ⓘ E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a 1982 American science fiction film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Melissa Mathison. A spiritual sequel to Speilbergs 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it features special effects by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren, and stars Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas with supporting roles by Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, and Pat Welsh. It tells the story of Elliott, a boy who befriends an extraterrestrial, dubbed "E.T.", who is stranded on Earth. Elliott and his siblings help E.T. return to his home planet, while attempting to keep him hidden from the government.
The concept was based on an imaginary friend Spielberg created after his parents divorce in 1960. In 1980, Spielberg met Mathison and developed a new story from the failed project Night Skies. It was filmed from September to December 1981 on a budget of $10.5 million. Unlike most films, it was shot in rough chronological order, to facilitate convincing emotional performances from the young cast.
Released on June 11, 1982, by Universal Pictures, E.T. was an immediate blockbuster, surpassing Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film of all time - a record it held for eleven years until Jurassic Park, another Spielberg-directed film, surpassed it in 1993.
E.T. is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. It was widely acclaimed by critics as a timeless story of friendship, and it ranks as the greatest science fiction film ever made in a Rotten Tomatoes survey. In 1995, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It was re-released in 1985, and then again in 2002, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, with altered shots and additional scenes.
A small group of alien botanists secretly visits Earth under cover of night to gather plant specimens in a Californian forest. When government agents appear on the scene, the aliens flee in their spaceship or UFO, but in their haste, one of them is left behind. In a suburban neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, a ten-year-old boy named Elliott is spending time with his brother, Michael, and his friends. As he returns from picking up a pizza, he discovers that something is hiding in their tool shed. The alien promptly flees upon being discovered.
Despite his familys disbelief, Elliott leaves Reeses Pieces candy to lure the alien to his house. Before going to sleep, Elliott realizes the alien is imitating his movements. He feigns illness the next morning to stay home from school and play with him. Later that day, Michael and their five-year-old sister, Gertie, meet the alien. They decide to keep him hidden from their mother, Mary. When they ask him about his origin, he levitates several balls to represent his planetary system and then demonstrates his powers by reviving dead chrysanthemums. Already starting to pick up the English language he demonstrates his signature power, revealed through his glowing fingertip by healing a minor flesh wound on Elliots finger.
At school the next day, Elliott begins to experience a telepathic connection with the alien, including exhibiting signs of intoxication because the alien is at his home, drinking beer and watching television, and he begins freeing all the frogs in his biology class. As the alien watches John Wayne kiss Maureen OHara in The Quiet Man on television, Elliott then kisses a girl he likes, in the same manner and is sent to the principals office.
The alien learns to speak English by repeating what Gertie says as she watches Sesame Street and, at Elliotts urging, dubs himself "E.T." E.T. reads a comic strip where Buck Rogers, stranded, calls for help by building a makeshift communication device and is inspired to try it himself. E.T. receives Elliotts help in building a device to "phone home" by using a Speak & Spell toy. Michael notices that E.T.s health is declining and that Elliott is referring to himself as "we".
On Halloween, Michael and Elliott dress E.T. as a ghost so they can sneak him out of the house. That night, Elliott and E.T. head through the forest, where they make a successful call home. The next day, Elliott wakes up in the field, only to find E.T. gone. Elliott returns home to his distressed family. Michael searches for and finds E.T. dying next to a culvert. Michael takes E.T. home to Elliott, who is also dying. Mary becomes frightened when she discovers her sons illness and the dying alien, just as government agents invade the house.
Scientists set up a hospital at the house, questioning Michael, Mary, and Gertie, while treating Elliott and E.T. Their mental connection disappears, and E.T. then appears to die while Elliott recovers. A grief-stricken Elliott is left alone with the motionless E.T. when he notices a dead chrysanthemum, the plant E.T. had previously revived, coming back to life. E.T. reanimates and reveals that his people are returning. Elliott and Michael steal a van that E.T. had been loaded into and a chase ensues, with Michaels friends joining them as they attempt to evade the authorities on bicycles. Suddenly facing a police roadblock, they escape as E.T. uses telekinesis to lift them into the air and toward the forest, like he had done for Elliott before.
