Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “Close Encounters of the Third Kind

R.I.P Alan J. Hirshfield

Hirschfield (Medium)Long-time former studio and media executive Alan J. Hirschfield has died of natural causes at 79 in his Wilson, Wyoming, home, his son confirmed. Hirschfield was perhaps best known for overseeing the creation of Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but had a long career heading a number of media and entertainment companies before becoming a consultant and board member with many more companies in the industry and beyond.

Hirschfield was born in New York and grew up in Oklahoma. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma, and an MBA from Harvard University. 

Hirschfield was CEO of Columbia Pictures from 1973 to 1978 before being ousted because he refused on moral grounds to reinstate David Begelman, who had embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the studio. Between 1982 and 1986, Hirschfield was chairman of Twentieth Century Fox, then became a consultant for several years, including two as consultant to the chairman of Warner Communications.

From 1990 to 1992, Hirschfield was an investment banker and also co-CEO of Financial News Network. From 1992 to 2000, he was co-CEO of Data Broadcasting Corp., which subsequently merged with Financial Times/Pearson’s Inc. He then returned to consulting in the media and entertainment industry as president of Norman Hirschfield and Company. In the 1960s, he was an investment banker, and director and CFO of Warner/7 Arts.

A busy man, Hirschfield served on the boards of directors of Forbes, Carmike Cinemas, CBS Marketwatch, Billboard Publishing, Motown Records, Chappell Music Publishing, Chyron Corp., Cantel Medical Corp., Peregrine Systems, Interactive Data Corp., Enercrest, Wiltel Corp. and Leucadia National Corp. For decades, Hirschfield collected notable artifacts and art tied to the Old West and Native Americans. He also served with a number of philanthropic and non-profit organizations, including as director of the Lymphoma Research Foundation, as a trustee of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The George Gustav Haye Center of the National Museum of the American Indian, Grand Teton Music Festival and the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole. He also was a trustee of the American Film Institute and an MPAA director.He is survived by his wife, Berte Hirschfield and three children.


Close Encounters – By Mark Englert

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The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph-McQuarrie_Archives_Star-WarsBest known for his instrumental contributions to the making of the original Star Wars trilogy, Ralph McQuarrie has inspired several generations of film fans and artists. While much of his Star Wars artwork has been reproduced in numerous volumes over the years, his non-Star Wars work has previously only been available in The Art of Ralph McQuarrie, a limited edition that Dreams and Visions Press published in 2007. That book is long out of print and now commands high prices on the secondary market.

With The Art of Ralph McQuarrie: ARCHIVES, Dreams and Visions Press will bring back into print a career-spanning retrospective of Ralph McQuarrie’s non-Star Wars artwork. At 13” x 9.5”, this 432-page volume is not only offered at a more affordable price point than the original 2007 release, one third of the content is original to this edition. That’s hundreds of Ralph McQuarrie illustrations spanning all aspects of his body of work.

The book will be available in two states: 1) a hardcover version with printed covers and 2) a deluxe cloth-bound individually numbered limited edition housed in a cloth-bound presentation traycase. Each copy will be smyth-sewn with head and tail bands to provide a sturdy binding that will last for years to come.

You can help get these editions made by supporting the guys on their kickstarter campaign HERE where they have some amazing rewards for backers…


Rick Baker – Designs for Night Skies

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After Close Encounters of the Third Kind became a hit, Columbia Pictures wanted a sequel. Director Steven Spielberg did not, but the one thing he wanted less than a sequel was for Columbia to make one without him. So he set about developing a much darker, horror-tinged film that would act as a follow-up to Close Encounters. It was originally called Watch the Skies (which was also an early Close Encounters title) and eventually referred to as Night Skies.  John Sayles scripted, and Rick Baker was hired to design the alien concepts.

Rick Baker has been posting images of his designs on Twitter, and they’re wonderful to see. Several will look very familiar, too. Because while Night Skies was never made, the concepts from the film ended up in several other Spielberg projects, E.T. adopted several big ideas, and films such as Poltergeist and Gremlins took concepts and pointers. Courtesy of The Rick Baker and /Film.

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Ralph McQuarrie

Legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie died on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012. Rest in Peace.

Ralph McQuarrie (June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012) was a conceptual designer and illustrator who designed the original Star Wars trilogy, the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Cocoon, for which he won an Academy Award.

Born in Gary, Indiana, McQuarrie moved to California in the 1960s. Initially he worked as a technical illustrator for Boeing, as well designing film posters and animating CBS New’s coverage of the Apollo space program at the three-man company Reel Three. While there, McQuarrie was asked by Hal Barwood to produce some illustrations for a film project he and Matthew Robbins were starting.

