If you’re familiar the backstory of Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, then you know that the film had its roots in another project he had been developing – Night Skies. Working from a news story where a rural Kentucky family claimed that their home had been attacked by aliens, Spielberg and writer John Sayles set about developing a film which Sayles stated also drew inspiration from the classic western Drums Along The Mohawk. But the pair was never able to crack the story to Spielberg’s satisfaction, and the director split some of Night Skies‘s story elements off into two films. The aliens he made benign visitors for ET while he took the idea of a family under attack in their own home and spun that into Poltergeist.
While Spielberg and Sayles worked on the screenplay, makeup creator extraordinaire Rick Baker was working on creating a look for the aliens attacking the script’s helpless family. But while the story about how Night Skies morphed into ET and Poltergeist, to my knowledge, Baker’s alien design has never been seen outside of the circle of people involved in the development of the film. This may have been due to Baker being upset with Spielberg deciding to pass on the project after Baker had spent some $700,000 in developing and designing animatronic prototypes for the aliens.
Over the last three decades, Baker must have decided to let bygones be bygones and earlier today he tweeted out a picture of one of the sculpts he did for a Night Skies alien. So what do you think? Would this have been terrifying to audiences back in the early 1980s? In Spielberg’s hands, most definitely. Look what he managed to do with a rickety, malfunctioning mechanical shark just a few years earlier. And is it just me, or does the alien’s mouth remind you just a bit of Edward G Robinson too?
But in the end, everything worked out for everyone. Sayles went on to do who his own riff of a gentle alien visiting Earth in his film Bother From Another Planet. Baker would go on to receive the first Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for his work on An American Werewolf in London, the first of a record-breaking total of 11 nominations and eight wins. Spielberg’s career certainly didn’t suffer by moving on to ET. And in the wake of that movie’s success he would once again revisit the ideas in Night Skies when he took some time to try and develop a sequel to ET before ultimately abandoning the idea.