Standing near the spaceship, E.T.s heart glows as he prepares to return home. Mary, Gertie, and Keys, a friendly government agent, show up. E.T. says goodbye to Michael and Gertie, as she presents him with the chrysanthemum that he had revived. Before boarding the spaceship, he embraces Elliott and tells him "Ill be right here", pointing his glowing finger to Elliotts forehead. He then picks up the chrysanthemum and boards the spaceship. As the others watch it take off, the spaceship leaves a rainbow in the sky.
- Dee Wallace as Mary
- K. C. Martel as Greg
- Erika Eleniak as Pretty Girl
- Drew Barrymore as Gertie
- Peter Coyote as Keys
- C. Thomas Howell as Tyler
- Robert MacNaughton as Michael
- Sean Frye as Steve
- Pat Welsh uncredited as the voice of E.T.
- Henry Thomas as Elliott
3.1. Production Development
After his parents divorce in 1960, Spielberg filled the void with an imaginary alien companion. He said that the imaginary alien was "a friend who could be the brother we made more on that picture than we did on any of our films."
3.2. Production Pre-production
Carlo Rambaldi, who designed the aliens for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, was hired to design the animatronics of E.T. Rambaldis own painting Women of Delta led him to give the creature a unique, extendable neck. Its face was inspired by those of Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway. Producer Kathleen Kennedy visited the Jules Stein Eye Institute to study real and glass eyes. She hired Institute staffers to create E.T.s eyes, which she felt were particularly important in engaging the audience. Four heads were created for filming, one as the main animatronic and the others for facial expressions, as well as a costume. Two dwarfs, Tamara De Treaux and Pat Bilon, as well as 12-year-old Matthew DeMeritt, who was born without legs, took turns wearing the costume, depending on what scene was being filmed. DeMeritt actually walked on his hands and played all scenes where he walked awkwardly or fell over. The head was placed above that of the actors, and the actors could see through slits in its chest. Caprice Roth, a professional mime, filled prosthetics to play E.T.s hands. The puppet was created in three months at the cost of $1.5 million. Spielberg declared it was "something that only a mother could love".
Mars, Incorporated refused to allow M&Ms to be used in the film, believing E.T. would frighten children. The Hershey Company was then asked if Reeses Pieces could be used, and it agreed. This product placement resulted in a large increase in Reeses Pieces sales. Science and technology educator Henry Feinberg created E.T.s communicator device.
3.3. Production Casting
Having worked with Cary Guffey on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg felt confident in working with a cast composed mostly of child actors. For the role of Elliott, he auditioned hundreds of boys before Jack Fisk suggested Henry Thomas for the role because Henry had played the part of Harry in the film Raggedy Man which Jack Fisk had directed. Thomas, who auditioned in an Indiana Jones costume, did not perform well in the formal testing, but got the filmmakers attention in an improvised scene. Thoughts of his dead dog inspired his convincing tears. Robert MacNaughton auditioned eight times to play Michael, sometimes with boys auditioning for Elliott. Spielberg felt Drew Barrymore had the right imagination for mischievous Gertie after she impressed him with a story that she led a punk rock band. He enjoyed working with the children, and he later said that the experience made him feel ready to be a father.
The major voice work of E.T. for the film was performed by Pat Welsh. She smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, which gave her voice a quality that sound effects creator Ben Burtt liked. She spent nine-and-a-half hours recording her part, and was paid $380 by Burtt for her services. He also recorded 16 other people and various animals to create E.T.s "voice". These included Spielberg, Debra Winger, his sleeping wife, who had a cold, a burp from his USC film professor, raccoons, otters, and horses.
