Thursday, July 25, 2013

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Elliot: You could be happy here, I could take care of you. I wouldn't let anybody hurt you. We could grow up together, E.T.

It's night time on planet Earth when a group of alien botanists discovering and foraging plants are discovered and frightened by humans racing through the woods toward them.  In the scramble to get back on their spaceship and leave, one extra terrestrial -- E.T. -- is left behind.  E.T. happens upon a 10-year old boy, Elliot, who befriends E.T. and is intent on keeping him.  However, making friends with an alien and wanting to keep him as a best friend is not easy, and E.T., whose health is slowly deteriorating, must phone home.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to both E.T. and Elliot, a special task force is looking for them with intentions of their own.  Will a spaceship arrive in time to rescue E.T.?

"E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" made its grand premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 26, 1982 before making its broad U.S. release the following June 11. 

Directed by Steven Spielberg, the genius director behind such previous hit films such as "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (the film before E.T.), "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" won critical acclaim, nominated for numerous awards and winning four Oscars for Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects, and Best Original Score for John Williams who has worked closely with Steven for many years.  "E.T." was nominated for five other Academy Awards for its Cinematography, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Director, and Motion Picture.  The U.K. loved "E.T." and nominated it for an astounding twelve awards.  In the end it would only win for Best Score (John Williams).

This film was extraordinary in that not only did Spielberg deliver yet another fantastic sci-fi story, but "E.T." had everything for everyone: Science fiction, humor, action, drama, and the main character wasn't even a human being!  Viewers had the joy of rooting for both a cute and short little alien as well as a cute a short little boy! 

"E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" starred 10-year old Henry Thomas (his third film, one of which was made for television) as Elliot, Drew Barrymore as his sister, Gertie (her second film), Dee Wallace as the mother, Mary, and Robert McNaughton as Elliot's brother, Michael (after appearing in three films made for TV, this was his first feature film).  Co-stars included Peter Coyote (Keys) and a very young C. Thomas Howell as Michael's friend, Tyler ("E.T." was Howell's first feature film and helped launch a long career for him).

The #1 Box Office hit of 1982, "E.T." cost an estimated $10.5 million to make and went on to gross, as to date, over $359 million.

Shot on location at 7121 Lonzo Street, Tujunga, Los Angeles (Elliot's home) as well as other locations throughout California including the Redwood National Forest, here are some other bits of information regarding the filming of this splendid motion picture...

1.  The working title for the film was "A Boy's Life". It was changed during production.

2.  The script was largely written whilst on location filming for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" during filming breaks.  Steven Spielberg dictated the story to screenwriter Melissa Mathison who was there with her then-boyfriend and future husband Harrison Ford.

3.  This script was being developed at Columbia at the same time as another script about an alien visitation.  The studio did not want to make both, so the head of the studio had to choose which film to make; he decided to let ET go and make "Starman".  "E.T." was then made by Universal Pictures.

4.  Spileberg's original concept was for a much darker movie in which a family was terrorized in their house by aliens. When Spielberg decided to go with a more benevolent alien, the family-in-jeopardy concept was recycled for the film, "Poltergeist".

5.  Spielberg worked simultaneously on both this film and "Poltergeist" in 1982 (which was directed by Tobe Hooper but produced by Spielberg).  Both were made to complement each other. "E.T." represented suburban dreams, and "Poltergeist" represented suburban nightmares.

6.  At the auditions, Henry Thomas thought about the day his dog died to express sadness. Director Steven Spielberg cried, and hired him on the spot.

7.  Juliette Lewis auditioned for the role of Gertie, but her father reportedly made her turn it down.

8.  The role of Mary, the children's mother, was first offered to Shelley Long, but she had already signed to film "Night Shift" and was forced to decline.

9.  Harrison Ford was initially intended to have a cameo role in the film as Elliot's school headmaster, but the scene was cut. 

10.  E.T.'s face was modeled after poet Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein, and a pug dog.

11.  Foley Artist John Roesch said he used a wet T-shirt crammed with jello to simulate the noise of E.T.'s waddling walk.

12.  E.T.'s voice was provided by Pat Welsh, an elderly woman who lived in Marin County, California. Welsh smoked two packets 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. Burtt also recorded 16 other people and various animals to create E.T.'s "voice". These included Spielberg; Debra Winger; Burtt's sleeping wife, who had a cold; a burp from his USC film professor; as well as racoons, sea otters and horses.  Actress Debra Winger not only provided the temp voice for E.T. but also played one of the ghouls in the Halloween sequence. She is wearing a monster mask and a lab coat and carries a poodle.

13.  Most of the full-body puppetry was performed by a 2' 10 tall stuntman, but the scenes in the kitchen were done using a 10-year old boy who was born without legs but was an expert on walking on his hands.

