POLTERGEIST. It's my favorite movie. Since the time I first watched those cathode-ray dwelling specters snatch little Carol-Anne when I was kid to this very day it remains one of the films I can watch over and over and over again. I've double-dipped on the DVD, and I'd triple-dip if only MGM would give us a special edition really worth buying. There's something about that movie, be it the family dynamic, or the special effects, or great directing and storytelling that make it hold up nearly 26 years after it came out. Sometimes you can't explain why a movie captivates you. All I know is that if you had 114 minutes to spare I could perform the entire movie for you verbatim.
This month we had the opportunity to talk with one of the cast members from POLTERGEIST. Oliver Robins starred as the Robbie Freeling in both POLTERGEIST and POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE. In his first interview Robins opens up exclusively to Icons of Fright on the making of the two POLTERGEIST films, as well the super scary, super mean 1982 TV movie DON'T GO TO SLEEP. Fans can meet Oliver Robins at the upcoming Hollywood Collectors Show February 14th and 15th in Burbank, California, WonderCon February 27th-March 1st in San Francisco, and this spring at the Chiller Theatre convention in New Jersey April 17-19th. (Special thanks to Samantha Prado at AJW Celebrity Services for making this interview possible!) - Mike Cucinotta 2/08
IOF: We're so glad to talk to you because the POLTERGEIST movies really are my favorite movies of all time. I'm not sure I'd be as passionate about horror without having watched them at such a young age.
Oliver Robins: Oh, well, thank you so much. I enjoyed making those films and I think we all felt when we were making the movie that it was going to be something special. Even in the very beginning. We didn't know the extent of the impact it would have, or that it would be so long lasting, but even every crew member knew that the film was something they would be proud of.
IOF: Well it's a great story, it's got a wonderful cast, some fantastic special effects. Everything about it really holds up. I watched it the other night and couldn't help but comment to friends online well it's stood the test of time.
OR: I've thought about that, about why this film holds up the way it does for almost 30 years now. I think it's a combination of not just technology, but the storyline. You have characters you're really rooting for, and a level of compassion for everyone in it. It's not about guts and gore, or things of a graphic nature. Honestly the special effects were extremely limited at that time. We didn't have half of the technology that was available today. You really had to rely on story and filmmaking to understand what these character were going through. The old cliché is that you have a willing suspension of disbelief because you want them to survive through this situation. The special effects are important, but they're almost secondary to the characters, what they're feeling, and how you want this to end. You have normal people in extraordinary circumstance.
IOF: I think that's one of the keys to that movie. They are very normal, and the Freelings are so very relatable. They seemed like my family. Robbie, Carol-Anne, you could be my siblings or my cousins.
OR: You know I thought about that over the years, and having become a filmmaker, having gone to USC film school. It's amazing when everything begins to work and you have so many great minds working on that movie, so many different talents. Everything came together. And it's a miracle when that happens because it's so difficult to make even a bad movie let along a good movie. So you had such an amazing team: You had Tobe Hooper, who's the quintessential horror director, and you have Mr. Spielberg who's the master storyteller, and writers like Michael Grais and Mark Victor who wrote some great dialogue. Then, on top of everything, you had us, the kids. Something Tobe really worked on with us was that he wanted us to be children, he didn't want us to be actors, and we were extremely natural. I think that conveyed the feeling that these kids could be part of anybody's family. They were normal kids, it wasn't a Little Lord Fauntleroy style of acting, we were normal. And I'd really had zero training at that point. Tobe made us feel so comfortable that we could be kids, we could perform and I think that comes through in the performances, combined with the performances of JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson. They took us under their wing and made us feel like they were our mom and dad on the set. That translated into the film and made us look like we were a real family.
IOF: I think that was clearly achieved in the film. What do you recall about getting yourself cast in POLTERGEIST?
