Steven Spielberg Reveals How Harrison Ford Became Crucial to Getting ‘E.T.’ Made

Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg have built a great dynamic through their work together on the Indiana Jones movies. However, Ford played an important in getting another Spielberg movie made. Spielberg recently shared Ford’s role in getting E.T. made and it’s a rather interesting story. 

Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg have worked together on several ‘Indiana Jones’ movies

Director Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford attend a photocall for the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford | ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images

Ford and Spielberg first collaborated on Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981. Ford previously worked with Spielberg’s friend George Lucas on Star Wars and American Graffiti. Raiders was an instant success and led to four more films in the franchise including Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Ford recently wrapped up production on Indiana Jones 5. However, James Mangold took over for Spielberg as director. Outside of the Indiana Jones franchise, Spielberg and Ford haven’t worked together on another movie. Still, Ford did end up helping Spielberg make one of his best movies, E.T.

Harrison Ford assisted in getting the screenwriter for ‘E.T.’

In an interview at the 40th anniversary screening of E.T. at the TCM Classic Film Festival shared by The Hollywood Reporter, Spielberg revealed Ford’s role in getting E.T. made. The Jaws director was looking for a screenwriter and thought of Melissa Mathison, who wrote The Black Stallion, a movie Spielberg was a big fan of. 

“I pretty much had worked out most of the story and I needed a writer to write with me or, hopefully, write it based on the story,” Spielberg said.

Mathison initially turned Spielberg down. The director then spoke to Ford, who was dating Mathison at the time, while the two were filming Raiders in Tunisia. Ford was excited about the prospects of E.T. and his excitement eventually convinced Mathison to write the screenplay. 

“She said, ‘Well, I’m retired from writing. I don’t write anymore. I’m not interested in writing anymore, it’s too hard,” Spielberg explained. “I went to Harrison and said, ‘Your girlfriend turned me down. She doesn’t want to write my next movie.’ He said, ‘Well, let me talk to her.’ He talked to her and she came to me the next day and said, ‘OK you got Harrison so excited about this. What is it that I missed?’ I think I hadn’t told her the story very well because I told her the story again and she got really emotional and she committed right there in the Tunisian desert.”

Steven Spielberg’s ‘E.T.’ was nominated for Best Original Screenplay

Spielberg and Mathison turned out to be a beautiful collaboration as E.T. was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Spielberg remembers their creative process fondly and said the two worked together while filming Raiders

“We would spend two hours a day for five days and she would go off and write pages and come back.” Spielberg said. “There were so many details for character that Melissa brought into my world from her world.”

Spielberg credits Mathison with coming up with several iconic moments like E.T’s telekinesis and the quote “E.T. phone home.” Mathison died in 2015, but the two did collaborate once more on The BFG which came out in 2016. 

RELATED: Steven Spielberg Explains Why Filming ‘E.T.’ Inspired Him to Become a Father, ‘I Was a Parent on that Film’