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Tobe Hooper

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Tobe Hooper
Hooper in 2014
Willard Tobe Hooper[1]

(1943-01-25)January 25, 1943
DiedAugust 26, 2017(2017-08-26) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Director
  • screenwriter
  • producer
Years active1964–2017
Notable work
Spouse(s)Maev Margaret Noonan
(m. 1961; div. c. 1971)
Carin Berger
(m. 1983; div. 1990)

Rita Marie Bartlett
(m. 2008; div. 2010)

Willard Tobe Hooper[2] (/ˈtbi/;[3] January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017) was an American filmmaker, best known for his work in the horror genre. The British Film Institute cited Hooper as one of the most influential horror filmmakers of all time.[4]

Born in Austin, Texas, Hooper's feature film debut was the independent Eggshells (1969), which he co-wrote with Kim Henkel. The two reunited to co-write The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), which Hooper also directed. The film went on to become a classic of the genre, and was described in 2010 by The Guardian as "one of the most influential films ever made."[5] Hooper subsequently directed the horror film Eaten Alive (1976), followed by the 1979 miniseries Salem's Lot, an adaptation of the novel by Stephen King. Following this, Hooper signed on to direct The Funhouse (1981), a major studio slasher film distributed by Universal Pictures. The following year, he directed the supernatural thriller Poltergeist, written and produced by Steven Spielberg.

In the mid-1980s, Hooper directed two science fiction horror films: Lifeforce (1985) and Invaders from Mars (1986), followed by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), a big-budget sequel to his original film. The 1990s saw Hooper directing various horror and sci-fi projects, including Spontaneous Combustion (1990), which he also co-wrote; the television anthology film Body Bags (1993); and The Mangler (1995), another adaptation of a Stephen King story.

Hooper directed several projects throughout the 2000s, including the monster film Crocodile (2000), an episode of the sci-fi miniseries Taken (2002), and two episodes of Masters of Horror (2005–2006).

Early life[edit]

Hooper was born January 25, 1943, in Austin, Texas, to Lois Belle (née Crosby) and Norman William Ray Hooper, who owned a theater in San Angelo. The film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre explores hicksploitation themes related to his childhood.[6] He first became interested in filmmaking when he used his father's 8 mm camera at the age of nine. He went to college at the University of Texas, Austin. He was present at the college on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman opened fire on random people from the University's clock tower, fatally shooting a police officer that was close by Hooper.[7]


Hooper spent the 1960s as a college professor[dubiousdiscuss] and documentary cameraman.[8] His 1965 short film The Heisters was invited to be entered in the short subject category for an Academy Award, but was not finished in time for the competition that year.[9] His first feature film, Eggshells (1969), was made for $40,000.

Soon after, Hooper leapt to fame with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). He combined elements from a story he wrote about isolation and darkness with the inspiration of graphic news coverage of violence, with his belief that people were the true monsters being a key element for the film. Along with Kim Henkel, they co-wrote a screenplay that had elements based on the murders of Ed Gein and Elmer Wayne Henley while forming a company named Vortex, Inc. They produced the film alongside Jay Parsley and Richard Saenz. The low budget (roughly less than $140,000) meant that the film was shot seven days a week, having shooting times up to 16 hours a day, dealing with brutally hot temperatures, high humidity and limited special effects.[10] Hooper had to deal with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) with the rating; he had hoped the limited amount of gore seen in the film would give it a PG, but the original print was given an X rating. After some cuts, it was given an R rating. The film was cited as one of the scariest films of all time, with film critic Roger Ebert, despite awarding it only two out of four stars, describing it as a "weird, off-the-wall achievement."[11] It was also a huge commercial success, making $30 million in the United States and Canada, while being one of the highest grossing independent films of the 1970s.

Hooper's next film was Eaten Alive (1976), co-written by Henkel and producers Alvin L. Fast and Mardi Rustam. As with Massacre, the film was inspired by serial killings, this time the murderer Joe Ball, who killed at least two people in the 1930s and whose crimes led to his nicknames of 'The Alligator Man' and 'The Butcher of Elmendorf'. The movie was filmed on sound-stages in California. Hooper provided the music alongside Wayne Bell - but walked off the production before shooting completed.[12]

Hooper had his biggest budget yet with the television mini-series of Salem's Lot (1979), filmed on a budget of $4 million for CBS while being released theatrically in some countries. It was a screening of Massacre that led producer Richard Kobritz to hire Hooper as director. He shot the film from July to August 1979, although the film differed from the source material (particularly with the violence and graphic scenes) in order to meet broadcast standards. He described it as 'very spooky - it suggests things and always has the overtone of the grave. It affects you differently than my other horror films. It's more soft-shelled...it has atmosphere which creates something you cannot escape - the reminder that our time is limited and all the accoutrements that go with it, such as the visuals.' Hooper then went on to make The Funhouse (1981) about teenagers who are stalked by a killer in a carnival fun-house.

