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The 1995 Casper Movie Filmed A Spooky, Secret Spielberg Cameo We'll Never Get To See (Exclusive)

Casper is now streaming on Peacock!

By Josh Weiss
A split featuring Steven Spielberg (L) and Casper the Friendly Ghost in Casper (1995).

Did you know that the iconic mirror scene in Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist was inspired by a haunting vision experienced by Steven Spielberg during production on his debut feature — Duel?

The spine-tingling anecdote was relayed to SYFY WIRE last September by director Brad Silberling, who got his big break on the Spielberg-produced Casper film (now streaming on Peacock) from 1995. As the story goes, young Spielberg caught sight of a terrifying apparition while staying at a "dumpy little motel" in the Mojave Desert, where the filming of his 1971 made-for-TV movie took place.

RELATED: Peacock developing live-action 'horror-adventure' series based on Casper the Friendly Ghost

"He was in the bathroom one night, [standing] at the mirror and there was another face that showed itself," Silberling told us. "This old kind of grizzled face and it completely freaked him out." That close encounter of the supernatural kind came back to Spielberg a decade later for the grisly Poltergeist scene, in which Dr. Marty Casey (Martin Caseslla) rips off chunks of his own face.

Steven Spielberg filmed a Casper cameo we'll never get to see

Silberling wanted to pay homage that sequence in Casper, albeit comedically, for the moment when spectral therapist Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) finds himself tormented by Casper's three chaos-loving uncles. Rather than have the character tear his flesh asunder, his visage would instead morph into the faces of well-known celebrities like Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson

"I turned to Steven and was like, ‘How are we going to do it?’" Silberling remembered. "He goes, ‘Don't worry about it. I'll make some calls.’ Because the part of him that's a proud executive producer wants to bring the mouse home to the doorstep. He came back to me on set and said, 'Okay, it's all good. Mel’s in, Clint’s, we got Rodney Dangerfield, we’ve got the Crypt Keeper.’"

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Eastwood's participation, however, came with one very large caveat: Spielberg would have to film a cameo as well. "He said to me, 'I’ve got to do it, but it’s never going to be in the movie,'" Silberling added. "On the day, they all had to have the little matching Dr. Harvey sweater on. It was a really wonderful day on set. Mel came in, Clint came. Clint was wonderful because he had been a contract player at Universal in his youth. So he hung out [and] was very nostalgic."

He continued: "We did Steven last and it was awesome. I got to direct Steven, which was really fun. And he was really nervous, even though he knew it was never gonna be in the film. We went through a whole series of really funny things … And then again, he looked at me afterwards, he was walking off set going, ‘This is not going in.’ I was like, ‘We're good.’ But yeah, that was pretty fun."

Casper (1995)

How Casper managed that memorable Ghostbusters cameo

They also managed to get ahold of Dan Aykroyd, who briefly reprised Ghostbuster Ray Stantz for the opening montage in which the movie's central antagonists — Carrigan (Cathy Moriarty) and Dibs (Eric Idle) — attempt to rid the manor house of its ghostly occupants by hiring a litany of paranormal experts.

While "the bulk of Steven’s treasures were at Universal," Silberling explained, he still had strong ties to other major studios like Columbia, which owns both Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Ghostbusters. "They all like to be in good graces with him and he knew Aykroyd going back to 1941. Akroyd came in and was wonderful … Dan came in, put on the suit, did the bit."

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Jason Reitman, son of original Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman and a friend of Silberling's, didn't know the scene existed until years later when he set out to resurrect the horror-comedy franchise with 2021's Afterlife. "One day without explanation, I just sent him the clip and he's like, ‘What is this?’ I told him and he went, ‘Oh, my God.’"

Did they consider a Stephen King cameo for 1995's Casper?

Since the film takes place in Maine, we asked Silberling if he ever made an effort to nab that New England lifer and horror legend Stephen King for a guest role (Christina Ricci's Kat Harvey name-drops the prolific author around the 18-minute mark).

"If we had been smarter and had more time, we would have done that," the filmmaker confessed. "That opening sequence in the travelogue when they're driving was indeed Maine. I shot that in the fall after principal. So [in the] fall of ’94, I went to Maine for two days and shot all around Camden and Rockport and, God, if we'd been smarter, we would have done that."

Casper is now streaming on Peacock!