Hollywood’s Script Inspiration from Satyajit Ray: Exploring the Influence in an Exclusive Interview

Satyajit Ray achieved his success with this trilogy Apu 1955 to 1959. Satyajit Ray also wrote a story in 1962 named Banku Bubu’s friend in 1962 about a friendly alien who befriends a little boy in a small rural village.

Contrasting Portraits: The Creative Aura of Satyajit Ray Next to an Unidentified Bearded Man.

We all know that Koi Mil Gaya is a Hindi version of ET but did you guys know that ET was originally an Indian script written by Satyajit Ray named ALIEN and was supposed to be produced by Columbia Pictures? Which was later adapted by Spielberg and he also let Ray take honorary oscar for the story…

Satyajit Ray achieved his success with this trilogy Apu 1955 to 1959. Satyajit Ray also wrote a story in 1962 named Banku Bubu’s friend in 1962. About a friendly alien who befriends a little boy in a small rural village.

He met a famous sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke in England during the screening of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A space Odyssey which was released in 1968. Then Ray mentioned his story to Clarke who later explained the story to his filmmaker friend Mike Wilson in Sri Lanka. Wilson who had previously directed Ranmuthuduwa(1962) – First Sri Lankan color film. Immediately call Satyajit Ray and set up a co-production deal. Wilson joined Ray in his town Calcutta as he finished the script, entitled simply ‘Alien’. It was then that the first seeds of paranoia were sown.

Ray’s documented interview

Copyrighted the script by Satyajit Ray and his name too. Ray later recalled that Mike’s input hardly deserved merit. Mike Wilson soon struck up a deal with Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, as they were willing to support his film. Wilson also informed Ray that Marlin Brando & Steve McQueen both were eager to play a role.

Previously Ray had met up with actor Peter Sellers in England who also seemed interested in the project. Ray traveled to Hollywood in June 1967 and had a meeting with Peter Sellers. But he neither met Brando or McQueen. It was there that Ray found out that the script was copyrighted to Wilson too. When Ray enquired about this with Wilson, he replied,” Don’t worry maestro, two heads are better than one”. None the less Colombia’s picture also wanted Wilson out of the picture. But Ray couldn’t get Wilson to relinquish his rights to the screenplay. Ultimately Ray left Hollywood without making any progress whatsoever.

Later in 1968, Peter Sellers wrote to Ray, saying that he didn’t want to play a secondary role in the film and that the character was also not developed. Ray wrote a letter back by revealing this how Sellers had compromised the production and it’ll be soon grounded. Also found out that Wilson had kept a $10,000 advance from Columbia pictures to himself. This made Ray write to Arthur C Clarke, who surprisingly informed him that Wilson had given up worldly life and now meditated in Sri Lanka’s jungles. By the time Wilson finally relinquished his right toward the script the project was truly dead.

However, in 1982 Steven Spielberg releases his seminal film ET. The friendly alien character wore a striking resemblance to Ray’s concept for ‘Alien’ and its design. Some pointed out that though ET was produced by universal pictures, it started in Colombia. Ray was adamant that his script was plagiarised. As he sternly recalls in his interview from 1989.

However, Steven Spielberg routinely denied saying that he was in high school when Ray’s script was in Hollywood. Ray’s alien never got produced. He passed away in 1992 after receiving an honorary Oscar for his exceptional work. Mike Wilson died in 1995 after becoming a swami in Sri Lanka. Arthur C Clarke also passed away in Sri Lanka in 2008. For a detailed account of the doomed project “Travails with the alien” by, Harper Collins India includes a detailed essay by Ray himself including numerous letters that go into the nitty-gritty film that never was…

Both Richard Attenborough and Martin Scorsese have stated that Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the third kind” and “ET” were influenced by Ray’s “Alien” script.

But in 1992, Spielberg himself backed Ray to receive the honorary Oscar.

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