E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL
About The Production
"He is Afraid. He is Totally Alone. He is 3,000,000 Light Years From home."
So read the original advertising copy for E.T The Extra-Terrestrial, promising a film of adventure, emotion and celestial mystery, and what audiences finally saw on screen well transcended the promotional pledge.
But as is so often the case with legends, E.T did not spring fully formed from the mind of its creator. Rather, it began life as a very different story, and organically mutated into the tale that we all know today. Originally, Steven Spielberg was intrigued by a story he unearthed during research for his previous film about humankind's first meeting with beings from another planet, Close Encounters
of the Third Kind.
"It had to do with a farm family that was terrorized
one evening by gremlin-like extra-terrestrials that kept trying to get access to their house, rode cows through the barnyard and made the people crazy." recalled Spielberg. A first screenplay draft of this story,
entitled Night Skies, was indeed written, "but when I read the script I
just didn't feel that it was a movie I wanted to direct. It turned me against myself and
my own beliefs.
Even as a voting boy, Spielberg was intrigued by the notion that extra-terrestrials could be friendly rather than hostile entities if they visited our planet. "I saw my first meteor shower when I was about
four or five," he remembered. "My dad took me out to the middle of nowhere
in New Jersey and we laid out on a picnic blanket, looking tip at the sky, and saw all these streaks of light moving across the sky. I never thought it was scars'.
My father read a lot of science fiction, and it was usually about terrifying aliens trying to take over the world.
But my dad would always tell me that if aliens have the technological ability to travel these great light distances from there to here, he
couldn't imagine that they did it to be aggressive or globally dominant. They did it because they were curious, and
wanted to share what they knew with other planetary systems and other species that were perhaps less advanced.
My dad always put it into my head that if there is something out there, it's good, not bad.
But one detail of the Night Skies script appealed to Spielberg: at the end, one of the aliens is left behind on earth.
Thus, Spielberg put the project aside, but was still haunted by the notion of making another film about a meeting of different worlds ... and he finally turned to deeply personal thoughts and memories to begin tracing out
what would ultimately become what is still. perhaps, his most
personally reflective film. "I always wanted to tell the story of a child's reaction to his parents splitting tip when he's still only
about 10 years old," noted
Spielberg, "and how it impacts the rest of his life.
Perhaps E. T. was a subconscious fantasy of mine since childhood, to make
myself feel less lonely in my life. It was a childhood dream of a special friend who
rescues a boy from the sadness of divorce."
These vague notions finally began to take shape while Spielberg was looking at sea shells in the middle of sand dunes thousands of miles from home.
"I was shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark, a lonely director sitting in the middle of the desert in Tunisia, making a Saturday Matinee type of
movie, and feeling a bit separated from myself, which often happens when you're directing. And then.. BANG.. this concept hit me. Suddenly, the story of E. T. flooded into my mind, and for the next couple of days, it began to take on a beginning, middle and an end."
Spielberg recalled that he had loved The Black Stallion, the story of the growing friendship between a boy and a wild horse stranded after a disaster at sea, elegantly<
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