OR: It was interesting, my family moved from New York to California, and at an early age I was bitten by the bug. I saw children act on TV and thought that looked like fun. So after much persuasion my mother put me in a commercial workshop class. At the end of the class I was introduced to a couple of agents. For 6 months I'd been doing commercials when my mom got a call that there was an open call and they were looking for a little boy for this Spielberg movie. So we stood on line for hours and waited. We met with the casting people, it was Mike Fenton and Jane Feinberg, and after several callbacks I met with the team, Tobe and Steven and they selected me. I was amazed, and I never really knew that what we were working on was as big as it was. I think this was important because Tobe, Frank and Steve always presented it like it was camp for us, for the kids on the set. They made us feel like we were not in this big movie but we “were just all going to have a great time.” There were these big sets you could play on, you could design your own room, bring your own toys to the set. It was a very fun environment. That allowed me to be very comfortable because I'd only been in front of the camera maybe one other time having done a commercial. So I really needed to have that kind of comfort without the training.
IOF: Were you aware that you were supposed to be making a scary movie?
OR: Oh yea, yes. I'd read the script, I was an avid reader from an early age, like 6 years old. I knew it was scary I just didn't know the degree of the fear. I realize in some films the children don't know what they're in, we understood exactly what we doing. Tobe would explain the scenes. Here, I'll give you a good example: They really didn't know what the effects were going to quote look like. [Industrial Light & Magic] was working on all the mattes. But they had maybe sticks to wave in front of us and they would tell us, “Picture the scariest thing you could ever imagine in your life and that's what you're seeing right now”. So we knew we were supposed to be scared, and we knew it was going to be terrifying however what audience sees on screen, but we didn't know what we were going to see at all. Most of those effects were going to be optical, for instance the closet scene when you have that vortex that's trying to suck us in. They built a set that was called a gimble room. I believe it was on stage 30 at MGM. It was the same technology they used to have Fred Astaire dance around a room and go on the ceiling. The room rotated on an axis so we were falling backwards with the camera pointed below us in such a way that it simulated being sucked in the vortex. The reverse effects, when they shot the other side, those are opticals later put in by ILM. But we didn't know that. They would just yell, “There's something trying to suck you and it is the most terrifying thing you've ever seen in your entire life!” So we did know we were in something very scary, but we had no idea what that fear was going to embody until we went to the screening of it months later. Even during ADR most of those opticals weren't in yet.
IOF: Well, what about the scene with the tree. Was that huge model, or miniatures? I only see you being grabbed by a tree, it's still completely convincing me!
OR: It was an interesting process to go through, because in screen time it's not much more than a few seconds. They built approximately 4 trees and each one had a different visual design. For instance the tree outside, the exterior tree, was not much more than a normal looking tree with something like a face carved on. Then they had another tree with removable arms, the arms would actually move. Then another tree where the arms would extend to the window. Then another tree was designed for purposes of swallowing me, it had it's own internal “stomach” so to speak, for taking me in. Then a final tree was built on a hydraulic system to be pulled out of the ground. Now you have to keep in mind that the way they'd probably shoot that today is by using a lot of digital technology. At that time they didn't have that so you really had to make it look seamless through a lot of cinematic magic and through cutting and performance. Filmmakers today have a lot of resources that this team didn't have. That's what I think is so amazing about how it holds up today. They didn't have all that technology and they still made it work.
IOF: It's so convincing even today that I don't think you'd even need a digital effect to fix it up. There's been a trend of filmmakers revisiting film and fix effects, but it's so perfect. And that tree...that...that is one of the great moments in horror. Tobe directed it so well, and you played it so well with the counting. Scared the crap out of me!
OR: It was amazing to see that assembled. My feeling as to why that works so well is that it was the special effects, and it was the filmmaking, but the critical part that makes it fly is it taps into that childhood fear that we all have. The tree outside the window...what if it came alive? That's a timeless element, a hundred years from now children are still going to be looking out their window and still be scared by the trees during a storm.
IOF: Absolutely, it's timelessly frightening. Now, what about poor Robbie who has such a hell of a time during both those movies, constantly attacked by the ghosts. He's such a nervous wreck by the middle of the first movie. How did you maintain that level of hysteria and fear through the film?
OR: Tobe, you know, is a great director and one of the great elements of that is that he was able to guide and and tell me how scared I was supposed to be. You know they shoot a film out of order, you don't really know where you are in terms of your fear. Am I so petrified that I can barely speak, or am I just learning about these ghosts? Am I confused? You have different degrees of fear and he was able to convey that. So he explained to the cast, “This is the part of the movie where you're so terrified that if anything moves around the house you're frozen in terror.” It was just through the direction and the guidance that I was able to tap into my own personal fears. And I was actually able to use my own childhood memories. There were no hauntings on the set of POLTERGEIST, however I do believe in ghosts and I had to live in some very old places in Manhattan. I lived in this building that built in the 1870's and I swear it had to be haunted. I'll never know for certain I was able to tap into those feelings and bring into the character of Robbie, even though we were shooting out of order and shooting on a set is very mundane and slow. So even thought the set wasn't haunted and the special effects weren't in all the feelings coming from me were very genuine.