Impressed with his work, director George Lucas met with him to discuss his plans for a space-fantasy film. Several years later, in 1975, Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate several scenes from the script of the film, Star Wars. McQuarrie designed many of the film’s characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO and drew many concepts for the film’s sets. McQuarrie’s concept paintings, including such scenes as R2-D2 and C-3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars, which became a huge success upon release in 1977. Neil Kendricks of The San Diego Union-Tribune stated McQuarrie “holds a unique position when it comes to defining much of the look of the “Star Wars” universe.” McQuarrie noted “I thought I had the best job that an artist ever had on a film, and I had never worked on a feature film before. I still get fan mail — people wondering if I worked on Episode I or just wanting to have my autograph.”

McQuarrie went on to work as the conceptual designer on the film’s two sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. 

McQuarrie played the uncredited role of General Pharl McQuarrie in The Empire Strikes Back. An action figure in his likeness as “General McQuarrie” was produced. Action figures based on McQuarrie’s concept art, including conceptual versions of the Imperial Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3Po, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and other characters have also been made.

McQuarrie designed the alien ships in Steven Spielberg’s films Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), while his work as the conceptual artist on the 1985 film Cocoon earned him the Academy Award for Visual Effects.He also worked on the 1978 TV series Battlestar Galactica, and the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, *batteries not included and Jurassic Park.

Rick McCallum offered McQuarrie a role as designer for the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but he rejected the offer, noting he had “run out of steam” and Industrial Light & Magic animator Doug Chiang was appointed instead. He retired and his Star Wars concept paintings were subsequently displayed in art exhibitions, including the 1999 Star Wars: The Magic of Myth.

McQuarrie died aged 82 on March 3, 2012, in his Berkeley, California home. He is survived by his wife Joan.

Lucas commented after McQuarrie’s death: “His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘do it like this’.”


Steven Spielberg – Part 2

Rejecting offers to direct ‘Jaws 2’, ‘King Kong’ and ‘Superman’, Spielberg and actor Richard Dreyfuss re-convened to work on a film about UFO’s, which became ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977). One of the rare films both written and directed by Spielberg, Close Encounters was a critical and box office hit, giving Spielberg his first Best Director nomination from the Academy as well as earning six other Academy Award nominations. It won Oscars in two categories (Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond, and a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing, Frank E. Warner). This second blockbuster helped to secure Spielberg’s rise. However, his next film, ‘1941’, a big-budgeted World War II farce, was not nearly as successful and though it grossed over $92.4 million dollars worldwide (and did make a small profit for co-producing studios Columbia and Universal) it was seen as a disappointment, mainly with the critics.

Spielberg then revisited his Close Encounters project and, with financial backing from Columbia Pictures, released Close Encounters: The Special Edition in 1980. For this, Spielberg fixed some of the flaws he thought impeded the original 1977 version of the film and also, at the behest of Columbia, and as a condition of Spielberg revising the film, shot additional footage showing the audience the interior of the mothership seen at the end of the film (a decision Spielberg would later regret as he felt the interior of the mothership should have remained a mystery). Nevertheless, the re-release was a moderate success, while the 2001 DVD release of the film restored the original ending.

Next, Spielberg teamed with Star Wars creator and friend George Lucas on an action adventure film, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark‘ (1981), the first of the Indiana Jones films. The archaeologist and adventurer hero Indiana Jones was played by Harrison Ford. The film was considered an homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It became the biggest film at the box office in 1981, and the recipient of numerous Oscar nominations including Best Director (Spielberg’s second nomination) and Best Picture (the second Spielberg film to be nominated for Best Picture). Raiders is still considered a landmark example of the action-adventure genre. The film also led to Ford’s casting in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

A year later, Spielberg returned to the science fiction genre with ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ (1982). It was the story of a young boy and the alien he befriends, who was accidentally left behind by his companions and is attempting to return home. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial went on to become the top-grossing film of all time. E.T. was also nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Between 1982 and 1985, Spielberg produced three high-grossing films: ‘Poltergeist’ (1982), for which he also co-wrote the screenplay; a big-screen adaptation of ‘The Twilight Zone’ (1983), for which he directed the segment “Kick The Can”; and ‘The Goonies’ (1984) on which he was executive producer and also wrote the story on which the screenplay was based.

