Excerpted from Walt Farmer's cdrombook, "Wyoming, A History of Film & Video in the 20th Century"

A Columbia Presentation in Association with EMI, A Steven Spielberg Film

Steven Spielberg came up with the premise for the film while listening to "When You Wish Upon a Star," from Pinocchio, which was also used at the end of the film during the roll of credits.  He'd wanted to make such a movie since he was a kid reading "Galaxy" magazine which his father would leave in the bathroom.  The big film of its day, its budget ran to $32M, a cost which was shared by both Columbia and Universal, although other reports placed it closer to $14 or $18M.  Columbia CEO Alan Hirschfield said the film was budgeted at $10M and only ran to $13M with overruns and back end expenses!  Who knew?

Dreyfuss & the tower
                                            Richard Dreyfuss

Talent included Francois Truffaut, an Academy Award recipient, and whom Spielberg immensely admired.  Truffaut often stated that he didn't know why he was asked to make the film or why he decided to do it, but the essence of the matter was that he too admired Spielberg and wanted to watch him at work up close.  He once remarked that for what Spielberg was spending in one day, he could make a whole film in Europe.  No one was truly aware of what a significantly big film was in the works. Richard Dreyfus was quoted that no film would ever gross as much as Jaws(and Spielberg was in agreement), but that this was the best script he'd ever read.  In fact, this was only the third film Spielberg had ever made and with the complete trust and faith of the studio.

Secrecy: The only real hints given about the story came out of the title of the film, which in retrospect, say a great deal even though Spielberg originally titled the film, Watch the Skies.  Secrecy for this film was paramount, even if it was filmed by Columbia.

Alien attraction: "When You Wish Upon a Star" was the jumping off point for John Williams' score and the five-tone communication sequence with the aliens was derived from that song.  The music was critical to setting the atmosphere in the theatre for the moviegoer and Williams was up to the task.

The movie was shot with two endings.  The first didn't have Neary leaving with the aliens while the second had Neary and a crew of handpicked humans boarding the spacecraft for the unknown.  Both versions of the film were tested in Dallas, TX.  It ran two nights and members of the audience had response cards.  The stipulation was that no members of the press were to attend, but one from the New Yorker Magazine, managed to sneak in.  He wrote a scathing review and the company's stock literally collapsed!

posterFlubs: Several curious moments or perhaps flubs were particularly noticeable.  First, the airliner that reported the unusual sighting near it, had a call sign of Aries 31 which appears to be a play on words regarding the now infamous Area 51 at Roswell AFB in New Mexico, supposed site of alien contacts and artifacts which many UFO aficionados think include the remains of alien beings.  The second was near the end of the film when the special group of humans were proceeding to board the alien spacecraft.  All in orange uniforms, one was a woman who is initially seen walking to the spacecraft unlike the others in line, without her sunglasses on.  A moment later after a cutaway, she has them on after all. Another is the shadow of a camera on the screen door of the farm.  Also, could the spaceship, lit so brightly, cast a shadow as seen in the film?  The license plate on the station wagon changes as Roy and Ronnie drive through the roadblock.

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