Doctors working at the USC Medical Center were recruited to play the ones who try to save E.T. after government agents take over Elliotts house. Spielberg felt that actors in the roles, performing lines of technical medical dialogue, would come across as unnatural. During post-production, he decided to cut a scene featuring Harrison Ford as the principal at Elliotts school. It featured his character reprimanding Elliott for his behavior in biology class and warning of the dangers of underage drinking. He is then taken aback as Elliotts chair rises from the floor, while E.T. is levitating his "phone" equipment up the stairs with Gertie. Fords face is never seen.
3.4. Production Filming
The film began shooting on September 8, 1981, and finished it on December 5, 1981. The project was filmed under the cover name A Boys Life, as Spielberg did not want anyone to discover and plagiarize the plot. The actors had to read the script behind closed doors, and everyone on set had to wear an ID card. The shoot began with two days at a high school in Culver City, and the crew spent the next 11 days moving between locations at Northridge and Tujunga. The next 42 days were spent at Culver Citys Laird International Studios, for the interiors of Elliotts home. The crew shot at a redwood forest near Crescent City for the productions last six days. The exterior Halloween scene and the "flying bicycle" chase scenes were filmed in Porter Ranch. Spielberg shot the film in roughly chronological order to achieve convincingly emotional performances from his cast. In the scene in which Michael first encounters E.T., his appearance caused MacNaughton to jump back and knock down the shelves behind him. The chronological shoot gave the young actors an emotional experience as they bonded with E.T., making the quarantine sequences more moving. Spielberg ensured the puppeteers were kept away from the set to maintain the illusion of a real alien. For the first time in his career, he did not storyboard most of the film, in order to facilitate spontaneity in the performances. The film was shot so adults, except for Dee Wallace, are never seen from the waist up in its first half, as a tribute to Tex Averys cartoons.
The shoot was completed in 61 days, four days ahead of schedule. According to Spielberg, the memorable scene where E.T. disguises himself as a stuffed toy in Elliotts closet was suggested by colleague Robert Zemeckis, after he read a draft of the screenplay that Spielberg had sent him.
3.5. Production Music
Longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams, who composed the films musical score, described the challenge of creating one that would generate sympathy for such an odd-looking creature. As with their previous collaborations, Spielberg liked every theme Williams composed and had it included. Spielberg loved the music for the final chase so much that he edited the sequence to suit it. Williams took a modernist approach, especially with his use of polytonality, which refers to the sound of two different keys played simultaneously. The Lydian mode can also be used in a polytonal way. Williams combined polytonality and the Lydian mode to express a mystic, dreamlike, and heroic quality. His theme - emphasizing coloristic instruments such as the harp, piano, celesta, and other keyboards, as well as percussion - suggests E.T.s childlike nature and his "machine".
3.6. Production Allegations of plagiarism
There were allegations that the film was plagiarized from a 1967 script, The Alien, by Indian Bengali director Satyajit Ray. He stated, E.T. would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout the United States in mimeographed copies." Spielberg denied this claim, stating, "I was a kid in high school when his script was circulating in Hollywood." Director and Spielbergs friend, Martin Scorsese, has also alleged the film was influenced by Rays script. Star Weekend Magazine disputes Spielbergs claim, pointing out that he had graduated from high school in 1965 and began his career as a director in Hollywood in 1969. The Times of India noted that E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977 had "remarkable parallels" with The Alien. These parallels include the physical nature of the alien. In his screenplay, which Ray wrote entirely in English, he described the alien as "a cross between a gnome and a famished refugee child: large head, spindly limbs, a lean torso. Is it male or female or neuter? We dont know. 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."
Ray first found out about E.T. from a friend, British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, who was familiar with The Alien and believed it was plagiarized by E.T. Clarke called Ray and encouraged him to take legal action against E.T. However, no such legal action was taken, as Ray did not want to show himself as having a "vindictive" mindset against Spielberg and acknowledged that he "has made good films and he is a good director."
