With Spielberg’s E.T. turning 35 this year, we revisit the film that started it all.
When it comes to unmade movies, Steven Spielberg’s Night Skies is undoubtedly the most important one *never* made. Story goes that in the wake of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released in 1977, Columbia Pictures wanted Spielberg to make a sequel to the hit film. Spielberg, however, wasn’t interested.
Instead, he wrote up a treatment that was originally titled Watch the Night Skies.
Inspired by the real-life ‘Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter,’ where two families in Kentucky were attacked by gremlin-like creatures over the course of one horrifying night, Watch the Night Skies was to depict extraterrestrial beings that were much more malicious than the ones in Close Encounters; Spielberg initially planned on having eleven of them in the film, cut down to just five by the time the script was actually written.
John Sayles eventually wrote the script for the newly-titled Night Skies, the story centered on a family whose rural farmhouse is besieged by alien creatures.
And get this. Spielberg originally wanted Tobe Hooper to direct Night Skies!
So what happened? Well, Spielberg eventually decided to abandon Night Skies; the film was never made, but aspects of the script were subsequently transformed into new films E.T., Poltergeist and Gremlins! Of particular note, a sub-plot in the Night Skies script involving a benevolent alien who befriends a young boy became the basis for E.T., released in 1982. Another alien in the unmade film was to have a long, bony finger that emit an eerie light, which of course also made its way into E.T.
Speaking of which…
One of the most interesting aspects of the Night Skies saga is that makeup effects master Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London) spent a good deal of time (and money) creating the film’s main aliens, named Buddy, Scar and Squirt in the script. Nearly one million dollars was reportedly spent on the designs, models and animatronics, which Baker showed off for the very first time just a few years back.
Baker did not actually work on E.T., as Carlo Rambaldi was brought on board to design the title character in the wake of a fight between Baker and Spielberg. But looking at Baker’s designs for the Night Skies aliens, it’s clear that Spielberg and Rambaldi used them as the basis for what eventually became the most lovable alien in movie history.
We originally shared these incredible behind the scenes images a few years back, but now that E.T. has turned 35, we thought they deserved a re-share.
Movie history doesn’t get much more fascinating than this.