A lot of you might be familiar with Steven Spielberg’s iconic 80s sci-fi adventure E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. You know the one – flying bicycles, tiny Drew Barrymore, an alien finger that looks a whole lot like a… never mind.
What you might not know is that Steven Spielberg was actually accused of plagiarising the story for E.T. by Satyajit Ray. In fact, Ray was even advised to sue Spielberg.
In the late 1960s, Satyajit Ray was directing a film called The Alien, about an alien befriending a human boy in a village in Bengal (much like the plot of ET, albeit without the Bongness). The film was based on a Bengali science fiction story written by Ray called Bankubabur Bandhu (Banku Babu’s Friend).
Stars like Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando had even been roped in to act in the film, which was to be produced by Columbia Pictures.
However, due to a copyright claim by a person who had no hand in the story’s creation, The Alien could not go ahead with being filmed. The entire project was shelved and Ray returned to Calcutta – disillusioned.
Cut to 1982, and Ray got a call from Arthur C Clarke (the sci-fi legend) about the similarities between ET and The Alien.
Speaking to India Today Magazine in 1983, Ray said,
You know at least two of the Spielberg-Lucas films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET, would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies. Some days back Arthur Clark telephoned me from London, saying that I should file a copyright case and should not take it lying down.
For his part, Spielberg denied the allegations, claiming he was a student in school when the script for The Alien was doing the rounds of Hollywood. However, it was found that he was already working in the business at the time.
I guess this just proves that even aliens have a lot of drama.