In 1984, a federal appeals court ruled against playwright Lisa Litchfield, who sued Spielberg for $750 million, claiming he used her one-act musical play Lokey from Maldemar as the basis for E.T. She lost the case, with the court stating "No reasonable jury could conclude that Lokey and E.T. were substantially similar in their ideas and expression. Any similarities in plot exist only at the general level for which Ms. Litchfield cannot claim copyright protection."
Spielberg drew the story of the film from his parents divorce; Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it "essentially a spiritual autobiography, a portrait of the filmmaker as a typical suburban kid set apart by an uncommonly fervent, mystical imagination". References to his childhood occur throughout: Elliott fakes illness by holding a thermometer to the bulb in his lamp while covering his face with a heating pad, a trick frequently employed by the young Spielberg. Michael picking on Elliott echoes Spielbergs teasing of his younger sisters, and Michaels evolution from tormentor to protector reflects how Spielberg had to take care of his sisters after their father left.
Critics have focused on the parallels between E.T.s life and Elliott, who is "alienated" by the loss of his father. A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that while E.T. "is the more obvious and desperate foundling", Elliott "suffers in his own way from the want of a home". E.T. is the first and last letter of Elliotts name. At the films heart is the theme of growing up. Critic Henry Sheehan described the film as a retelling of Peter Pan from the perspective of a Lost Boy Elliott: E.T. cannot survive physically on Earth, as Pan could not survive emotionally in Neverland; government scientists take the place of Neverlands pirates. Furthering the parallels, there is a scene in the film where Mary reads Peter Pan to Gertie. Vincent Canby of The New York Times similarly observed that the film "freely recycles elements from Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz ". Some critics have suggested that Spielbergs portrayal of suburbia is very dark, contrary to popular belief. According to A.O. Scott, "The suburban milieu, with its unsupervised children and unhappy parents, its broken toys and brand-name junk food, could have come out of a Raymond Carver story." Charles Taylor of Salon.com wrote, "Spielbergs movies, despite the way theyre often characterized, are not Hollywood idealizations of families and the suburbs. The homes here bear what the cultural critic Karal Ann Marling called the marks of hard use."
Other critics found religious parallels between E.T. and Jesus. Andrew Nigels described E.T.s story as "crucifixion by military science" and "resurrection by love and faith". According to Spielberg biographer Joseph McBride, Universal Pictures appealed directly to the Christian market, with a poster reminiscent of Michelangelos The Creation of Adam more specifically the "fingers touching" detail and a logo reading "Peace". Spielberg answered that he did not intend the film to be a religious parable, joking, "If I ever went to my mother and said, Mom, Ive made this movie thats a Christian parable, what do you think shed say? She has a Kosher restaurant on Pico and Doheny in Los Angeles."
As a substantial body of film criticism has built up around the film, numerous writers have analyzed it in other ways as well. It has been interpreted as a modern fairy tale and in psychoanalytic terms. Producer Kathleen Kennedy noted that an important theme of E.T. is tolerance, which would be central to future Spielberg films such as Schindlers List. Having been a loner as a teenager, Spielberg described it as "a minority story". Spielbergs characteristic theme of communication is partnered with the ideal of mutual understanding: he has suggested that the storys central alien-human friendship is an analogy for how real-world adversaries can learn to overcome their differences.
5.1. Reception Release and sales
The film was previewed in Houston, Texas, where it received high marks from viewers. It premiered at the 1982 Cannes Film Festivals closing gala, and was released in the United States on June 11, 1982. It opened at number one with a gross of $11 million, and stayed at the top of the box office for six weeks; it then fluctuated between the first and second positions until October, before returning to the top spot for the final time in December during a brief Holiday Season re-release of the film.
In 1983, E.T. surpassed Star Wars as the highest-grossing film of all-time, and by the end of its theatrical run it had grossed $359 million in North America and $619 million worldwide. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold more than 120 million tickets in the US in its initial theatrical run. Spielberg earned $500.000 a day from his share of the profits, while The Hershey Companys profits rose 65% due to its prominent use of Reeses Pieces. The "Official E.T. Fan Club" offered photographs, a newsletter that let readers "relive the films unforgettable moments wonderful. I make more mundane movies." It won four Academy Awards: Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing Charles L. Campbell and Ben Burtt, and Best Visual Effects.
