The original ‘dark’ hard-R version of Gremlins

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With a happy new Christmas movie on the way, Chris Columbus has been reflecting on some of his darker festive material, namely 1984’s Gremlins.

Chris Columbus, the veteran director of many family movies is soon to be back with another offering: Netflix’s sequel to The Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. Columbus knows a thing or two about Christmas movies too, having directed Home Alone in 1990 and its sequel two years later. Although the filmmaker was toying with festive anarchy as far back as 1984 when he wrote the screenplay for Gremlins, the classic anarchic creature-feature where a horde of murderous, mischief-making monsters are unleashed on a small town.

But dark as it was, the original draft of Gremlins was much, much meaner, a hard R-rating in the spirit of other creature-feature films in the genre at the time such as John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Ahead of the release of The Christmas Chronicles 2, Columbus has been chatting with  Collider and found himself reminiscing on how that first draft came to be.

He said “I was living in New York at the time with these mice running around the floor, and I was watching old Universal horror films on TBS and my friend said to me ‘you love monster movies so much, why don’t you write a monster movie?’ I was thinking about these mice running around at night, they would scurry by my finger if my hand was hanging over the bed, it was really creeping me out and that’s how I came up with the idea of Gremlins. So I wrote it as a straightforward horror film. Hard R, mom’s head comes rolling down the stairs, Billy and Kate go into a McDonald’s and none of the food is eaten but all of the people are eaten (laughs). So it was very dark.”

Columbus goes on to talk about how luckily, his interest piqued by the title, Steven Spielberg just happened to pick the script up one day on the way out of the Amblin offices.

Impressed, the director offered to oversee the project as executive producer, but spoke to Columbus about the tone of the script. Says Columbus: ‘“Steven was very instrumental because I was a young writer and I was like a kid in a candy store getting to work with Steven Spielberg, and he steered me into – he said ‘this needs to reach a wider audience.’ …. we worked on several drafts of the script”.

Joe Dante would ultimately direct Columbus’ final script.

Columbus would eventually make his directorial debut with 1987’s Adventures In Babysitting. You can catch the entire piece over at Collider.

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