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Why Steven Spielberg’s E.T Sequel Got Shelved

In the summer of 1982, Steven Spielberg gave us E.T The Extraterrestrial. And the rest was history. E.T amassed not only rave reviews but incredible Box Office earnings. Steven Spielberg had already made a name for himself. Only after 7 months of his super-hit Jaws, he came back with E.T.  E.T made him the unrivalled champion of Hollywood. before there was Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, it was Steven Spielberg who was considered movie Viagra. Whatever he touched turned to gold. Be it Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, or Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Spielberg won them all.

But there was a secret project of Spielberg’s that fortunately never saw the light of day. The sequel mantra had gripped Hollywood by the time E.T had arrived. And the Studio was pushing Steven Spielberg to head the E.T sequel. The director refused on account of creative freedom. he did not want to create a sub-par sequel to ruin an absolutely perfect movie. So the Studio did what any Hollywood Studio would do. To Spielberg’s horror, the studio went ahead without him. The E.T sequel was on track but it never got Steven Spielberg’s blessing.

Spielberg Agrees To The E.T Sequel

The plan was not just to make one sequel. The original plan entailed creating multiple unrelated spinoffs and sequels to E.T. The immediate successor would have been the E.T sequel, a direct continuation of the events that transpired in E.T The Extraterrestrial. There were three more projects in the pipeline. The success of the 1977 Close Encounters Of The Third Kind only ended up escalating the situation. In the end, Spielberg relented. He agreed to work with the Studio but under one condition. The movie will be unrelated to E.T but will have elements from both Jaws and Close Encounters.

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The studio liked the idea and allowed Spielberg to start working on Watch The Skies. It was later renamed to Night Skies. The project was well underway into fruition. The story would be loosely based on the bizarre Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter. The real story involved a group of people in Hopkinsville, Kentucky being harassed by “little green men”. But Spielberg was committed to shooting a picture with another studio.  But he gave Columbia Pictures the choice to let him in so that he can help produce the movie as well and get the ball rolling.

Columbia was interested. So Spielberg personally hired John Sayles as the screen-play writer for Night Skies. Sayles’ most well-known works include men with Guns (1997), and Lone Star (1996). So the project was already in good hands since Steven Spielberg was also involved.

The E.T Sequel Helped Create E.T

This was all happening, mind you, even before E.T was even released into the theaters. Columbia wanted to create a line of indirect sequels to be released one after the other. Night Skies had a different story than the original script for E.T. Preliminary design work on the sequel had also begun by Rick Baker. Ultimately, the sequel turned out to be too unrealistic. Before the script was moth-balled, Steven Spielberg had a brilliant idea.

He decided to take multiple cues from the E.T Sequel night Skies and use it in E.T. In Night Skies, the story involved a group of hostile alien lifeforms trying to invade a neighborhood. One of the aliens named Buddy befriends an autistic kid and defects to the humans’ side. The aliens leave in the end but abandon Buddy for betraying him. In E.T The Extraterrestrial, The alien’s name was buddy. It too was marooned but at the very beginning of the movie. There was no autistic kid involved in this one though.

Yet Another E.T Sequel Was Being Planned After E.T

The indirect E.T Sequel eventually got shelved. Universal released E.T The Extraterrestrial to widespread acclaim in 1982. It earned more than 600 Million Dollars worldwide. But Spielberg’s worries were not done. To everyone’s surprise, the Studio now wanted Steven Spielberg to do a direct E.T Sequel. Instead of being loosely based on events of E.T like Night Skies, the new project was titled E.T 2: Nocturnal Fears.

Melissa Mathison worked with Spielberg in the first E.T movie. And she was again roped in to write the script for E.T 2. John Sayles’ work for Night Skies was used as a bible to give it somewhat of an element of horror. After giving it the unofficial title of E.T 2: Nocturnal fears, they turned it over to Universal Studios.

The ball was again in the Studio’s court. The movie sequel project had a promising storyline as well. And just like any other Hollywood Studio when it stumbles upon a good project, Nocturnal Fears was mothballed.

E.T 2: Nocturnal Fears – The Story

Steven Spielberg promises E.T 2 was everything E.T was not. It was dark, gritty, scary, and violent. The story begins with a UFO making its way to a redwood forest. The aliens inside the UFO are not like Buddy’s buddies. They are outright evil. And they do not consider human life that valuable. The UFO came to earth to answer a distress signal by an alien named Zrek. Zrek was stranded on earth and was asking for “help.”

The official description of the aliens in Nocturnal fears gives us a Gremlins vibes. Here goes nothing:

The evil creatures are carnivorous. Their leader, Korel, commands his crew to disperse into the forest to acquire food. As the squat aliens leave the gangplank, each one emits a hypnotic hum which has a paralyzing effect on the surrounding wildlife. These creatures are an albino fraction (mutatation) of the same civilization E.T. belongs to. The two separate groups have been at war for decades!

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To top it off, the aliens don’t just eat humans. They have imprisoned various other alien life-forms aboard their ship. All of it is food. As to what happened to Elliot and the gang in Nocturnal Fears, hears the official description:

Elliott’s father returned from New Mexico months before and filed for divorce and moved back to New Mexico. But Elliott’s family has seen harder times. And the fact that Mary has been dating Dr. Keys, since they met just before E.T. left, has eased the strain considerably.

It only gets bonkers from there. In the end, Elliot is captured and interrogated. The torture leads to Elliot calling out E.T for help. E.T comes and saves them all from becoming the aliens’ breakfast. But not before reprogramming the ship to pilot itself to a remote corner of the galaxy. E.T leaves. Everyone hugs and is happy.

And that’s it!! That’s the entire story of E.T 2: Nocturnal Fears. It kind of feels good that it was shelved. That would have been a stain on the legacy of E.T.

Written by Bibhu Prasad Panda

You do not wanna know. I could be a psychopath.

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