanding uncle of Carol Anne. He is a critically-acclaimed performer whose acting career has encompassed films, television and theatre, most notably in the recent film "Top Gun," as a recurrent guest star on the "Cheers" television series, as well as, perhaps surprisingly, the fashionable model in a series of recent magazine ads for Guess sportswear.

A native of Detroit, Skerritt discovered his interest in drama at Wayne State University while majoring in art. He spent his free time acting in stock theatres in the midwest, then moved to Los Angeles to major in television and film production at UCLA. While doing local productions, he was spotted in "The Rainmaker" and was cast in his first film, "War Hunt," which also starred Robert Redford.

Skerritt went on to portray an off-the-wall surgeon in the classic "M*A*S*H," but is probably best remembered for the thoughtful gentleness he brought to the role of Shirley MacLaine's husband in "The Turning Point." His other films include "Alien," "Fighting Back," "The Dead Zone," "Ice Castles," "Silence of the North," "Space Camp," "Maid to Order" and "The Big Town," among others.

Finding time to include television in his work, Skerritt appeared in "A Touch of Scandal," "The Calendar Girl Murders," "Miles to Go" and as the star of the series "Ryan's Four." He has recently guest-starred in several episodes of "Cheers."

NANCY ALLEN, who plays Carol Anne's Aunt Pat in "Poltergeist III," has starred in such suspense thrillers as "Dressed to Kill," "Blow Out" and, most recently, "Robocop."

Allen never really set out to be an actress, but did study dancing at the School for the Performing Arts. She began modeling at age 15, then worked in more than 100 television commercials. Her first film acting role came when she moved from her native Yonkers, New York, to Los Angeles and landed a role in "The Last Detail." Her first major role followed in Brian DePalma's thriller "Carrie."

Her other film credits include "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "1941," "The Buddy System," "Endangered Species," "Sweet Revenge," "Strange Invaders," "The Philadelphia Experiment" and "Not for Publication."

HEATHER O'ROURKE, who died unexpectedly in February, 1988 from complications of a congenital intestinal disorder, made her film debut at age five in "Poltergeist," and was nine when she reprised her role as Carol Anne in "Poltergeist II: The Other Side." Heather was just 11 when she filmed "Poltergeist III," which was completed several months before her untimely death.

Heather was discovered by Steven Spielberg for "Poltergeist" in the MGM commissary while lunching with her mother and older sister, Tammy, who was filming "Pennies From Heaven." Although Heather had never taken acting lessons, she had appeared in numerous commercials, including a long-running McDonald's spot and Mattel's "My First Barbie" campaign. During her first interview with Spielberg, who was to direct "Poltergeist," she giggled at the pink stuffed pig and fish presented to her, rather than being frightened as Spielberg wanted her to be.

She returned the next day for another try. This time she read from a scary storybook, then, at Spielberg's request, she began to scream. Twenty-four hours later, she was told she had won the role of Carol Anne.

Following her film debut, Heather went on to co-star as Linda Purl's daughter in the "Happy Days" television series and had recurring roles on both "Webster" and "Still the Beaver." She also guest-starred in such series as "Our House," "Rocky Road," "Matt Houston," "Chips" and "Fantasy Island." Her television movies include "Surviving," "Believe You Can and You Can" and "Nasarati and the Brain."

Veteran actress ZELDA RUBINSTEIN reprises her role as Tangina Barrons, the diminutive medium who has been with Carol Anne through each of her previous supernatural encounters.

Before beginning her acting career, Rubinstein earned a B.S. degree in Life Science from the University of Pittsburgh and worked as a professional blood banker and medical technician. Her work took her to Venezuela and Trinidad, where she spent a year in graduate school studying cultural anthropology, and to London, where she worked for two years.

Rubinstein broke into acting in 1975, when she got a job as an extra in "Americathon." Since originating the role of Tangina in 1982, Rubinstein has appeared in "Sixteen Candles," "Under the Rainbow," "Die Laughing," and, more recently, "Anguish" and the upcoming "Teen Witch."

Her television credits include movies and series such as "Eye to Eye," "Jennifer Slept Here," "Matt Houston," "I Gave at the Office" and "Whiz Kids."

In addition, she has appeared on stage in productions of "Three Confessions," "1984," "Slab Boys" and "Death Trap."

Eighteen-year-old LARA FLYNN BOYLE, who plays Donna, Carol Anne's cousin, is a graduate of the Chicago Academy for the Arts, where she received extensive theatrical training. She has a starring role in the upcoming "How I Got Into College" and has been seen as Robert Urich's daughter in the mini-series "Amerika," in the pilot episode of the "Sable" television series, and in an episode of "Jack and Mike."

Boyle was one of three national finalists in the drama category on television's popular "Star Search" program and co-starred in "50s/60s Rock 'N' Roll Party," a syndicated 2-hour program hosted by Wolfman Jack.

In addition, Boyle has worked as a model, in commercials, and is a member of the Organic Theater Youth Group, where she co-wrote and starred in their production of "Patch-Work City."

KIP WENTZ, also 18, "lost about 10 pounds worrying" while awaiting the results of his audition for the role of Scott, Donna's boyfriend, in "Poltergeist III." It is his first film role.

Wentz began performing in plays while in junior high school, then continued during his high school years. He plans to attend USC and hopes to continue with his acting career.

RICHARD FIRE plays Dr. Seaton, the doubting head of the school attended by Carol Anne.

Fire earned a B.A. degree from Rutgers University and a master's degree in Theatre at the University of Wisconsin. A prolific writer, as well as an actor, his plays include the long-running "Bleacher Bums." Originally produced at Chicago's Organic Theatre, it played in Los Angeles and New York before being adapted for PBS. Its television production won him an Emmy.

