Zelda Rubinstein, who played the psychic hired to rid a home of demonic forces in “Poltergeist,” died Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 76.
Known for her childlike voice, the 4-foot-3 character actress died at Barlow Respiratory Hospital after a series of health problems.
The Pittsburgh-born thesp worked as a medical technician before beginning to act in her 40s.
Her first film role was as one of the little people in the 1981 comedy “Under the Rainbow.”
Rubenstein also appeared in “Frances,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Teen Witch” and “Southland Tales,” and was a regular on the TV series “Picket Fences.”
The role in Tobe Hooper’s 1982 hit “Poltergeist” was written specifically for her, according to co-writer. “I thought it would be neat to show that someone’s size had nothing to do with her psychic powers,” Spielberg told The Los Angeles Times in 1982. “Good things can come in small packages, and that’s certainly true of Zelda.”
She became one of the first celebrities to speak out on AIDS when she appeared in a series of TV public service spots in the mid-1980s for the L.A. CARES organization.
Rubenstein also founded the Michael Dunn Memorial Repertory Theater Company, comprised of 16 actors all less than 4 feet 6.
She had no immediate survivors.