IOF: So nothing strange going on during “POLTERGEIST” other than some crazy special effects?
OR: There wasn't anything abnormal from any other set I'd ever been on. There are always technical problems, but people always want to bring those elements together because it's a ghost movie and it's easy to connect the dots. People want to believe it's haunted, or it's cursed when the fact is those same things happen on almost every other set. For instance they said on one of the POLTERGEIST installments the film got fogged. Well, that happens all the time, when I was in film school that happened to me all the time. It just a technical error, you know. Of course it's fun to talk about because of the ghosts in the movie.
IOF: What are something you remember about the actors playing your on screen family? Anything still stand out about Craig, Jobeth, or Heather?
OR: Craig had an amazing sense of humor, and I think because he was a writer before he was an actor. Craig was very fatherly. We were in some strange circumstances, we were always covered in mud, molasses, or some kind of dirt and he made the set very fun. JoBeth is a fantastic actress and I didn't have a lot of experience, she was very maternal, and taught me a lot about the craft of acting. Heather...Heather was a sweetheart. She was so precocious and so bright. She was glowing on the set and very mature for her years. I believe she was 5 and she was like 5 going on 25. It was amazing, I mean I was 10 years old and I was amazed that she'd take direction from Tobe like she was an adult. I always thought this little girl is going to grow up to do great things one day. That's what made her death even more tragic was that here was a person who had so much work and such a bright future ahead of her. Not just to have a person die at such a young age, but to have a person that you know was going to become an adult who was really going to give things back to this world.
IOF: When POLTERGEIST opened, it was huge. Were you aware at the time you'd been in a phenomenally big hit?
OR: I think we had the complete realization that it was going to have historical value after the first summer. People were waiting in line to watch it, they seemed to be truly touched by it, and they wanted to see it time and time again. That's what's rare today. You don't see movies today that are event films, they come and go.
IOF: But I think this movie almost immediately embedded itself into the popular culture.
OR: I think the timing of it was perfect. American was coming out of the late 70's with a feeling of disillusionment and this family embodied all the values that we wanted to have again. Then you take that family and thrust them into this incredible situation where they're cynics and they become believers. I think the audience does too.
IOF: Did you ever, say, have friends who'd razz you for having been Robbie in Poltergiest?
OR: It's funny you ask because I was thinking about that. It never really happened to me, and I think it's only because I grew up in Hollywood. I was surrounded by people who's parents made their living from the entertainment industry and it never fazed them. For my friends and peers it was a part of daily life. It didn't seem abnormal. However, when I travelled to certain places it did become an issue, people seemed amazed by it. And I was confused by their amazement because I thought everyone lived in this kind of world, because that's what Los Angeles is. Detroit builds cars and LA makes movies.
IOF: How hands on was Steven Spielberg as the producer. Do you remember seeing him a lot on set?
OR: Well, he wrote the original draft of the script. So he was a very powerful force on set, but he worked as a team with Tobe. Tobe was always the director, Tobe always told me what to do. But the director will always come to the writer and he wants the writer to be there to get input. Not to mention, Steven was the producer so he was in a position where he had to be there on set to guide the production. I think Steven and Tobe worked as an incredible team. So to answer your question, he was there but working in the capacity as a writer and a producer. I can say from my own experience, I just recently wrote a Hallmark movie, and the director always wanted to talk to me to find out what I had in mind for the scene, how did I visualize it, what was I thinking about the characters so he could talk to the cast and convey what I had on the page. That's really the best kind of filmmaker, one who wants to work closely with the writer, and I think Tobe did that. It was just an amazing team effort, because both Tobe and Steven come from different perspectives on filmmaking. That kind of collaboration brought something very unique and very special.
IOF: And it was a very different kind of film from Tobe's previous work in dark and grisly horror, while elements of the family were so typical of what Steven was doing at the time. It is a really interesting mesh of those two different styles. We have to talk about something that's listed in your IMDB profile. A bit of trivia is written that you had a “near death” experience on the set while filming famous clown scene. What happened?
