E.T. The Extra Terrestrial: 12 Facts Worth Phoning Home About

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial with Gertie (Drew Barrymore)

Amblin Productions / Universal Pictures

One of the most heart warming family films of the eighties, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial hit cinemas in 1982. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it saw an alien creature accidentally left behind on Earth by its family. Taken in by a young boy named Elliot, he and his friends must help E.T. get home before government agents take him away. 

Here are 12 pieces of E.T. trivia that’ll make you phone home… 

1) E.T. was partly puppeteered by a young boy with no legs

The majority of the time, there was a three-foot-tall stuntman inside the E.T. puppet, however, during the scenes in the kitchen, there was actually a young boy inside. The boy, who was 12 at the time of filming, was born without legs, and had become an expert at travelling around on his hands; this gave E.T. his trademark movement. 

2) I don’t like his feet 

When Gertie says, ‘I don’t like his feet,’ it wasn’t actually in the script. In fact, it was just the young Drew Barrymore being truthful about the puppet. There were wires poking out of the puppet’s feet. Her comment made it into the final movie, though. 

3) Spielberg dictated the story whilst filming Raiders

Whilst Spielberg was on location filming Raiders of the Lost Ark, he started dictating the story of E.T. to Melissa Mathison; a screenwriter who was dating Harrison Ford at the time; later going on to marry the actor. 

4) Harrison Ford’s cameo was cut

Speaking of Harrison Ford, the A-lister actually came and filmed a cameo for E.T. He starred as Elliot’s headmaster. However, when it came to editing the film together, the scene ended up on the cutting room floor, and the cameo didn’t make it into the finished movie. 

5) Robert Zemeckis thought up the teddy scene 

One of the most memorable scenes in the film comes when Elliot’s mum opens the closer door, and sees E.T. surrounded by endless teddies. This idea actually came from none other than Robert Zemeckis. 

Elliot rides his bike with E.T in the basket
Amblin Productions / Universal Pictures

6) Real doctors and nurses 

When E.T. is taken to the facility and the medical staff start working on his vitals, there’s a reason their actions and dialogue seem so genuine – they’re real doctors and nurses! Spielberg instructed them to behave as if E.T. was a real patient. The steps they take and the terminology they use is all completely accurate for a patient arriving in ER. 

7) M&M’s missed out 

During the scene where Elliot lures E.T. with sweets, the filmmakers originally wanted to use M&M’s. However, Mars thought that E.T. would frighten children, and refused them the rights to use M&M’s in the movie. So, Reese’s Pieces were used instead. After the movie’s release, sales of Reese’s pieces massively increased!

8) Corey Feldman’s part was written out 

In the first draft of the script, there was a part carved out for Corey Feldman. However, as the script was rewritten and edited over a few drafts, the role was lost. Spielberg felt bad about Feldman losing out on the role, so he ensured the young actor was cast in Gremlins, which hit cinemas in 1984. 

9) Two packets of cigarettes a day 

Lots of different elements went together to create E.T.’s vocals. Ben Burtt, who was in charge of the movie’s sound effects, recorded raccoons, his own wife sleeping, sea horses, and more. Most of E.T.’s lines, though, were recorded by an old lady called Pat Welsh, who smoked two packets of cigarettes a day – give her voice a raspy quality. Her lines took less than ten hours to record, and she was paid just under $400. 

10) The idea came from Close Encounters 

The idea came to Spielberg whilst he was filming Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which was released in 1977. He started to think – what if one of the visitors got stuck here on Earth? A lot of fans cite similarities between the creatures in E.T. and Close Encounters, as well as similarities between the space crafts. 

11) Yoda’s theme 

During the Halloween trick or treating scenes, E.T. comes face to face with a kid dressed as Yoda. Yoda first appeared in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, which hit cinemas a couple of years earlier. Williams, who scored both E.T. and Empire Strikes Back, broke into ‘Yoda’s Theme’ when the green jedi appears on screen for those few short moments. 

12) Spielberg let the score come first 

For the film’s finale, composer John Williams struggled to get the score to match what was happening on-screen. Trying something new, Spielberg had the film switched off on Williams’ screen, and told Williams to conduct the orchestra as if he was performing a concert. Williams did exactly that, and Spielberg re-cut the last scenes of the film to match Williams’ work. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Score! 

There you have it – 12 awesome facts about E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. Check out the original trailer below…

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial Trailer

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