When Spielberg got spooked after watching Paranormal Activity

Steven Spielberg talks about how after watching the DVD of Paranormal Activity he was locked in his bedroom and a locksmith had to be called to get him out

It is said that after watching Paranormal Activity the doors of your bedroom locked on their own and a locksmith had to be called to get you out. Is this story true or just studio gossip? And did you really arrive at the office the next day with the DVD in a trash bag?
Yeah, it actually happened to me and not something the marketing department just came up before the release. About a year-and-a-half  ago, on the referral of my friend and business partner Stacey Snider, I took an advance copy of the DVD home with me to watch. After watching the film, this strange incident happened. That trash bag story too is correct.

Do you believe in ghosts? What is the scariest thing that has happened to you?
I don’t believe in demons or ghosts but after this DVD incident which is the only unexplained incident in my life, I think that there are still a few things left for science to explore.

What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?
After Paranormal Activity, my all time favorite horror film is Stanley Kubrick’s Jack Nicholson starrer The Shining.

The original plan was for Oren Peli to re-shoot the movie? Had that happened, how creatively involved would you have been with it?
Let me make this clear that to the best of my knowledge, the current version of Paranormal Activity is not a remake of the original. Oren never wanted to completely re-shoot the film but I appreciate the fact that he was very open towards public opinion and my feedback.

The original version had some unnecessary scenes, I suggested they be slashed. Also, that we re-shoot some scenes, the rationale behind this was to make movie more fast-paced and gripping. I suggested an alternative ending as well. He liked the suggestions and re-shot the ending even though he had other options. He tested many endings, got the maximum positive feedback to the one I had suggested and went with it.

How many times have you watched the film? Does it get less scary with repeated viewings?
I have seen this film two times – the original draft and the current theatrical version. Paranormal Activity is full of gripping scenes and won’t allow you to leave your seats even for buying popcorn during the intermission. I won’t reveal much but there is a scene in the film in which Micah (the lead actor) uses an Ouija board to communicate with the demon. It is really creepy!

The film was delayed following a conflict between Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures. Could you throw some light on this?
According to our company policies, I won’t be able to disclose any details. We have made some of our biggest and most successful films with Paramount. It was really wonderful working with them though due to some differences we could not
continue the journey with them.

Did you expect the film to be such a big money spinner?
Dear friend, anything is possible as there is no established algorithm of success. I am really happy for Oren that he is now a living example for aspiring filmmakers.

A sequel has already been announced by Paramount. How involved will you be with it?
I’ll not be involved at all.

2009 has been the best year for Hollywood in India. Do you expect Paranormal Activity to continue the success story?
It’s Oren’s first movie so would love to see its success story spreading from one continent to another.

What’s your reaction to James Cameron Avatar? Will it change cinema the way Jurassic Park did and how would the Na’vis compare to an ET?
It is a good effort by my friend Cameron. Avatar is the best movie I’ve seen in the last decade. It contains 60 per cent CGI yet the moment you see Pandora, you are charmed till the movie ends. The climax battle scenes are mindblowing. In the war between the humans and Na’vis, you end up supporting the Na’vis. Avatar takes the audience’s cinematic experience to a new level, beyond imagination.

If we’re talking about a concept, ET and the Na’vis are more or less the same as both entities referred to a race which belongs to some other planet. In fact, I think the Na’vis are more human than us.

What do you think of Indian composer A R Rahman whose Jai ho… from Slumdog Millionare has enthralled the world and won him an Oscar?
He is a very promising composer. I have heard interesting compositions of Rahman and would love to work with him in the near future though my all-time favorite is John Williams.

What’s your current obsession?
Like always, I love watching, directing, and producing movies.

One last question. How would you rate dinosaurs, Dracula and demonic presence on a scale of 1-10?
Though I am not very clear, I would rate the dinosaurs from my  Jurassic Park series 8/ 10. Dracula would be 6/10 while demonic presence gets another 8/10.

Roshmila Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times
Email Author
Mumbai, January 05, 2010

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