14.  According to the film's novelization, E.T. is over ten million years old.

15.  E.T.'s plants included some made from inflated condoms with polyester blooms (*ahem!*)

16.  The filmmakers had requested that M&M's be used to lure E.T., instead of Reese's Pieces. The Mars company had denied their request and so Reese's Pieces were used instead. As a direct result, Reese's Pieces sales skyrocketed. Because of this, more and more companies began requesting that their products be used in movies. Thus, product placement was born.

17.  Steven Spielberg shot most of the film from the eye-level of a child to further connect with Elliot and E.T.

18.  The young actors (Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert McNaughton) found the ET puppet's eyes too far apart to comfortably look ET in the eye when they had to act with it. The actors solved the problem themselves by selecting a single eye to look at for every scene.

19.  The gag where the mother looks in the closet and sees the alien surrounded by toys was dreamed up by Robert Zemeckis.

20.  At one point during filming, Drew Barrymore was consistently forgetting her lines, annoying Steven Spielberg to the point where he actually yelled at her. He later found out that she had reported to work with a very high fever. Feeling guilty, he hugged her and apologized repeatedly as she cried and cried. He then sent her home - with a note from her director. 

21.  E.T. riding in the basket on Elliot's bicycle flying in front of the moon has become the trademark image of Amblin Entertainment.

22.  With the exception of Elliot's mom, no adults' faces are shown until the last half of the film.

23.  Peter Coyote's character's name is never revealed, and is referred to as "Keys" in the novelization and end credits because he is identified by wearing a key-chain in the first half of the movie.

24.  The doctors and nurses that work on E.T. are all real emergency room technicians. They were told to treat E.T. the same way they would treat a real patient so that their dialogue and actions would seem real.

25.  Steven Spielberg shot the film in chronological order to invoke a real response from the actors (mainly the children) when E.T. departed at the end. All emotional responses from that last scene are real.

26.  The end of the film was one of the most significant musical experiences for composer John Williams. After several attempts were made to match the score to the film, Steven Spielberg took the film off the screen and encouraged Williams to conduct the orchestra the way he would at a concert. He did, and Spielberg slightly re-edited the film to match the music, which is unusual since normally the music would be edited to match the film. The result was Williams winning the 1982 Academy Award for Best Original Score.

27.  Throughout the film, Elliot's last name is never mentioned.

28.  Steven Spielberg stated in an interview that E.T. was a plant-like creature, and neither male or female. 

29.  Almost 10% of the $10.5 million budget went on the alien creature puppets and related animatronics.

30.  When it was test-screened at the Cannes Film Festival as an unofficial entry, it brought the house down, receiving a standing ovation that had eluded most of the official entries.

31.  Steven Spielberg personally screened his film at the White House for Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy.

32.  Was the highest-grossing movie of all time worldwide until Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" was released. Adjusted for inflation today, it's still the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time.

33.  Though many have suggested that the film contains elements of Christian allegory, director Steven Spielberg says any parallels are strictly coincidental. Furthermore, Spielberg adds that if he ever made a Christian allegory, his mother, a devout Jew would probably never forgive him.

34.  The late Michael Jackson owned one of the E.T. puppets.

35.  E.T. provided the inspiration for Neil Diamond's song "Heartlight" but no mention is ever made of the movie in the lyrics.

36.  In mid 2009, the home featured in the film, located in the Tujunga Canyon was saved from immolation in the treacherous Station Fire. The owner of the residence said the scorched hill behind the house "looks like the surface of the moon," but that the structure itself incurred no damage in the wildfire, which up to that time had burned over 127,000 acres and claimed 62 homes.

37.  Steven Spielberg is reported to have spent $100,000 digitally removing guns from the 20th Anniversary re-release of the movie in 2002. He regretted using the scene and said he would remove it if he ever re-issued the film.

38.  At the 20th anniversary re-release premier, John Williams conducted a live orchestra as the film played, much like an orchestra would do for a stage musical.

 And now you know.

I was 14 when this film premiered.  When mum, da and I went to go see it in the theater, I had already heard the ending was a tear-jerker.  I thought, "That's good.  I could use a good cry."  However, mum and da, because they wanted to avoid long lines and even longer waits, arranged for all of us to arrive at the theater before the ending of the previous screening was finished.  Having gotten the tickets as well as our snacks, we stepped into the dark theater before the ending occurred.  That spoiled it for me.  In fact, it spoiled it so much that I didn't shed a tear at the end.  Oy... such was my life back then.  haha

Still, "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" is a joy to watch even to this very day and is indeed entertaining for audiences of all ages.

Here are some picture stills from the film as well as some rare behind-the-scenes pictures for your enjoyment...


Elliot: [tearfully while looking at E.T.] I'll believe in you all my life, everyday. E.T... I love you.

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