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.
He says, “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. 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.
He recalls, “Melissa didn’t want to write it. I needed Harrison and all of us to talk her into it.”