OR: Well, the way they shot the sequence, it was shot as I remember in about five hours. Now going back to the technology again they didn't really have the special effects the way they do today. Today they might have done it with an optical effect. So, the clown doll had this extended arm and they had me act backwards. They had me start with a big expression and go back to a normal face, film it and show it backwards. So what happened was that contraption got caught around my neck. I was in a tight confined space under the bed and...It's almost like a car accident. You know how a car accident happens so fast you don't remember but if you don't act something is going to happen? Well, Steven saw that, probably in the video assist, and he pulled me away from it. Who knows what might have happened otherwise. It was very fast and I don't think anything would have happened, but who knows...maybe I wouldn't be here today.
IOF: Well, I'm glad they got you out of it. It sure made for a great scene though! No one my age would go near a clown doll for years, for sure. Now...you had an awfully busy year when you did POLTERGEIST, didn't you?
OR: I think I might have done a TV movie...
IOF: Yes. You did that TV movie “DON'T GO TO SLEEP”, which is one of the meanest, nasty, scariest of the early 80's TV movies cycle!
OR: And I worked with another great cast.
IOF: I know! Valerie Harper, Dennis Weaver, Ruth Gordon.
OR: It's sad that they don't really do movies-of-the-week anymore.
IOF: They don't!
OR: You'd probably never find that on television today. It's funny you mentioned that one because I just watched it the other day on YouTube, and I was thinking this is extremely entertaining and almost forgot that I was in it! But I do remember working with Ruth Gordon. She was a fantastic actress. I think actors trained from that period are very different from actors today. The studios trained them in such a way to have a respect for the craft, and in how to hold yourself on set. She taught me those things. As I remember Valerie Harper was a sweetheart. It was an interesting film to be in. I got to play a little bit of a bully. That was very different, usually I played the innocent boy. I think this was closer to myself at the time because I was a little bit of a prankster. I was able to tap into that and use those elements for “DON'T GO TO SLEEP”
IOF: That was such a weird movie! When you were watching it did you think it was a little odd for TV? I mean the entire family is dead by the end of the movie. It's so cruel! They have you fall off a roof, and then someone comes after Valerie Harper with a pizza cutter, for crying out loud!
OR: I was thinking about that, you don't see films like that being made, even on television at that point.
IOF: Did they start making that after POLTERGEIST came out? Was there an influence, especially when they cast you?
OR: I think everything influences everything. There's nothing that's completely original. So I wouldn't say they went out of their way, however that was probably in the consciousness of the filmmakers of the time. You know, much in the way they make one space movie and they make more with totally different stories and completely different premises. It just goes to show the viability of that kind of movie. Just like with the “Saw” films, they make various kinds of films that are derivative of the “Saw” films because they think that's what audiences want to see.
IOF: And you did also had the “AIRPLANE” movie release that year. Another great cast...
OR: Robert Hayes and Julie Hagerty were among the greatest people to work with. You know they say some actors are afraid to work with children and animals because they can steal a scene, however they weren't afraid, they embraced it. They assisted me and made me feel so comfortable and helped me with my comedy as well. It was so much different than POLTERGEIST because comedy is all about the timing and they helped me with that, getting the lines right.
IOF: And you had a wonderful scene with Peter Graves, and it's interesting that he'll be appearing at the upcoming Chiller Theatre convention, where you will be. You can have an “AIRPLANE II” reunion as well!
OR: I have not seen him since that set, I look forward to seeing him again! He was fantastic. You know I think I was blessed because I had some wonderful experiences growing up as a child actor. I think I've taken that with me as an adult and I try to create that same environment for the children I work with on set, and the adults too. You know where you have this environment where you're going to have a lot of fun and, yes, you have a job to do and a story to tell but it's the kind of environment where you give the actors the creative freedom to play. That's what happened on “AIRPLANE II”. Ken Finkleman made me feel like I could play with the line and experiment to get them right.
IOF: What were you doing between 1982 and 1986 when you did “POLTERGEIST II”?
