Home > Indian media, Social Trends > Was Spielberg’s ET based on a Satyajit Ray Script?

Was Spielberg’s ET based on a Satyajit Ray Script?


Satyajit Ray  |  Image source & courtesy - indianexpress.com  |  Click for source image.

Satyajit Ray | Image source & courtesy – indianexpress.com | Click for source image.

Spielberg has denied plagiarizing Ray’s script. “I was a kid in high school when his script was circulating in Hollywood…” [Link]

This post here from Ultrabrown lays out the linkage between Satyajit Ray’s script and Spielberg’s ET.

Another case of Cultural Dacoity?

Spielberg & his ET. “Originality is the art of concealing your sources” - Benjamin Franklin

Spielberg & his ET. “Originality is the art of concealing your sources” – Benjamin Franklin

  1. Galeo Rhinus
    March 28, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    I had done some digging up on this about 15 years ago – shortly after Spielberg got his first Oscar in 1993. The following is what I remember from my “research.” (this is mostly from what I remember – so no references, sorry – someone else will have to do the digging up, but this is what I put together).

    James Ivory and Ismail Merchant made their first movie, together, called The Householder in 1963. Several people in their team were regulars with Satyajit Ray. Satyajit Ray himself was a major influence on these budding team of director and producer. In the DVD release of the movie, James Ivory, particularly demonstrates tremendous respect for Ray.

    The above prologue is important for the context I present further.

    Sometime around 1970, Satysjit Ray, possibly encouraged by his American fans, that included directors and producers, sent a script to Hollywood, about the story of an alien child who is stranded on earth, and his friendship with a young boy. This alien child is capable of healing with touch and learns to communicate with the young boy.

    Satyajit Ray, apparently spoke to several possible producers, but in the end decided to scrap the idea. He did not think it was going to be possible for him to make it happen. His script was circulating in Hollywood for a year or two before Ray called it off. Spielberg denied knowing anything about Ray’s script. In the words of Spielberg, “was making the rounds of Hollywood, when he was very young” (paraphrased from what I remember having read). Spielberg, born in 1946, was about 23-25. He made his first film at age 20, in 1964, and was a science fiction film.

    Now comes the interesting part.

    In the 70s Spielberg demonstrated his talent for filmmaking with movies like Jaws, Close Encounters…, and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. Spielberg was nominated for best director for Close Encounters, but did not win the Oscar.

    Then came ET in 1982 and Spielberg was nominated and all set to win the Oscar for this superhit film or at least split some awards with Gandhi. However, Attenborough’s Gandhi won both the Best Film as well as Best Director.

    Apparently, someone influential in the Academy killed Spielberg’s chances for an Oscar. My guess is it was James Ivory – who knew Spielberg had plagiarized Ray’s script.

    Spielberg was furious.

    He was so upset at Ray, that he reflected this venom in his own 1984 film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to display his anger at Ray, India and Indians in general by getting overzealous in showing Indians as “eyeball soup swallowers” and “monkey brain eaters.”

    Spielberg did not win an Oscar for any of his subsequent films in the 1980s.

    In 1992, the Academy awarded a lifetime achievement award to Satyajit Ray. Who died that year.

    Spielberg won his first Oscar in 1993 for Schindler’s List.

    Spielberg later said the following about the Temple of Doom: “I wasn’t happy with Temple of Doom at all. It was too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific. I thought it out-poltered Poltergeist. There’s not an ounce of my own personal feeling in Temple of Doom.”

    RIght! There certainly was more than just an “ounce of personal feeling” There was tons of anger and jealousy of knowing there was someone far better a director and far better a human being than him.

  2. March 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Good comment above.

  3. June 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm

  4. January 26, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    @Galeo Rhinus good comment… And description..!!

  5. May 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm

  1. November 1, 2013 at 7:18 am

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