'It was supposed to be different': Spielberg admits ET origins

ET began life as an alien abduction movie, Steven Spielberg has admitted. Photo / Supplied
ET began life as an alien abduction movie, Steven Spielberg has admitted. Photo / Supplied

Classic family film ET: The Extra Terrestrial started out as a creepy alien abduction movie about a farm family who are visited by "spindly grey aliens".

Movie mogul Steven Spielberg admits the beloved 1982 film was initially based on real UFO encounter stories in Kentucky, and it only became a family film when Harrison Ford's then-girlfriend Melissa Mathison agreed to rewrite the screenplay.

"It was going to be called Night Skies, based on a piece of UFO mythology ... where a farm family reported little spindly grey aliens attacking their farm, even riding cows in the farmyard," he says.

"This farm family basically huddled together for survival ... It's a story that's well-known in the world of ufology, and we based our script on that story."

Spielberg tells Entertainment Weekly magazine he even commissioned celebrated effects designer Rick Baker to create the aliens, but everything changed when Mathison agreed to come on-board.

"Melissa didn't want to write it. I needed Harrison and all of us to talk her into it."

Spielberg also received severe criticism for toning down lesbian scenes in The Color Purple because fans of Alice Walker's novel felt they should have been more explicit.

The moviemaker admits he felt uncomfortable with the description of sex scenes between characters played by Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery in the book, and chose to play the affair down in the film.

He insists Walker never appeared to have a problem with his decision, but some fans were livid.

"There were certain things in the relationship between Shug Avery and Celie that were finely detailed in Alice's book, that I didn't feel could get a (PG-13) rating and I was shy about it," he tells the magazine.

"In that sense, perhaps I was the wrong director to acquit some of the more sexually honest encounters ... I basically took something that was extremely erotic and very intentional, and I reduced it to a simple kiss. I got a lot of criticism for that."

- AAP