At the 40th Golden Globe Awards, the film won Best Picture in the Drama category and Best Score; it was also nominated for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best New Male Star for Henry Thomas. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association awarded the film Best Picture, Best Director, and a "New Generation Award" for Melissa Mathison.
The film won Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Writing, Best Special Effects, Best Music, and Best Poster Art, while Henry Thomas, Robert McNaughton, and Drew Barrymore won Young Artist Awards. In addition to his Golden Globe and Saturn, composer John Williams won two Grammy Awards and a BAFTA for the score. It was also honored abroad: it won the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Blue Ribbon Awards in Japan, Cinema Writers Circle Awards in Spain, Cesar Awards in France, and David di Donatello in Italy.
In American Film Institute polls, the film has been voted the 24th greatest film of all time, the 44th most heart-pounding, and the sixth most inspiring. Other AFI polls rated it as having the 14th greatest music score and as the third greatest science-fiction one. The line "E.T. phone home" was ranked 15th on AFIs 100 Years.100 Movie Quotes list, and 48th on Premiere s top movie quote list.
National Film Registry - Inducted in 1994.
In 2005, it topped a Channel 4 poll of the 100 greatest family films, and was also listed by Time as one of the 100 best movies ever made.
In 2003, Entertainment Weekly called the film the eighth most "tear-jerking"; in 2007, in a survey of both films and television series, the magazine declared it the seventh greatest work of science-fiction media in the past 25 years. The Times also named it as their ninth favorite alien in a film, calling it "one of the best-loved non-humans in popular culture". It is among the top ten in the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14. In 1994, it was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In 2011, ABC aired Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time, revealing the results of a poll of fans conducted by ABC and People magazine: it was selected as the fifth best film of all time and the second best science fiction film.
On October 22, 2012, Madame Tussauds unveiled wax likenesses of E.T. at six of its international locations.
6. 20th Anniversary version
An extended version of the film, dubbed the "Special Edition" currently out of circulation, including altered dialogue and visual effects, premiered at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on March 16, 2002; it was released on home media six days later. Certain shots of E.T. had bothered Spielberg since 1982, as he did not have enough time to perfect the animatronics. Computer-generated imagery CGI, provided by Industrial Light & Magic ILM, was used to modify several shots, including ones of E.T. running in the opening sequence and being spotted in the cornfield. The spaceships design was also altered to include more lights. Scenes shot for but not included in the original version were introduced. These included E.T. taking a bath and Gertie telling Mary that Elliott went to the forest on Halloween. Marys dialogue, during the offscreen argument with Michael about his Halloween costume, was altered to replace the word "terrorist" with "hippie". Spielberg did not add the scene featuring Harrison Ford, feeling that would reshape the film too drastically. He became more sensitive about the scene where gun-wielding federal agents confront Elliott and his escaping friends and had them digitally replaced with walkie-talkies.
At the premiere, John Williams conducted a live performance of the score. The new release grossed $68 million in total, with $35 million coming from Canada and the United States. The changes to it, particularly the escape scene, were criticized as political correctness. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wondered, "Remember those guns the feds carried? Thanks to the miracle of digital, theyre now brandishing walkie-talkies. Is this what two decades have done to free speech?" Chris Hewitt of Empire wrote, "The changes are surprisingly low-key. while ILMs CGI E.T. is used sparingly as a complement to Carlo Rambaldis extraordinary puppet." South Park ridiculed many of the changes in the 2002 episode "Free Hat".
