I’ve loved Close Encounters since the first time I saw it as a kid at the local drive-in in the late 70’s. That eerie and iconic road with the glowing hill simultaneously freaked me out and fascinated me, and Devil’s Tower…what and amazing and perfect place for a UFO encounter! As a kid I loved Neary’s mashed potato tower, and the model he constructed in his lounge. What storytelling genius.
This book is essential reading for any Close Encounters Fan, and Spielberg fan, any film fan. Written by Bob Balaban who played Truffant’s interpreter, it gives a blow by blow account of what it was like to be on the set with Spielberg. Balaban might be more familiar as the TV exec that green-lights George & Jerry’s “show about nothing” in Seinfeld.
It documents his extraordinary friendship with Truffant, who he is obviously in awe of. Surprisingly though, Balaban does not appear to actually know French, apart from what he learnt in High School. He spends a lot of time between scenes studying and learning his lines in French, as well as conversing and telling jokes with Truffant.
The book is full of delightful little nuggets, like the time George Lucas visited the set around the time he was just finishing his own space film..something called “Star Wars”.
Or the time Bob Gale and Bob Zemekis came around to chat with Spielberg about a film they wanted him to direct. Unfortunately it was not Back to the Future, but something about a Japanese invasion of LA which apparently became 1941.
The book was out of print for a long time, but has just been re-released as a new edition. I can highly recommend reading this…then watch CE3K again and gain a whole new appreciation for the film.