It Was Originally A Horror Movie And Other Facts About ‘E.T.’

Features Writer
01.30.17

Since its release in the summer of 1982, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial has gone on to become one of the most beloved, and most popular movies of all time. The story of a boy and his family who befriend an alien stranded here on Earth resonated with audiences across the world, and while it started out as a much different idea, director Steven Spielberg’s heartfelt tale would nonetheless change the movie industry forever.

To celebrate this timeless classic and childhood staple, here’s a look at some of the most interesting facts behind E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.

It Started As A Horror Movie

According to the 1997 biography Steven Spielberg, the story of E.T. was initially inspired by an imaginary friend the director made up when he was a child. When Universal was pushing for a follow-up to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg tapped John Sayles to write Night Skies, about a family that ends up terrorized in their home by extra terrestrials, and was even described as Straw Dogs but with aliens. Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper was originally slated to helm the project, with Spielberg acting as a producer.

When he was traveling the world filming Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spielberg told screenwriter Melissa Mathison about the idea, who then wrote a script that was a much more whimsical, child-friendly tale. Spielberg liked Mathison’s first draft so much that it became the shooting script. Night Skies would live after the aliens were switched out with ghosts, which became Spielberg’s supernatural thriller Poltergeist, released the week before E.T., and directed by Hooper.

Not wanting to let a good idea go quietly, after the massive success of E.T., Spielberg and Mathison discussed returning to the movie’s horror roots for a sequel, conspicuously titled E.T. II: Nocturnal Skies. The story involved Elliot’s family kidnapped and tortured by hostile aliens, only to be rescued by the alien we all knew and loved — who’s name would’ve been revealed as Zrek.

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