Steven Spielberg Needed Tight Security On The Close Encounters Of The Third Kind Set

If there is anything we know about Steven Spielberg, it's that he doesn't make his movies half-heartedly. If he's making a shark movie, he'll commission a shark animatronic and will film its scenes in a huge tank of water. If he's making a movie about dinosaurs, he'll ensure they look as realistic as possible through a combination of puppets and early CGI. Spielberg has become as important of a filmmaker as he is, partially because he rarely, if ever, compromises on getting his exact vision on screen.

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind," his 1977 epic about the idea of aliens visiting Earth for the first time, was no exception. Seriously, the spaceship used by the film's aliens is still stunning to look at even 45 years later. It was this spaceship, as well as the rest of its intricate props and setpieces, that prompted Spielberg to get as big of a hangar to shoot in as possible, as he explained to Sight and Sound.

"[Joe Alves, the production designer on "Close Encounters"] showed me that the [set] model he had built, and that I had subsequently fallen in love with, was four times larger than the largest sound stage at MGM or Cinecitta," he said, "and the only alternatives were to shoot it outside, where I'd have no control over the weather, and shoot at night which is very costly, or to find a dirigible hangar somewhere."

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Finding a hangar that was suitable for shooting the project was a bit of a hassle. After finding out that one commonly used by Stanley Kubrick wouldn't work, the crew eventually settled on two on opposite sides of the country: one in Mobile, Alabama, and another in Bend, Oregon. To ensure the smoothest filming process possible, drastic steps needed to be taken.

"We hired security police and built a small kiosk [for both hangars]," explained Spielberg, "and the two hangars that we used began to resemble motion picture studios."

Sure, this might seem a bit excessive when put into words, but would you want details of your massive alien epic leaked to the public while it's still in production? Probably not, which is why Spielberg was careful to not just let anyone wander onto the hangars.

"We had to administer picture IDs that were coded, so you couldn't go down to the local newspaper, fake one, and try to get in that way," he recalled.

Needless to say, he had every right to be discreet about what he was filming. Can you imagine how much tension would have been lost during those last few scenes if they were just leaked to a paper beforehand? Thankfully, we're in the better timeline where "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" ended up remaining a tension-filled and exciting alien encounter for the ages.