Tuesday, June 12, 2012
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (Widescreen Edition)
#25 (1998) and #24 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 Movies List
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (often referred to simply as E.T.) is a 1982 American science fiction film co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Melissa Mathison and starring Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore, and Peter Coyote. It tells the story of Elliott (played by Thomas), a lonely boy who befriends an extraterrestrial, dubbed "E.T.", who is stranded on Earth. Elliott and his siblings help the extraterrestrial return home while attempting to keep it hidden from their mother and the government.
The concept for E.T. 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 stalled science fiction/horror film project Night Skies. The film was shot from September to December 1981 in California on a budget of US$10.5 million. Unlike most motion pictures, the film was shot in roughly chronological order, to facilitate convincing emotional performances from the young cast.
Released by Universal Pictures, E.T. was a blockbuster, surpassing Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film of all time, a record it held for 11 years. Critics acclaimed it as a timeless story of friendship, and it ranks as the greatest science fiction film ever made in a Rotten Tomatoes survey. The film was rereleased in 1985, and then again in 2002 to celebrate the film's 20th anniversary, with altered shots and additional scenes.
* Henry Thomas as Elliott, a lonely ten-year-old boy. Elliott longs for a good friend, whom he finds in E.T., who was left behind on Earth. Elliott adopts the stranded alien and they form a mental, physical, and emotional bond.
* Robert MacNaughton as Michael, Elliott's football-playing sixteen-year-old brother who often makes fun of him.
* Drew Barrymore as Gertie, Elliott's mischievous five-year-old sister. She is sarcastic and initially terrified of E.T., but grows to love the alien.
* Dee Wallace as Mary, the children's mother, recently separated from her husband. She is mostly oblivious to the alien's presence in her household.
* Peter Coyote as "Keys", a government agent. His face is not shown until the second half of the film, his name is never mentioned, and he is identified by the key rings that prominently hang from his belt. He tells Elliott that he has waited to see an alien since the age of ten.
* K. C. Martel, Sean Frye and C. Thomas Howell as Greg, Steve and Tyler, Michael's friends. They help Elliott and E.T. evade the authorities during the film's climax.
* Erika Eleniak as the young girl Elliott kisses in class.
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 central role of Elliott, he auditioned hundreds of boys before Robert Fisk suggested Henry Thomas for the role. 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 young Gertie after she impressed him with a story that she led a punk rock band. Spielberg enjoyed working with the children, and he later said that the experience made him feel ready to be a father.
The major voice work for E.T. was performed 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; and raccoons, sea otters, and horses.
Doctors working at the USC Medical Center were recruited to play the doctors who try to save E.T. after government agents take over Elliott's home. Spielberg felt that actors in the roles, performing lines of technical medical dialogue, would come across as unnatural. During post-production, Spielberg decided to cut a scene featuring Harrison Ford as the headmaster at Elliott's school. The scene featured Ford's character reprimanding Elliott for his behavior in science class and warning of the dangers of underage drinking; he is then taken aback as Elliott's chair rises from the floor, while E.T. is levitating his "phone" equipment up the staircase with Gertie