OR: I was going to prep school at that time and my parents wanted me to focus on my studies. I didn't really do much acting at the time. In retrospective I think that was great because it really gave me the chance to have the childhood that I might not have had otherwise. So those years I got to be a kid and do the things that kids do. I was very much geeky at that time, not that I've changed much, and went to computer camp, learned to program in FORTRAN, go to school and have my friends over. All the things I wouldn't have done if I'd been on a set. So I think I got a good balance. I really credit that to my parents too. They were never the stereotypical stage parent that forces the kid to do something they didn't want to do. I only acted because I wanted to act and loved it myself.
IOF: Well you know five years doesn't seem like a long time as an adult but as a kid that's much different. That's a whole stretch of time. So how did it feel to be on set when it came time to do POLTERGEIST II?
OR: I'd been acting in plays at school, and at that time I'd begun making movies myself. Steven Spielberg gave me a Super-8 camera. Initially I'd made these little films and Steven very much liked them and gave me, I think it was the only sync-sound Super-8 camera that existed at the time. I started making films when I was in school because even then I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. Finally when I got to POLTERGEIST II I was really looking forward to being back on set and it gave me an experience to watch with different eyes. Now I was 15 years old and I was thinking, “Now, how do they make these films, how do they assemble these things?”
IOF: What were you looking for? What were you observing on the set of “POLTERGEIST II” and what did you learn?
OR: Well, I think camera design, visual design. How does a director work with an actor? What is he telling me that's going to work on technical level and a storyline level. And I don't know if I was looking at it in those technical terms, but that's what I absorbed. It also showed me what the requirements and the difficulties because “POLTERGEIST II” was difficult for everybody. MGM was going through this flux where they were potentially going to knock down the studio and build condos. So there was a pressure to cancel the production, even midway through. It put everone under duress and I saw that.
IOF: Tell me about that, what did you see. Who was having difficulty?
OR: I saw it in the background. It was never brought to my attention, but it showed me that a director has to stay very focused and tell a story and at the same time juggle the balls of politics that may be happening. But they avoided that and got a good product at the end.
IOF: Yeah, they did. What about some of the new characters and cast members not from the original film. Julian Beck as Kane is absolutely unforgettable.
OR: He was a fine actor. He was suffering, and it taught me something about being a trooper. He loved acting so much, that he was willing to do this movie even going into it having cancer. So he was, I'm guessing, in a tremendous amount of pain, but he loved the craft. He was a lovely man who would tell stories, and was a very good person. It was refreshing in a business where people sometimes aren't so forthcoming.
IOF: And everyone remembers POLTERGEIST II so well because of what he did. In horror, it's a legendary performance.
OR: As I understood he had did a theater group in New York prior to becoming a screen actor, and he brought those talents and skills with him. You can see how he developed that character. I think sometimes an audience will take that for granted and assume that's how it was always going to be. His decisions as an actor allowed that character to be as scary as it was. People didn't laugh, they were indeed afraid because of his performance.
IOF: What about getting back together with JoBeth, Craig and Heather. Was it at all difficult snapping back into being a “family” again?
OR: It was amazing. You know how there are certain friends you might not see for 10 years, but you can meet them for lunch and it was like you were never apart. That's what my experience was like with the whole family. We couldn't wait to work with each other again, it was like we were never apart. We got along so well. I don't think that ever really disappeared.
IOF: Tell me about Will Sampson, because Robbie has to develop a very strong relationship with his character, Taylor.
OR: He had a different perspective on how to develop a role. Certain people in your life will not say a lot of things, but what they do say are very important. When we talked about the character and what we were going to do he gave me a level of comfort that perhaps didn't come from words. It came from a certain feeling that everything was going to be OK in the scene. It was a different kind of experience than I'd ever had with another actor. I was able to draw from him that when you're acting it's not so much the words, but the subtext of what you're saying, the emotion, is deep inside you. That's how, I believe, Will Sampson developed his role. I picked up on that, even at 14 years old.
IOF: And this too was a very effects heavy film, maybe even more so than the original. Especially in scenes like the ending where you're in that strange, etheral netherworld. Can you recall anything, maybe even about that creature, that utter insanity, that comes out of Craig T. Nelson's mouth.
