What happens when you’re making a movie about an alien abduction, but the victim can’t quite remember what the creatures did to him? If you’re Paramount Pictures, and the movie in question is the newly released Fire in the Sky, you hire a screenwriter to refresh his memory.
The chief selling point of this sci-fi film, which opened March 12, is that it’s based on the story of Arizonan Travis Walton (played by D.B. Sweeney), who claims he was sucked into a spaceship in the summer of 1975, experimented on by aliens, and then deposited back on Earth five days later, bruised, bloodied, and terrified.
But the studio felt Walton’s recollections of what happened on the spaceship were too fuzzy and too similar to other televised close encounters. The brass, which included former chief Brandon Tartikoff, ordered screenwriter Tracy Torme (CBS’ 1992 miniseries Intruders) to write a flashier, more provocative rendering that has Walton enduring ghoulish experiments and being chased around by grumpy aliens that resemble John Gielgud.
How did Walton, who has passed numerous lie-detector tests, feel about the writer’s embellishment? ”He understood that this was what it was going to take to get the film made,” Torme says.
Walton, in a statement released by Paramount, adds, ”Fire in the Sky is not a documentary. I’m sure audiences will feel what I felt during the abduction… like a lab specimen.”