3. The Team - And The Story- Comes Together
Steven Spielberg asking Joe Dante to tackle Gremlins couldn't have come at a better time for the director.
Finding himself at a low ebb in his career, Dante was smarting from the fact that his last two jobs - horror comedy The Howling and the third Twilight Zone Movie segment - had issues.
The Zone film was tainted with tragedy over real-life deaths while John Landis was shooting, and The Howling had been frustrating because though it did decent business, Dante hadn't seen a penny since he wasn't a member of the Director's Guild Of America.
After watching and enjoying The Howling, Spielberg got in touch with Dante, offering to back him as director under his deal with Warner Bros and with The Beard producing through Amblin, which gave him extra clout.
His talent for making horror and comedy work together wasn't the only reason that Dante got the job - he was also cheap, and Warners was convinced that Gremlins had to be affordable. It didn't quite work out exactly how the executives would have liked, but Dante got a lot done with the budget.
But that was for shooting - first, they needed a workable script.
Columbus cranked out several different drafts as the story evolved. Originally, the tone was focused much more on the horror, with few laughs present.
In early versions, the nasty beasts not only killed and ate lead character Billy Peltzer's dog, but also slaughtered his mother, sending her decapitated head sailing down the stairs as Billy returns home in the middle of the madness.
Oh, and not forgetting the planned scene where evil Gremlin leader Stripe and co hit the local McDonald's, only to snack on the customers, leaving the burgers intact…
Unsurprisingly, Spielberg and Dante vetoed that idea, choosing instead to switch the appeal to more of a family audience, while maintaining a lot of the chaos. "Our gremlins are somewhat different," Dante has said of the villains. "They're sort of green and they have big mouths and they smile a lot and they do incredibly, really nasty things to people and enjoy it all the while."
Writing about the beasts was one thing. Bringing them to life would be a whole new set of challenges…
Next: Creating the critters