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A closer encounter with Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Author Michael Klastorin guides EW through a selection of the design sketches and photos to be found in his just-released book, Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History (Harper Design).
In this photo, Melinda Dillon and Cary Guffey prepare to film the scene where the aliens wreak havoc at their farmhouse. "[Director Steven Spielberg] took 4-year-old Guffey aside and explained the various effects that would blow apart the kitchen, but kept the action a secret from Melinda Dillon, wanting her reactions of terror to be completely spontaneous," says Klastorin. "It worked."
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Richard Dreyfuss on set
Richard Dreyfuss takes a break in the corner of one of the two cavernous air force hangars that were converted into sound stages big enough to hold the film’s sets.
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Steven Spielberg in India
In the small Indian village of Hal, Spielberg recruited two thousand extras to chant the film's mysterious five-note musical sequence, and then point to the sky to indicate where it had come from. "The scene took numerous takes, as a number of the extras would either point in the wrong direction, or lower their hands before the director yelled 'Cut!'" says Klastorin.
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Large alien sketch
A design sketch by famed puppet master Bob Baker for the first alien that would emerge from the Mothership, which is different in appearance from the creatures that would follow. "I wanted there to be diversity inside that particular civilization," says Spielberg in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History.
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"Spielberg had planned an extensive and elaborate scene in which dozens and dozens of 'cuboids' — illuminated cubes — were dispersed by the initial three spaceships descended into Box Canyon," says Klastorin. "They would fly around the complex, exploring and interacting with the scientists and technicians. Working in an age before the advent of digital effects, the filmmaker shot two days before abandoning the effort."
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"In his original script, Spielberg had imagined a gravity field immediately surrounding the Mothership, which would allow the aliens to fly around the scientific complex once emerging from the ship, soaring over the heads of the humans," says Klastorin. "After a day or shooting a number of extras in alien costumes suspended by wires, Spielberg wasn't satisfied with the results and dropped that aspect of the script."
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Alien sketch with detailed mechanics
"For the alien that would exchange hand signals with Lacombe (François Truffault), Spielberg hired Academy Award-winner Carlo Rambaldi to create an articulated puppet," says Klastorin. "Rambaldi's sketch shows the internal mechanisms that would bring that puppet — affectionately referred to by Spielberg as 'Puck' — to life."
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Close Encounters visual history
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Ultimate Visual History is available now.