His next directorial feature was the Raiders prequel ‘Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom’ (1984). Teaming up once again with Lucas and Ford, the film was plagued with uncertainty for the material and script. This film and the Spielberg-produced Gremlins led to the creation of the PG-13 rating due to the high level of violence in films targeted at younger audiences. In spite of this, Temple of Doom is rated PG by the MPAA, even though it is the darkest and, possibly, most violent Indy film. Nonetheless, the film was still a huge blockbuster hit in 1984. It was on this project that Spielberg also met his future wife, actress Kate Capshaw.

In 1985, Spielberg released ‘The Color Purple’, an adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, about a generation of empowered African-American women during depression-era America. Starring Whoopi Goldberg and future talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey, the film was a box office smash and critics hailed Spielberg’s successful foray into the dramatic genre. Roger Ebert proclaimed it the best film of the year and later entered it into his Great Films archive. The film received eleven Academy Award nominations, including two for Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. However, much to the surprise of many, Spielberg did not get a Best Director nomination.

In 1987, as China began opening to Western capital investment, Spielberg shot the first American film in Shanghai since the 1930s, an adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s autobiographical novel ‘Empire of the Sun’ (1987) starring John Malkovich and a young Christian Bale. The film garnered much praise from critics and was nominated for several Oscars, but did not yield substantial box office revenues. I’s one of y favourite Spielberg films and was one of the best films of the year.


Richard Dreyfuss

Richard Stephen Dreyfuss (born October 29, 1947) is an American actor best known for starring in a number of film, television, and theater roles since the late 1960s, including the films ‘American Graffiti’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, ‘The Goodbye Girl’, ‘Tin Men’, ‘Stakeout’, ‘What About Bob?’, ‘Mr Holland’s Opus’ and ‘Piranha 3D’.

Dreyfuss’s first film part was a small, uncredited role in ‘The Graduate’. He had one line, “Shall I get the cops? I’ll get the cops”. He was also briefly seen as a stage hand in ‘Valley of the Dolls’ (1967), in which he had a few lines. He appeared in the subsequent ‘Dillinger’, and landed his breakout role in the 1973 hit ‘American Graffiti’, acting with other future stars such as Harrison Ford and Ron Howard. Dreyfuss played his first lead role in the Canadian film ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz’ (1974), receiving positive reviews, including praise from the legendary Pauline Kael. 

Dreyfuss went on to star in the box office blockbuster ‘Jaws’ (1975) and’Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977), both directed by his good friend Steven Spielberg. 

Jaws is based on Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel. The police chief of Amity Island, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), a fictional summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a giant man-eating great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, which wants the beach to remain open to draw a profit from tourists during the summer season. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and oceanographer, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and a professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw).

Richard Dreyfuss initially passed on the role of Matt Hooper, but after being disappointed by his own performance in a pre-release screening of ‘…Duddy Kravitz’, the film he had just completed, he immediately called Spielberg and accepted the role, fearing that no one would want to hire him once Kravitz was released. Because the film was so dissimilar to the novel, Spielberg asked Dreyfuss not to read the book before offering him the role. The rest is history.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a 1977 science fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr and Bob Balaban. It tells the story of Roy Neary (Dreyfuss), a lineman in Indiana, whose life changes after he has an encounter with a UFO.

Steve McQueen was Spielberg’s first choice. Although McQueen was impressed with the script, he felt he was not specifically right for the role as he was unable to cry on cue. Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino and Gene Hackman, turned down the part as well. Jack Nicholson turned it down because of scheduling conflicts. Spielberg explained when filming Jaws, “Dreyfuss talked me into casting him. He listened to about 155-days worth of Close Encounters. He even contributed ideas.” Dreyfuss reflected, “I launched myself into a campaign to get the part. I would walk by Steve’s office and say stuff like ‘Al Pacino has no sense of humor’ or ‘Jack Nicholson is too crazy’. I eventually convinced him to cast me.”

He won the 1978 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a struggling actor in ‘The Goodbye Girl’ (1977), becoming the youngest actor to do so (at the age of 29). Around this time, Dreyfuss began using cocaine frequently; his addiction came to a head four years later in 1982, when he was arrested for possession of the drug after he blacked out while driving, and his car struck a tree. He entered rehabilitation and eventually made a Hollywood comeback with the film ‘Down And Out in Beverly Hills’ in 1986 and ‘Stakeout’ the following year.

Last year he featured in a small but memorable role in Piranha 3D (2010), a comedy-horror film, and the second remake of the 1978 film of the same name. Directed by Alexandre Aja the movie opens with fisherman Matthew Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss) fishing in Lake Victoria, Arizona when a small earthquake hits, splitting the lake floor and causing a whirlpool. Boyd falls in and is ripped apart by a school of piranhas that emerge from the chasm and ascend the vortex. Great fun.