Portraying Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie put Melissa Sue Anderson on the Hollywood map. Cast by show star and executive producer Michael Landon in 1974 when she was just 11 years old, Anderson created a lot of showbiz buzz after receiving the series’ first and only Emmy nomination.
Apparently, Anderson’s acting chops impressed legendary director Steven Spielberg, who called a meeting with the young actor for a role in one of his films.
‘Little House’ producers caused some roadblocks in leaving Walnut Grove for the day
When Anderson was 16 years old and still a main cast member of Little House, Spielberg contacted her agent to discuss a part in his new movie, though he wouldn’t reveal the title. Yet show producers weren’t happy about giving her time away from the set.
“[Spielberg] apparently wanted to talk to me about one of his upcoming projects,” Anderson recalled in her 2010 memoir The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House. “Little House was making things very difficult. They didn’t have to let me off, and they wanted to make sure I was aware of that.”
Since Landon was in charge, it was his decision on whether or not to allow Anderson the time off. The Highway to Heaven star didn’t make the situation easy for Anderson.
“It really didn’t look good for a while there,” Anderson remarked. “Finally, an arrangement was worked out so that I’d be able to go and have that meeting, but Mike made sure to tell me how difficult it had been to rearrange the shooting schedule. He acted almost surprised that it meant so much to me. I thanked him, anyway, for the trouble, and excitedly made plans to meet with Mr. Spielberg.”
Melissa Sue Anderson prepped for her get-together with the ‘E.T.’ director
Accustomed to wearing clothes from the 1800s as Mary Ingalls, Anderson set about finding a more contemporary outfit to meet with the the famous filmmaker. The Little House star also wanted to be dressed for any type of activities Spielberg may have had planned, since rumor had it the director like to stay busy while talking.
“What do you wear for a meeting you know nothing about?” Anderson recalled of trying to prepare. “My agent warned me that Steven liked to do things during meetings. He’d heard of him playing arcade games, going for target practice, and even cooking. That only complicated the matter. What do you wear to look like a character you know nothing about in a film you know nothing about?”
After much pondering, Anderson chose “my purple (fitted) overalls with a bright pink shirt and platform shoes,” she recalled. “That way, I thought, I was ready for anything.”
‘Little House’ star baked a cake with Steven Spielberg
Once Anderson arrived at Spielberg’s studio lot and they exchanged some pleasantries, Spielberg asked her to assist him in making a carrot cake. Mixing the batter as Spielberg chopped walnuts and grated carrots, the Little House alum tried to initiate some conversation. All the while, Anderson was aware of many long pauses throughout their stilted conversation.
“On it went, awkward silences and all,” she recalled. “Now I knew why he liked to take meetings while otherwise occupied. He was really shy. The only thing he probably didn’t count on was: so was I.”
Anderson later discovered the part for which she was under consideration, which turned out to be in a box office blockbuster.
“I later found out that the role I was being considered for was Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark,” she revealed of the 1981 film. “They obviously decided to go ‘older’ and hired actress Karen Allen, who was terrific in the part.”