Steven Spielberg Wrote the Script for ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ During Filming Breaks From Another Hit Movie

Very few movies are talked about for nearly 40-years after release. There are few that we can say a name and instantly have people start remembering lines or scenes. One movie that has succeeded in a huge way is nearing its 40th birthday in June and all we have to say is “phone home” and you will know the movie for yourself.

E.T. looking in the fridge in a still from 'E.T.'
‘E.T.’ | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

The fun part is that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was created during film breaks from another hit movie, ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’ which was released in 1981.

Bringing E.T. to life

E.T. was born thanks to a simple idea from Steven Spielberg. According to IMDb Trivia, the idea for E.T. came to Spielberg thanks to the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. For anyone who knows this movie, there is a scene at the end where aliens show up. For Spielberg, it was a moment that led to a pivotal moment for Spielberg as he began to wonder what would happen if one of those aliens were left behind, stuck on Earth.

It was written by him dictating the story to screenwriter Melissa Mathison since she was with him on the set along with her then-boyfriend and future husband Harrison Ford. Ford was also supposed to have an appearance in the movie. However, it was removed in the final editing process. Spielberg felt that Ford’s part was perhaps more than the movie really needed. He was a very popular star at the time and the scene that would feature him was thought to be too “forced.”

To add more interesting facts, not all parts of the movie were perfectly scripted during Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since children were such a huge part of the film, there were a lot of ad-libbed parts, especially by Drew Barrymore (Gertie). For instance, when she says, “I don’t like his feet.” or when she says, “Give me a break!” because Elliott (Henry Thomas) says only little kids can see E.T.

How a movie idea is born

To think that the idea of candy trails was begun during what is essentially a commercial break is impressive. Another bit of trivia is that M&Ms were first chosen for the candy trail, but the company felt it would cause them a financial loss. They believe E.T. would be too scary for kids. Reece’s Pieces luckily did not feel the same, and subsequently experienced a massive increase in popularity.

Originally, Spielberg wanted to write a sequel to E.T.. It was supposed to take place on E.T.’s homeworld. This idea was scrapped because ultimately Spielberg felt it would rob the original film. Therefore, it remains a stand-alone movie. 

This does not mean it isn’t always there in Spielberg’s career as a great accomplishment. Perhaps even the movie ‘Hook’ with Robin Williams, can be traced back to E.T. since at one point mom was reading ‘Peter Pan’ to Gertie in the movie. 

Other cool facts about E.T. and beyond

Although Spielberg skipped out on producing a sequel to E.T., there are still so many things you may not have ever known about this iconic movie. There was an alternate ending written into the script. One that would have practically ensured we didn’t leave the theater in tears.

Filming the movie, after the script was done also posed some pretty interesting complications. For instance, to be more connected with both Elliott and E.T., Spielberg chose to shoot most of the film from the eye level of a child.

The film was nominated for Best Sound Effects Editing the year that it was made. Oddly enough, E.T.’s voice was provided by Pat Welsh because she smoked a lot. Spielberg also opted to eat squishy and crunchy vegetables to ensure that he could perfect the sound of E.T. chewing on food. 

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