In 1982, Hooper made Poltergeist, based on a story by Steven Spielberg.[13] Hooper was selected by Spielberg to direct based on his prior work, Spielberg having co-written the screenplay and co-produced the film. It was Hooper who collaborated with Spielberg to make it more of a ghost story than the original science-fiction-based treatment had been, as it had originally been conceived as a sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Cannon Films approached Hooper with the offer of a three-picture deal. He made Lifeforce (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986).[14] Hooper also began working steadily in television.

Hooper's later works included Spontaneous Combustion (1990); the television movie I'm Dangerous Tonight (1990); and Night Terrors (1993). He directed an installment of the made-for-television feature Body Bags (1993). His works also include The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Toolbox Murders (2004), and Mortuary (2005).

Hooper was asked to contribute to the series Masters of Horror; he responded by directing "Dance of the Dead" (2005)[15] with Robert Englund in the first season, and "The Damned Thing"[16] in the second season.[17]

In 2010, writer and actor Mark Gatiss interviewed Hooper for the third episode of his BBC documentary series A History of Horror.[18]

Hooper's first novel, Midnight Movie, was published on Three Rivers Press in 2011.[19]

His supernatural thriller film Djinn premiered at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Film Festival.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Hooper was married three times. He married his first wife, Maev Margaret Noonan, in 1961. They divorced in 1969,[21] producing one son, William Tony Hooper, who was born approximately 1966. In the Fall of 1979 issue of Cinefantastique magazine, Hooper declared "I'm divorced. I was married very young and been divorced about eight years." At the time of the interview, his son was 13 and lived with him in Los Angeles.[22][2][6]

Hooper married again in 1983 to Carin Berger (daughter of actor William Berger), but they divorced in 1990. He later married Rita Marie Bartlett in 2008, but they divorced in 2010.


Hooper died of natural causes in Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, on August 26, 2017, at the age of 74.[23][2]


Filmmakers who have been influenced by Hooper include Hideo Nakata,[24] Wes Craven,[25] Rob Zombie,[26] Alexandre Aja,[27] Jack Thomas Smith,[28] Kiyoshi Kurosawa[29] and Nicolas Winding Refn.[30] Ridley Scott said that his work on Alien was influenced more by Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre than any other genre film.[31]



Year Title Director Writer Notes Ref.
1969 Eggshells Yes Yes Also editor, cinematographer, and composer [32]
1970 Peter Paul and Mary: The Song Is Love Yes No Documentary film, also editor and cinematographer [33]
1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Yes Yes Also producer and composer [32]
1976 Eaten Alive Yes No Also composer [34]
1981 The Funhouse Yes No [35]
1982 Poltergeist Yes No [32]
1985 Lifeforce Yes No [34]
1986 Invaders from Mars Yes No [34]
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Yes No Also composer and actor [34]
1990 Spontaneous Combustion Yes Yes [36]
1993 Night Terrors Yes No [34]
1995 The Mangler Yes Yes [36]
2000 Crocodile Yes No [32]
2004 Toolbox Murders Yes No [32]
2005 Mortuary Yes No [32]
2013 Djinn Yes No [32]


Executive producer


TV series

Year Title Notes Ref.
1979 Salem's Lot Miniseries [32]
1987 Amazing Stories Episode: "Miss Stardust" [37]
The Equalizer Episode: "No Place Like Home" [38]
1988 Freddy's Nightmares Episode: "No More Mr. Nice Guy" [39]
1991 Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories Episode: "Ghosts R Us/Legend of Kate Morgan/School Spirit" [39]
Tales from the Crypt Episode: "Dead Wait" [39]
1995 Nowhere Man Episode: "Turnabout" / "Absolute Zero"' [39]
1997 Dark Skies Episode: "The Awakening" [39]
Perversions of Science Episode: "Panic" [39]
2000 The Others Episode: "Souls on Board" [39]
2002 Night Visions Episode: "Cargo" / "The Maze" [39]
Taken Episode: "Beyond the Sky" [39]
2005–2006 Masters of Horror Episodes: "Dance of the Dead" and "The Damned Thing" [39]

TV movies

Year Title Notes Ref.
1990 I'm Dangerous Tonight [39]
1993 Body Bags Co-directed with John Carpenter, and Tom Arnold, also actor [36]
1999 The Apartment Complex [40]

Music videos[edit]

