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The Dark Story Behind The Canceled Sequel To 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial'

Updated April 3, 2020 59.3k views12 items

Steven Spielberg is Hollywood royalty. He's given us some of the greatest films of all time and has been presented with the Academy Award for Best Director more than once. While many of his creations are now ubiquitous, one of his lesser-known endeavors was the never-made sequel to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. 

There are a lot of popular '80s movies with canceled sequels, but this one is perhaps the highest -profile example of a beloved franchise getting shelved after one entry. Even though the original was a smash success, it's probably for the best that the sequel never came out.

Based on an early treatment of the film, E.T. 2 was slated to be much darker than the original, and the idea of a dark E.T. movie just doesn't sit well (even though the first film did have an admittedly bleak ending). Worse still, E.T.'s "real name" is a major reveal in the sequel. Why did anyone think that was a good idea? 

Here's the story of the E.T. sequel that could have been and why we're all better off without it.

  • The Treatment For "Nocturnal Fears" Was Written By The Writer Of The Original Film

    Melissa Mathison had a long, impressive career up until she passed in 2015. One of the brightest minds in children's cinema, she wrote the film adaptations of The Black StallionThe Indian in the Cupboard, and The BFG. Most famously, Mathison penned the original screenplay for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. 

    One might think that the perversion of a beloved story could only be the work of two very different writers. On the contrary, both Mathison and Spielberg were heavily involved in the production of the sequel treatment, making the dark, edgy tonal shift even more befuddling. 

  • "Nocturnal Fears" Would Have Introduced More Of E.T.'s People To Earth

    The crux of the sequel's story is that yet another alien ship arrives on Earth after picking up on a distress call from one of their people. "These creatures are an albino fraction (mutation) of the same civilization E.T. belongs to. The two separate groups have been at war for decades!" reads the treatment.

    Worse still, these aliens are carnivorous, hostile, and capable of producing a "hypnotic hum" that paralyzes people. This is likely how they've managed to capture the various alien species that are kept imprisoned on their ship. 

  • E.T.'s Name Is Zrek

    Perhaps the most unforgivable of the treatment's additions is that E.T. is now really named Zrek. One of the most endearing parts of the original movie is that no one knows E.T.'s name, yet he comes to perfectly embody the moniker the children bestow upon him. Then, the sequel shows up to ruin all that. 

    Sooo... Knowing this... Do we all have to call E.T. "Zrek"? Does this fact count as canon if the sequel was never actually made? 

  • The Kids Are Taken Prisoner And Interrogated

    In addition to the "evil" aliens imprisoning creatures and mutilating cattle (which is explicitly described in the treatment), they are on the hunt for the "fugitive alien" Zrek (AKA E.T.) who made contact with Elliot, Michael, and Gertie in the original film. 

    In an effort to uncover Zrek's whereabouts, the aliens capture the children and subject them to intense interrogation until they are "mentally and physically drained." Please just stop already. 


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