He is also the author of "ER," which toured the theatre circuit for nearly four years. It was later the basis for the television series starring Elliott Gould. Fire's own television credits include "Lady Blue," "Hyde and Seeke," "ER," "Trial of Shoeless Joe Jackson" and "Bleacher Bums." He has acted on the stage in "Marat/Sade," "National Lampoon's Lemmings," "Volpone," "Sirens of Titan," "The Ice Cream Suit," "The King Must Die" and many others.

Actor NATHAN DAVIS replaces the late Julian Beck as the monstrous Reverend Kane. Originally a radio actor, he left show business for 25 years, then returned with roles in films, television and on the stage. He has appeared in "Burglar," "Tough Guys," "Flowers in the Attic," "One More Saturday Night," "Risky Business," "Thief," "Windy City," "On the Right Track," and two films directed by his son Andy Davis, "Code of Silence" and "Stony Island."

His television roles include roles on "Jack and Mike," "Crime Story," "Hill Street Blues," "Chicago Story" and "Too Close for Comfort." On the stage, he has been seen in many plays in the Chicago area, including "Romeo and Juliet," "Comedians," "Fool for Love," "The Miser," as the lead in "On Golden Pond" and many others.


The Filmmakers

Director GARY SHERMAN, who is also co-writer of "Poltergeist III," began his filmmaking career directing a one-hour documentary on the life of singer Bo Didley, then followed with the PBS documentary, "The Helping Relationship," for which he won an Emmy.

Born and raised in Chicago, Sherman studied design and photography at the Illinois Institute of Technology and became an associate professor in animation and optical effects there. He eventually became a commercial director, then moved to London, where his clients included Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble and Johnson Wax.

While in London, he co-wrote and directed his first feature film, "Deathline." Moving to Los Angeles, he began writing movies-of-the-week and television pilots, including "Island of Women" and "The Mysterious Two." In 1981 Sherman directed the film "Dead and Buried," then "Vice Squad," which became a critical and box office success. Prior to "Poltergeist III," Sherman directed "Wanted: Dead or Alive."

Sherman also wrote and directed the pilot episode of ABC's "Sable," which was based on the adult comic book, Jon Sable, Freelance.

Producer BARRY BERNARDI began his filmmaking career as production assistant to producer Elliot Kastner on "92 in the Shade." Afterward, Kastner hired Bernardi as his assistant, and Bernardi became a story editor, then an assistant director on "Farewell, My Lovely."

He left Kastner to work on "The Deer Hunter," then became a story analyst for various producers and film studios. He got back into the production side of fllmmaking when he joined director John Carpenter and producer Debra Hill as a production assistant on "Halloween." For Carpenter's next film, "The Fog," Bernardi served as location manager, transportation coordinator and production coordinator.

Bernardi became associate producer on "Escape From New York," followed by "Halloween II" and "Halloween III." Other films on which he was associated with Carpenter are "Christine," "Starman" and "Big Trouble in Little China."

In 1986, Bernardi co-produced "Wanted: Dead or Alive." He is currently Senior Vice President of Production for New World Pictures.

"Poltergeist III" co-writer, BRIAN TAGGERT, has written for the stage, screen and television, including such films as "Of Unknown Origin," "Visiting Hours" and "The New Kids." He wrote the highly-rated miniseries "V," as well as the television series that followed. His play, "When Last I Saw the Lemmings," won him an L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award.

ALEX NEPOMNIASCHY is a Russian-born director of photography who emigrated to the United States in 1974. After studying at the American Film Institute, he went on to photograph several music videos for such artists as REO Speedwagon, Stanley Clark, Amy Grant and Smokey Robinson. He broke into films as cinematographer on "The Last Resort" and has since worked on "Wanted: Dead or Alive" and the pilot episode of the ABC series "Sable."

Production designer PAUL EADS started out as a scenic artist and assistant set designer in the New York theatre, then moved on and started doing films as an art director. His theatre credits include "Candide," "Alfred the Great" and "Othello."

In film, Eads has worked as a set designer on "Stardust Memories" and "Arthur"; as an art director on "Jaws 3-D," "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs," and as a production designer on "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Trust Me" and the "Sable" TV pilot.

DICK SMITH, who is the special effects make-up consultant for "Poltergeist III," won an Academy Award for his work on "Amadeus" and an Emmy for "Mark Twain, Tonight!" His many film credits include the upcoming "Everybody's All American," "Starman," "The Hunger," "Ghost Story," "Scanners," "Altered States," "Taxi Driver," "The Sunshine Boys," "The Exorcist," "The Godfather" and "The Godfather, Part II," "Little Big Man," "Midnight Cowboy," "The World of Henry Orient" and "Requiem for A Heavyweight."

Costume designer TOM McKINLEY worked in New York theatre before beginning his career in film. He began as an assistant designer on the Woody Allen films "Stardust Memories," "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" and "Zelig," then became associate designer for Allen's "Broadway Danny Rose," "The Purple Rose of Cairo" and "Hannah and Her Sisters."

McKinley's other credits include "My Demon Lover," "Wanted: Dead or Alive" and "Sable."

Music composer-arranger JOE RENZETTI, who won an Academy Award for Best Adaptation, Score for "The Buddy Holly Story," began his career as a jazz guitarist, then moved into arranging music for such artists as Neil Diamond, Al Hurt, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Rydell and others. His television projects as composer and/or arranger include "Elvis," "Cotton Candy," "Diary of A Teenage Hitchhiker," "Through the Magic Pyramid," "Chisholm," "Marathon," "The Mysterious Two," "Rich Hall's Vanishing America" and "Sable."

In films, Renzetti has worked on "The Idolmaker," "Fatso," "The Exterminator," "Dead and Buried," "Under the Rainbow," "Vice Squad" and "Wanted: Dead or Alive."