Year Track Artist Ref.
1983 "Dancing with Myself" Billy Idol [34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997". Familysearch.org. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Saperstein, Pat (2017-08-27). "Tobe Hooper, 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre' and 'Poltergeist' Director, Dies at 74". Variety. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  3. ^ "Say How?". National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Library of Congress. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  4. ^ Pinkerton, Nick (September 6, 2017). "Tobe Hooper obituary: Texan horror genius who ushered in a grisly new era". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on February 2, 2019.
  5. ^ Heritage, Stuart (October 22, 2010). "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: No 14 best horror film of all time". The Guardian. Archived from the original on August 7, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Gilbey, Ryan (August 28, 2017). "Tobe Hooper obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on April 18, 2019.
  7. ^ Zwilling, Marcia (August 29, 2017). "Tobe Hooper's Austin youth shaped 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre'". Austin-American Statesman. Archived from the original on December 5, 2022.
  8. ^ Mumford, Gwilym (27 August 2017). "Tobe Hooper, Texas Chainsaw Massacre director, dies at 74". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  9. ^ Bordelon, Ann (April 13, 1965). "Tobe Hooper Riding High With The Heisters". The Austin American. p. 21.
  10. ^ Getlen, Larry (June 13, 2019). "The 'intolerably putrid' making of 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre'". New York Post. Archived from the original on June 18, 2019.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Movie Review (1974) - Roger Ebert". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  12. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2002). Eaten Alive at a Chainsaw Massacre: The Films of Tobe Hooper. McFarland. p. 68. ISBN 9781476613352. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  13. ^ Canby, Vincent (June 4, 1982). "Movie Review – Poltergeist (1982)". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Gayne, Zach (March 18, 2014). "SXSW 2014 Interview: THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE Director Tobe Hooper Talks His Legacy of Unspeakable Horror". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on July 10, 2015.
  15. ^ "Dance of the Dead". IMDb.com. 11 November 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  16. ^ "The Damned Thing". IMDb.com. 27 October 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Masters of Horror". IMDb.com. 28 October 2005. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  18. ^ "A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss – Q&A with Mark Gatiss". BBC. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  19. ^ Bowen, Chuck (August 4, 2011). "The Formulaic Shock and Awe of Tobe Hooper's Midnight Movie". Slant Magazine.
  20. ^ Adams, Mark (October 25, 2013). "Djinn – Reviews – Screen". Screen International.
  21. ^ "126th District Court". The Austin American. August 1, 1969. p. A12.
  22. ^ Kelley, Bill (Fall 1979). "Salem's Lot: Filming Horror for Television". Cinefantastique. 9 (2). Frederick S. Clarke: 14.
  23. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (August 27, 2017). "Tobe Hooper, Director of 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,' Dies at 74". The New York Times.
  24. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (October 30, 2008). "Ring". The Guardian.
  25. ^ Burton, Felicity (August 7, 2015 ). "THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977): Film Review". Scream.
  26. ^ Eggstern, Chris (October 30, 2015). "Rob Zombie gave us his Top 10 horror movies – and there's one surprising omission". HitFix.
  27. ^ Sélavy, Virginie (May 1, 2008). "INTERVIEW WITH XAVIER MENDIK". Electric Sheep.
  28. ^ Wien, Gary (October 19, 2014). "Infliction: An Interview With Jack Thomas Smith". Jason L Koerner, "100 Acres of Hell". New Jersey Stage.
  29. ^ Mahmoudian, Eléonore (October 9, 2014). "IFF Entrevues Belfort 2014 - A certain genre: Double Feature Kiyoshi Kurosawa" (PDF).
  30. ^ Foundas, Scott (Summer 2012). "Anger Management". DGA Quarterly. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  31. ^ Anderson, Martin (March 30, 2012). "The Russian heritage for Ridley Scott's Prometheus?" Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. Shadowlocked.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h "Tobe Hooper, Texas Chainsaw Massacre director, dies at 74". The Guardian. August 27, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  33. ^ Lewis, Anne (December 3, 1999). "No Ordinary Folk". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  34. ^ a b c d e f "Tobe Hooper, director of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, dead at 74". CBS News. August 28, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  35. ^ People Staff (April 27, 1981). "Picks and Pans Review: The Funhouse". People. Archived from the original on July 4, 2018.
  36. ^ a b c Brown, Phil (August 28, 2017). "Remembering Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Master". Cgmagonline.com. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  37. ^ "Amazing Stories". NBC. Archived from the original on September 29, 2015.
  38. ^ Sobczynski, Peter (August 27, 2017). "Tobe Hooper: 1943–2017". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Tobe Hooper Filmography". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on December 31, 2015.
  40. ^ Rios, Taylor (August 27, 2017). "Tobe Hooper Dead: 'Texas Chain Saw Massacre' And 'Poltergeist' Director Dies At 74". Inquisitr. Archived from the original on August 28, 2017.


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