Rick Baker Reveals Aliens From Unmade Steven Spielberg Film That Inspired E.T.
Let's begin this tale with 1975's Jaws. The story of a man-eating shark terrorizing an island was a watershed moment for cinema. It gave birth to the modern day summer blockbuster. Since it was so successful for Universal Pictures they immediately ordered a sequel. Steven Spielberg, who directed the original was approached for Jaws 2 but passed, saying, "making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick."
In the past few days, makeup and special effects wizard Rick Baker has been posting images of alien designs for Night Skies, which was an unmade Steve Spielberg film that inspired 1982's mega-hit E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Check them out!
Spielberg's next film was 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It's about Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a regular guy who has an encounter with a UFO that turns his life upside-down. That was a monster hit for Columbia Pictures and they too wanted to cash in with a sequel. This time Spielberg didn't want to watch another one of his creations get a sequel without him, so he agreed to work on a follow-up.
Spielberg had no intention of making a direct sequel to Close Encounter of the Third Kind. The follow-up film, which was originally titled "Watch the Skies" then later changed (rights issue) to Night Skies, was going to center around a family terrorized by aliens at their rural farmhouse. It was loosely based on "true" events that took place during the fall of 1955 in Kentucky. It's known as the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter. Spielberg had become enamored with the tale while doing research for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Once Spielberg knew what he wanted, he brought in screenwriter John Sayles ("Eight Men Out") to flesh out the script and make-up effects guru Rick Baker ("An American Werewolf in London") to design the alien creatures.
Night Skies was gonna have five aliens in total, though they though they originally planned on eleven. Each alien had its own personality, think something along the lines of Gremlins. There was Scar, he was an evil bad-ass, like Stripe from Gremlins. He would be seen dissecting farm animals with a long bony finger that would light up. Scar had two loyal henchmen (hench-aliens?) that carried out his evil orders. They were named, Hoodoo and Klud. There was also Squirt, he was the comic relief. He was portrayed as a cute little alien that causes some shenanigins, like Gizmo. The fifth and final alien, is the most important one. His name was Buddy. Instead of terrorizing the family he was a benelovent alien that befriends the family's autistic child. At the end of the film he battled Scar, who planned on dissecting the boy like he did with the farm animals. During this chaotic climax another alien species shows up and scares away the evil aliens. The film ends with an injured Buddy abandoned by his own kind left to wander the forests of Earth. Aw, that's sad.
So, why didn't it get made? Well, during all of this planning Spielberg started Raiders of the Lost Ark. While filming scene after scene of killing Nazis he began to have seconds thought about a film portraying aliens as evil creatures. As chance would have it, Harrison Ford's then-girlfriend (future wife), screenwriter Melissa Mathison ("The Black Stallion"), was visiting the set. Spielberg read her the Night Skies script. She was overcome with emotion by the parts that dealt with Buddy cause "the idea of an alien creature who was benevolent, tender, emotional and sweet... and the idea of the creature striking up a relationship with a child who came from a broken home was very affecting." It quickly donned on Spielberg that Buddy's tale should be the focus. He scrapped Night Skies and hired Mathison to work on the script with him for what would later become, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
The news of Night Skies being abandoned didn't sit well with Rick Baker, who had spent a reported $700,000 on designs, models and animatronics. He was furious with Spielberg and declined the opportunity to work on the alien designs for E.T. the Extra-Terrestial. Creature designer Carlos Rambaldi, who designed the aliens for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, took that gig.
What's really fascinating, is that up until a few days ago nobody, outside of the production, had seen what Rick Baker had come up with for Night Skies. All that changed when Baker recently opened a Twitter account. Many fans of his requested, via Twitter, that he post the designs of the Night Skies aliens. He obliged. Over the past few days he has tweeted images of them, which you can see below. Clearly, Baker's designs had a huge influence on the final look of E.T..
"Here was a quick clay sketch that I did in 1980 for one of the nicer younger NIGHT Skies aliens" - Rick Baker
"As requested The Night Skies alien. Not finished, no eyes. Cover the top of his head and tell me who he looks like." - Rick Baker
"He does look like Edward G and the others.But painting out the top of the head, adding eyes,and small tweaks.ET"S dad" - Rick Baker
Re-live the adventure and magic in one of the most beloved motion pictures of all-time, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, from Academy Award®-winning director Steven Spielberg. Captivating audiences of all ages, this timeless story follows the unforgettable journey of a lost alien and the 10-year-old boy he befriends. Join Elliott (Henry Thomas), Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) as they come together to help E.T. find his way back home. Now digitally remastered with enhanced picture and sound for its 30th Anniversary, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial forever belongs in the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere.
Actors: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore & Dee Wallace
Director: Steven Spielberg * Screenwriter: Melissa Mathison
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