ET the Extra-Terrestrial and Poltergeist started out as one movie

The summer of 1982 has long become legendary for the sheer volume of classic genre films it produced, but by the time it was happening, this magical season had another name among news outlets: Spielberg’s Summer.

Yes, even though we now see 1982 through the long shadows of everything from blade runner at Star Trek II: Wrath of Khanthe summer of 1982 was remarkable right now because it gave us two of Steven Spielberg’s most successful and beloved films almost simultaneously. Fighting spiritwhich he produced and co-wrote, arrived first, on June 4. AND the extra-terrestrial, for which he directed and designed the story, arrived a week later. The two films are in different genres, feature different actors, and thanks to the presence of horror master Tobe Hooper on Fighting spiritalso have different directors at the helm, but both became massive hits over that summer, cementing Spielberg’s place as a pop culture force all to his own.

Although they share some tonal DNA, Fighting spirit and HEY are ultimately very different films tied together by their release dates and Spielberg’s creative influence. But that’s not all they share. Thanks to another Spielberg hit, Fighting spirit and HEY are forever bound by common roots in the same story, one that Spielberg was able to transform from an unproduced concept into two different blockbuster movies.

The story begins in the wake of the dazzling success in cinemas Dating of the Third Kind. Although Spielberg was working on other projects, namely his ultimately disappointing World War II comedy 1941 and the mega-popular adventure blockbuster The Raiders of the Lost ArkColumbia Pictures was eager to capitalize on the success of Close Encounters with a sequel. Spielberg, seeing what happened when he walked away from developing the sequel in the Jaws franchise, decided he wanted to at least make an effort to get involved this time around.

Drawing on the remnants of research from eyewitness accounts of UFOs he has done for Close Encounters, Spielberg began to consider a dark companion piece to his more promising alien film, a small-scale story of a family who would be terrorized by a group of alien creatures who surrounded and attempted to invade their home. Title Watch the skyHe called piranha screenwriter John Sayles to work on the project, and the name eventually changed to night sky. The idea was that Spielberg would produce the film while directing his next project at Universal Pictures, where he was under contract. Sayles went to work on the script, while visual effects legend Rick Baker began designing alien creatures for the film.

Based on the book by David Hughes The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Ever Madehowever, Spielberg began to have doubts about the project while filming Raiders of the Lost Ark. He became less interested in the idea of ​​malevolent aliens and more interested in a thought he had while filming. Close Encountersabout the little alien creature in the film’s finale that he nicknamed “Puck.”

“I suddenly thought, ‘Wait a second, what if this little creature never came back to the ship? What if the creature was part of an exchange program?'” Spielberg recalled to the TCM Film Festival earlier this year. “And that was the feeling I had. What if I turned my divorce story into a story of children, a family, trying to fill the great need [of family]?”

So while you’re there with Raiders in Tunisia, Spielberg fused a previous idea for a semi-autobiographical film about his own life as a child of divorced parents with his extraterrestrial idea. He pitched this new story to screenwriter Melissa Mathison, then girlfriend of Harrison Ford, who came to visit the set. Although she was initially reluctant to take on a new writing job, Mathison was ultimately moved by the story that would become HEY, and agreed to script it based on Spielberg’s pitch. Spielberg eventually brought Mathison’s script to Columbia instead of Night Skies. The studio eventually passed on the project, so Spielberg brought it to Universal as his next directorial effort. They accepted and had a huge success.

But Spielberg did not let night sky faint completely. Although he didn’t want to make a malevolent alien film, he liked the idea of ​​a family besieged by dark forces and chose to turn the aliens into ghosts. He also wanted the opportunity to work with Tobe Hooper, a director he had loved ever since. The Texas Chainsaw Massacrewho had been a competitor to make night sky. Hooper would later claim that important pieces of Fighting spiritThe Ghost Story came from his own interests and research, but regardless of the story, Hooper was eventually signed on to direct, while Michael Grais and Mark Victor were brought in to work on the screenplay. Fighting spirit would go on to become the eighth-highest-grossing film of 1982, while HEY would take first place.

And this is the story of how a single sequel dropped out Dating of the Third Kind gave us the Spielberg summer.

AND the extra-terrestrial is currently airing on Peacock. Fighting spirit airs on HBO Max and Shudder.

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