As a master of blockbuster cinema, it takes a lot to impress Steven Spielberg, and instances where he’s blown away by a script are rare. One of those moments, though, was when he saw an early draft of Gremlins lying on his assistant’s desk.
Intrigued by the title, Steven Spielberg snatched up the script and read it over the course of a weekend. After recognizing that it had the potential to be one of the best movies of the decade, he demanded to speak to the script’s writer, Chris Columbus. Spielberg’s resulting influence would go on to be hugely consequential to the success of what quickly became regarded as one of the best Christmas movies ever.
“And the lucky part of Gremlins is Steven Spielberg was leaving his office and he just glanced to his assistant’s desk and he saw the title, and he was like, ‘That’s an interesting title’ so he picked it up and read it over the weekend. I got a call from him like three days later,” said Columbus, speaking with Collider.
Spielberg became an executive producer on the movie and used his experience and wisdom to convince Columbus the reshape the script. Columbus continued, “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.’”
“He goes, ‘What you’ve done could be great, but it’s an R-rated horror film. There’s a way that what you’ve written can reach a much wider audience.’ So we worked on several drafts of the script.”
While the original idea for Gremlins was clearly much, much darker, and more of an outright horror, Spielberg was crafty enough to unlock its full potential by broadening its appeal. The result is a movie that’s deliciously dark, but also festive, funny, and family-friendly. Subsequent to the success of Gremlins, Columbus would go on to write The Goonies, and find further popularity by directing the likes of Home Alone and the first two Harry Potter movies.
Now, Gremlins has cemented its position as a certified Christmas classic, especially for anyone who likes a little bit of chaos and mischief. That being said, we’d pay a lot of money to see a more horror-forward version of the film too, and that could be on the cards with the looming prospect of a new movie in the series.
For more Gremlins vibes, check out our guide to the best horror movies, and the best alternative Christmas movies. Or, see why Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood both rejected Matt Damon for the same reason.