After the success of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Steven Spielberg was eager to start work on Night Skies, a sequel to his alien masterpiece that would turn into a horror story of a family terrorized by a group of aliens, in a sort of Straw Dogs meets E.T storyline. If it wasn't for this project failing, E.T. would have never existed. Then again, judging by the newly released photos of his unused concepts for the film, E.T. never would have existed without the concept designs of Academy Award-winning creature designer Rick Baker.
Cinematallica scooped the details, as well as some previously unreleased photos that Mr. Baker himself has been sharing through his official Twitter account. The work is the stuff that movie historians have dreamed of seeing, and it's nothing short of amazing. His concepts for the aliens of Night Skies, which predate Carlo Rambaldi's work on the E.T. character, prove to be a very heavy influence on the eventual form of everyone's favorite extraterrestrial. Taking his own creation, showcased on the top, and tweaking it ever so slightly, Baker shows us why these photos may not have seen the light of day until now.
The film was going to utilize eleven different alien designs crafted by Rick Baker's own hand, each with their own distinct personalities and some even bearing names with their descriptions, as Cinematallica was keen on sharing. Among those eleven, Scar, Squirt, and Buddy were prominently mentioned, with the most villainous being Scar and the other two being in the kinder, gentler category. I'm willing to bet that "E.T.'s Dad" is none other than Scar himself, and below you'll see the design for the baby of the group, little Squirt himself.
Why didn't we see Night Skies in a theater near us? Well, Harrison Ford's significant other at the time, Melissa Matheson, visited the set of the then in production Raiders Of The Lost Ark. While there, she came up with a softer version of the original John Sayles story that focused solely on a kind alien lost from home. A screenplay and a deleted cameo from her boyfriend later, E.T: The Extraterrestrial became a smash hit that would define Steven Spielberg's career and would give Carlo Rambaldi the credit for creating a creature so embedded in our cinematic iconography that it's hard to imagine him in any other form.
For now, all we have are outlines and photos of a project that could have been a darker turning point for Steven Spielberg's career. It wouldn't be the last turning point that could have marked his chance to take a darker path, but its one that I wouldn't mind seeing revived with his close supervision. If Steven Spielberg can help J.J. Abrams pay homage to E.T. in Super 8, then surely he could team up with someone like Adam Wingard (director of the home invasion thriller You're Next) or Jason Eisener (who provided a similar story with his Slumber Party Alien Abduction segment of V/H/S 2) and make Night Skies a reality.
You can find the rest of Rick Baker's Night Skies photos at his official Twitter page. They are well worth taking a look at, if you're even the slightest bit curious about what might have been.