Gremlins (lost R-rated screenplay of Christmas comedy-horror film; early 1980s)

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The film's theatrical poster.

Status: Lost

Gremlins is an American Christmas comedy-horror film written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante that was initially released by Warner Bros. in 1984. The film features Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer, an ordinary young man who receives a bizarre creature known as a mogwai as a pet. The mogwai soon begins to rapidly multiply, with these new mogwai turning into creatures called gremlins, who proceed to wreak havoc on Billy's hometown.

The film was released on June 8th, 1984 to commercial and critical acclaim, grossing $212.9 million on an $11 million budget, and currently holding a 'Certified Fresh' rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, the film was subject to some controversy upon its release over sequences of violence inappropriate for what was advertised as a PG-rated family film, with it (alongside fellow 1984 release Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) eventually leading the MPAA to instigate the PG-13 rating later that same year. However, the initial screenplay for the film was far more graphic than what was featured in the final film, being written as a straightforward horror film with an intended R-rating.

Initial Screenplay[edit | edit source]

Chris Columbus wrote the initial screenplay for Gremlins during a time where he was living in a New York City apartment loft with an infestation of mice, which (as he put it) "would scurry by my finger if my hand was hanging over the bed." Columbus also had a fascination with Universal horror films at this time, and while watching a horror film with a friend one evening, his friend said "You love monster movies so much, why don’t you write a monster movie?." Columbus ran with this idea, and combined it with how creeped out the mouse infestation made him feel to come up with the idea that would become Gremlins.

Columbus initially wrote Gremlins as a serious horror picture, featuring a scene in which Billy's mom's head comes rolling down the stairs, and a scene where Billy and his girlfriend Kate enter a McDonald's to find the food untouched but the customers fully devoured. This version of the screenplay eventually made its way into the hands of Steven Spielberg, who was enthusiastic about the idea, calling it "one of the most original things I've come across in many years." However, he had apprehensions about the script's dark and violent nature, encouraging Columbus to rewrite what was done to make the film suitable for a more general audience. Columbus took this advice on board, with him and Spielberg collaborating on several more drafts of the screenplay, eventually resulting in the film we know today.[1]

Very little is currently known about the R-rated version of the Gremlins screenplay, with the only description of its contents coming from a 2020 Collider interview with Columbus in which it is discussed. To date, the screenplay has not been released in any capacity.

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References[edit | edit source]