Willard Tobe Hooper (January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017) was an American director, screenwriter, and producer best known for his work in the horror genre. Among his most recognized films are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), which The Guardian described as "one of the most influential films ever made", and Poltergeist (1982), which received three Academy Award nominations.
Hooper was born in Austin, Texas, to Lois Belle (née Crosby) and Norman William Ray Hooper, who owned a theater in San Angelo. He first became interested in filmmaking when he used his father's 8 mm camera at the age of nine. Hooper took Radio-Television-Film classes at the University of Texas at Austin and studied drama in Dallas under Baruch Lumet.
Hooper spent the 1960s as a college professor and documentary cameraman. 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.
Hooper's first feature film, Eggshells (1969), was made for $40,000.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Hooper leapt to fame with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Made for less than $300,000 it was a huge commercial success.
Hooper's next film was Eaten Alive (1976). He walked off the production before shooting completed.
Hooper had his biggest budget yet with the TV version of Salem's Lot (1979), released theatrically in some countries. He then went on to make The Funhouse (1981).
In 1982, Hooper made Poltergeist, based on a story by Steven Spielberg. There is some confusion and controversy over the contributions made to the film by Hooper as compared to Spielberg.
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 (1987).Hooper also began working steadily in television.
Hooper's later work included Spontaneous Combustion (1990); I'm Dangerous Tonight (1990), a TV movie; and Night Terrors (1993). He directed an installment of Body Bags (1993) and did The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Toolbox Murders (2004), and Mortuary (2005).
Hooper was asked to contribute to the Masters of Horror series; he directed "Dance of the Dead" (2005) with Robert Englund in the first season, and "The Damned Thing" in the second season.
In 2010, writer and actor Mark Gatiss interviewed Hooper for his BBC documentary series A History of Horror; Hooper appeared in the third episode.
Hooper’s first novel, Midnight Movie, was published on Three Rivers Press in 2011.
His supernatural thriller film Djinn premiered at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Film Festival.
Tobe had one son, William Tony Hooper.
Tobe died of natural causes in Sherman Oaks, California, on August 26, 2017, at the age of 74.
Filmmakers who have been influenced by Hooper include Hideo Nakata, Wes Craven, Rob Zombie, Alexandre Aja, and Jack Thomas Smith. Director Ridley Scott has stated that his work on Alien was influenced more by Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre than any other B-level genre film.