When E.T. first arrived in cinemas in 1982, science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke (author of 2001: A Space Odyssey) immediately noticed its similarity to a screenplay called The Alien that his friend, the Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, had written in 1967.

The Alien told an almost identical story: A spaceship lands in an isolated town and the alien onboard eventually befriends a young boy. Although Ray’s film was never made, English copies of his screenplay were nevertheless made available in Hollywood—and although the two stories do eventually diverge and come to different conclusions, it was Ray’s description of the alien in his story that raised the most eyebrows in Hollywood.

“A cross between a gnome and a famished refugee child,” is how he described his creature in his 1967 script, adding that it had a “large head, spindly limbs [and] a lean torso.”

“Is it male or female or neuter? We don’t know,” he wrote. “What its form basically conveys is a kind of ethereal innocence, and it is difficult to associate either great evil or great power with it; yet a feeling of eeriness is there because of the resemblance to a sickly human child.”

Ultimately, rumors that Spielberg had plagiarized his story soon began to emerge, leading even Spielberg’s friend and fellow filmmaker Martin Scorsese to agree that the similarities between E. T. and The Alien were difficult to ignore. Clarke urged his friend to take legal action, but Ray magnanimously refused, saying simply that he did not wish to appear “vindictive,” and admitted to being a great admirer of Spielberg.

For his part, Spielberg steadfastly denied all accusations of plagiarism, and he and Ray reportedly remained on good terms; in 1992, he proved instrumental in having the Academy recognize Ray’s achievements in cinema with an honorary Oscar.