On This Day - Steven Spielberg’s E.T. Released in 1982: Was the Film Inspired by Satyajit Ray's Script?

The film emerged as one of the biggest blockbusters of the 20th century.

Steven Spielberg's 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial had its theatrical release on this very date back in 1982. The film created waves at the box office and is still considered a milestone in the history of cinema. Also, it bagged four Academy Awards along with several other accolades.

The film tells the beautiful story of a lonely village boy who befriends an extraterrestrial. 

However, not many know that there were allegations that this film was a plagiarized story from Satyajit Ray's script 'The Alien', which the Indian maestro had written back in 1967.

About 'The Alien'

Ray wrote the screenplay, 'The Alien', based on his own Bengali science fiction short story, titled 'Bonkubabur Bandhu'.


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He spoke to his friend and renowned sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke about his script. On Clarke's encouragement, he sent it to Columbia Pictures in Hollywood.

The film was set to be made with Columbia Pictures as the producer, and Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando as the lead cast.

But the project soon got shelved for various reasons.

Was Spielberg’s E.T. Inspired by Satyajit Ray's Script?

In 1982, Ray received a telephone call from Clarke and got to know about the uncanny similarities between ‘E. T.’ and 'The Alien'.

The legendary filmmaker watched the film shortly after and was shocked to see 'E. T.' not only had a resemblance with 'The Alien' in its story but also the designs were very similar to the sketches he had drawn.

In an interview in 1983, Ray said, "E.T. would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout the United States 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."

Journalist Aseem Chhabra (who interviewed Ray about the controversy at the time) wrote in an article, "Reading the script, I realized Clarke was right and that there were similarities between E.T. and The Alien. Ray’s alien was introduced to us for the first time as we noticed his slow-moving three-fingered hand, similar to E.T.’s slow-moving four-fingered hand. Ray’s alien had healing powers, just like E.T. And both the aliens could make plants bloom. There were other similarities as well."

Steven Spielberg's Words

Spielberg denied plagiarizing from Satyajit Ray's script, saying, "I was a kid in high school when his script was circulating in Hollywood."