JOE's Film Flashback... E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 7 years ago

JOE's Film Flashback... E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

JOE's Spoiler Series... E.T.

Welcome to JOE's Film Flashback, where we take you behind the scenes of some of the finest motion pictures ever made. This is your *SPOILER ALERT* warning, no more excuses now.


Ready? Then follow us as we find out all there is know about E.T.

Title: E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (or just E.T.)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Irish release date: December 26, 1982


Worldwide box office: $792,000,000

Irish Certificate Rating: PG

Tag Line: "He is afraid. He is alone. He is three million light years from home."

ET poster


Plot's it all about? 

A benign being from another planet finds himself stranded on Earth after his mothership leaves him behind. He's soon befriended by a young boy, Elliott, and assimilates (after a few bumps) into both family and community life.

However, his presence soon become known to government officials and great peril ensues.

It's magical, spellbinding stuff and up there with Back To The Future, The Goonies and The Karate Kid as an '80s classic that gets better with age.


The brilliant, young cast...

Key to the film's success was Spielberg's casting choices, and a largely pre-teen cast. The entire show was stolen by Henry Thomas as Elliott, one of the best child actors before or since, but he almost wasn't cast at all after a poor first audition.

Luckily, an improvised scene - where he used the memory of his dead, pet dog to bring about some very real tears - bagged him arguably the most iconic role for a child in cinema history.

"OK, kid, you got the job."


Clip via UniversalPicsSweden

The film began shooting in September 1981, with Robert McNaughton (Michael) and Drew Barrymore (Gertie) playing Elliott's brother and sister and Dee Wallace Stone - the only adult actor filmed from the waist up in the film's first half - playing his mother.

E.T.'s working title was actually A Boy's Life, with Spielberg keen to guard against plagiarism and forcing all members of the cast to read the script under strict supervision.

The script was written by Melissa Matheson, who sadly died this week at the age of 65. Matheson was initially reluctant to write the film and Spielberg would have to enlist the help of Harrison Ford - Matheson's future husband - to convince her.

Speaking of Harrison Ford...

He actually had a role in the film, but it never made the final cut.

You never see the actor's face as he plays a school principal lecturing Elliott in his office, given Spielberg's reluctance to show the faces of any adults apart from Wallace Stone, but it still makes for a fascinating piece of film trivia.

Clip via Humberto Manlio

The critical reception...

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert had the ability to make or break a film with their critical responses to the big cinematic releases of the 1980s and 1990s.

"This the kind of movie that makes your heart beat a little faster, it brings a tear to your eye. When I saw this movie I felt the way I'm sure people felt when they saw Wizard of Oz for the first time," said Ebert. "It's a great film."

Clip via David Von Pein's Channel #2

Todd McCarthy from Variety went even further again.

"Captivating, endearingly optimistic and magical at times, Steven Spielberg's fantasy about a stranded alien from outer space protected by three kids until it can arrange for passage home is certain to capture the imagination of the world's youth," he wrote.

What came afterwards...

The youngest member of the cast proved to be the most successful, Drew Barrymore overcoming a difficult childhood to become one of the most popular actresses of the last 20 years.

Thomas, the heart and soul of the film, fared less well in intervening years - his most notable screen appearances coming in minor roles in Legends of the Fall and Gangs of New York - while McNaughton quit acting back in 2002 and went on to become a postman.

As for what happened to Sénor Spielbergo, or his unionised American equivalent, we're not quite so sure.

Rumour has it he directed an episode or two of Coronation Street back in the early 1990s, but we've yet to find any evidence of same.

Song of the Movie: The entire soundtrack

And then there was the music...

John Williams' famous score was one of the best in cinema history. It's as central as any of the main characters, perfectly soaring and fusing with the action on screen.

"Enough cannot be said for John Williams’ score," adds McCarthy, "which stands as a model of film composing–although it is almost continually present it’s also practically unnoticeable, so well does it both complement and further the events onscreen."

This, without doubt, is one of the best scenes in movie history and it would never have worked without that superb soundtrack.

Clip via Movieclips