The two-disc DVD release which followed on October 22, 2002, contained the original theatrical and 20th Anniversary extended versions of the film. Spielberg personally demanded that the release feature both versions. The features on disc one included an introduction with Steven Spielberg, a 20th Anniversary premiere featurette, John Williams performance at the 2002 premiere, and a Space Exploration game. Disc two included a 24-minute documentary about the 20th Anniversary edition changes, a "Reunion" featurette, a trailer, cast and filmmaker bios, production notes, and the still galleries ported from the 1996 LaserDisc set. The two-disc edition, as well as a three-disc collectors edition containing a "making of" book, a certificate of authenticity, a film cell, and special features that were unavailable on the two-disc edition, were placed in moratorium on December 31, 2002. Later, it was re-released on DVD as a single-disc re-issue in 2005, featuring only the 20th Anniversary version.
In a June 2011, interview, Spielberg said,
. Theres going to be no more digital enhancements or digital additions to anything based on any film I direct. When people ask me which E.T. they should look at, I always tell them to look at the original 1982 E.T. If you notice, when we did put out E.T. we put out two E.T. s. We put out the digitally enhanced version with the additional scenes and for no extra money, in the same package, we put out the original 82 version. I always tell people to go back to the 82 version.
For the films 30th anniversary release on Blu-ray in 2012, and for its 35th anniversary release on Ultra HD Blu-ray in 2017, as well as its corresponding digital releases; only the original theatrical edition was released, with the 20th anniversary edition now out of circulation.
7. Other portrayals
The scene featuring Elliott and E.T. bicycling in front of the full moon is used as the symbol for Spielbergs production company Amblin Entertainment.
Atari, Inc. produced a video game based on the film for the Atari 2600. Released in 1982, it was widely considered to be one of the worst video games ever made.
William Kotzwinkle, author of the films novelization, wrote a sequel, E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet, which was published in 1985. In the novel, E.T. returns home to the planet Brodo Asogi, but is subsequently demoted and sent into exile. He then attempts to return to Earth by effectively breaking all of Brodo Asogis laws.
E.T. Adventure, a theme park ride based on the film, debuted at Universal Studios Florida on June 7, 1990. The $40 million attraction features the title character saying goodbye to visitors by name, along with his home planet.
In 1998, E.T. was licensed to appear in television public service announcements produced by the Progressive Corporation. The announcements featured his voice reminding drivers to "buckle up" their seat belts. Traffic signs depicting a stylized E.T. wearing one were installed on selected roads around the United States. The following year, British Telecommunications launched the "Stay in Touch" campaign, with him as the star of various advertisements. The campaigns slogan was "B.T. has E.T.", with "E.T." also taken to mean "extra technology".
At Spielbergs suggestion, George Lucas included members of E.T.s species as background characters in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
E.T. was one of the franchises featured in the 2016 crossover games Lego Dimensions. E.T. appears as one of the playable characters, and a world based on the movie where players can receive side quests from the characters is available.
In 2017 video game developer Zen Studios released a pinball adaptation as part of the Universal Classics add-on pack for the virtual pinball game Pinball FX 3. It features 3-D animated figures of Elliot, E.T. and his spacecraft.
In 2019, Coldplay used lyrics referencing E.T.’s bicycle riding scene for their song" Champion of the World” on their album Everyday Life.
8. Short film sequel
In July 1982, during the films first theatrical run, Spielberg and Mathison wrote a treatment for a sequel to be titled E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears. It would have shown Elliott and his friends getting kidnapped by evil aliens, and attempting to contact E.T. for help. Spielberg decided against pursuing it, feeling it "would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity. E.T. is not about going back to the planet".
On November 28, 2019, Xfinity released a four–minute commercial directed by Lance Acord, calling it a "short film sequel" to the original motion picture, titled A Holiday Reunion. The commercial stars Henry Thomas, reprising his role as Elliott, now an adult with a family of his own. The story follows E.T.s return journey to Earth for the holiday season, and focuses on the importance of bringing family together. The commercial utilizes a practical puppet for E.T. himself. John Williams score from the original film is mixed into the commercial. Spielberg was consulted by Comcast parent company of NBCUniversal, which itself owns Universal Pictures before production on the commercial began. A two–minute version was edited for Comcasts British subsidiary Sky UK.