OR: Well I wasn't actually there that day, but it was definitely well done. I was actually scared by that when I did see it. What I do remember was the netherworld that we went into. It was difficult to shoot that because basically you have a harness, you're strapped up and flown around. You're having a fun time doing it, but at the same time you're stuck in this harness for weeks at time, and you have to be able to act. You're in front of a green screen or blue screen and the director, Brian Gibson, would once again say, “Ok, it's the scariest thing you've ever seen in your life. Your terrified and the ghosts are coming at you”. And of course all the special effects are laid in after the fact, so it tests your ability to act and your ability to hang for pretty much 8 hours a day.
IOF: What about Brian Gibson, how did the experience differ from say, Tobe Hooper?
OR: Brian came from a background of directing commercials, so he was a very technical director. He planned everything out in a very detail-oriented kind of way and he didn't really diverge from his plan of attack. It made it very efficient on set and allowed him to tell the story the way he wanted to tell it.
IOF: Well, let's talk about what you're doing now, and what you've been working on since you've left acting. As I understand, from the moment you left acting you began working on developing yourself as a filmmaker. You started entering films into competition as early as 15, right?
OR: Exactly. I'd been making film from the time I was 10 years old and I'd made this 16mm film called “The Crystal”. The film won 1st Place at this French film festival, Les Mesnil-le-Roi. It was my first experience working with an entire crew and I learned a great deal. My cinematographer actually now teaches at USC Film School.
IOF: That's very intense for a 15 year old.
OR: It was a trial. I had the life experience of working as an actor with a full crew but until you're put in that position it's like sitting next to a driver your whole life but never driving the car. It became a trial by fire situation. You have to learn to do your shot list and preparation, all the homework you have to do as director.
IOF: What about after school, did you immediately end up back in film professionally?
OR: After USC I took a break for a while. I worked briefly as a stock broker, I just took a step back and gain some perspective on life because I'd been in the film business for so many years. But then I work up one day, I'm trading stock positions and thinking “I should be making movies”. That's my passion, you have a finite time on this earth you should be doing what you love. When I'm old and gray I want to look back at some of the movies I've made. That's why I went back to filmmaking after my brief stint in the world of securities. So I wrote this film for the Hallmark Channel called “You've Got A Friend” and it starred John Schneider and it was the highest rated premier for the network. It was a heartfelt piece and I think they've shown it almost a dozen time.
IOF: What about the film you directed last year. A film called “Man Overboard”?
OR: “Man Overboard” I'd say is “Office Space” meets “Glen-Gary-Glen Ross” set in a boat shop.
OR: Yes, an interesting combination! The storyline is about this gentleman who owns this boatshop, and he's a bit of a nebbish. He's in a situation where his sales aren't so good and he has a group of goof-off salespeople who are struggling to sell boats, but he doesn't have the heart to fire them. In the meantime this sociopathic character comes into his life, and at first seems to be the consummate salesperson who can turn the shop around. In the process our lead character learns he's not the salesman he thought he was but instead he's insane and stealing from him. Our character has to fight and take him on and prove to his family.
IOF: Where can we see it? Is it out on DVD.
OR: The street date is going to be August '09 and you can visit the website at Manoverboardmovie.com. The trailer is up there, and our news clippings and blog so people can stay posted on it. It's a fun movie and just an entertaining enjoyable piece.
IOF: And what's also very exciting is that fans of your films are very soon going to get the chance to meet you. You'll be doing an appearance in LA very soon.
OR: Yes, I'll be at The Hollywood Collectors Show in a week to meet and sign, and answer any questions people might have on the history of the movies. I'll answer to the best of my ability!
IOF: You will also appear at the Chiller Theater Convention in New Jersey this coming March. Have you ever been to that show?
OR: It's my first experience going to Chiller, but I can't wait to go. I'm a movie fan myself and I can't wait to meet all the other actors and filmmakers who'll be attending.
IOF: It's a trip, you've probably never seen anything quite like it. It's enormous, thousands of people all weekend long. A great show, you'll get to meet a lot of people, I think you're going to have a great time. So, if I may ask, what has gotten you interested in making appearances this year?
OR: You know they were thinking of doing a remake of “POLTERGEIST” and I guess you just take for granted that you were in something that has meaning. I was reading on blogs and message boards that people still had interest in the movies. I was thinking I'd like to, in so many words, set the record straight on what took place on the set. I think it's almost a duty as a young actor who was in the film to tell it how it happened. At the same time I think it would be fun to share those experience with other aspiring filmmakers and fans alike.