Melissa Mathison

Screenwriter, Director's assistant, Stringer for Time
The sporadic but brilliant career of screenwriter Melissa Mathison offers a vivid case study of an artist who succeeded in maximizing the benefits of each opportunity she was afforded. Though she had fewer than a half ... Read more »
Born: 06/02/1950 in Los Angeles, California, USA


Writer (8)

Kon-Tiki 2013 (Movie)

(previous draft) (Writer)

Ponyo 2009 (Movie)

(adaptation/English-language version) (Screenplay)

Kundun 1997 (Movie)


The Indian in the Cupboard 1995 (Movie)


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982 (Movie)


The Escape Artist 1981 (Movie)


The Black Stallion 1980 (Movie)


Son of the Morning Star (TV Show)

Producer (2)

Kundun 1997 (Movie)


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982 (Movie)

(Associate Producer)
Production Management (1)

The Godfather, Part II 1974 (Movie)

(Location Assistant)
Actor (1)


The sporadic but brilliant career of screenwriter Melissa Mathison offers a vivid case study of an artist who succeeded in maximizing the benefits of each opportunity she was afforded. Though she had fewer than a half dozen films to her credit as of 1996, Mathison earned a permanent place in American pop culture as the writer of the reigning domestic box-office champ, "E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982). With its 1994 selection for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, the film was officially certified a classic. Clearly this would have been an enviable credit for the most seasoned screenwriter; for a relative neophyte ("E.T." was Mathison's first sole screenwriting credit and her first original screenplay), it was something of a miracle.


Francis Ford Coppola Executive Producer

Mathison worked at one time for Coppola as his children's babysitter before becoming his personal assistant; had relationship around the time of the making of "Apocalypse Now" (1979); Mathison later married actor Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford Actor

Married on March 14, 1983 in Los Angeles, CA Announced separation in November 2000 Divorced Jan. 6, 2004

Georgia Ford

born on June 30, 1990 father, Harrison Ford

Malcolm Ford

born on March 10, 1987 father, Harrison Ford

Benjamin Ford

born in September 1966 mother, Mary Ford

Willard Ford

born in May 1969 mother, Mary Ford

Matthew Mathison

born in 1959

Richard Mathison

born in 1955

Melinda Mathison

born in 1947

Stephanie Mathison

born in 1952


University of California at Berkeley

Berkeley , California
took a leave to work as Francis Ford Coppola's assistant on "The Godfather, Part II" (1974)



Returned to screenwriting after 13 years, scripted "The Indian in the Cupboard"


TV writing debut, "Son of the Morning Star", an ABC miniseries biopic about General George Custer


Benefited from the Writers Guild of America's winning of an arbitration which entitled her to a 5 percent share of all revenue received by Universal--or its parent company, MCA--from the merchandising of the E.T. character; also entitled to 4 percent of t


Received first sole screenplay credit on Spielberg's landmark children's fantasy "E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial"; also credited as associate producer; first original screenplay; nominated for Oscar


Co-scripted (with Stephen Zito) the screenplay for "The Escape Artist", a poorly received Coppola production


Traveled with Ford on location for the shoot of Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark"; Spielberg asked her to write a screenplay about a little alien stranded on Earth; wrote the first draft in eight weeks (date approximate)


Credited as "executive assistant" on Coppola's "Apocolypse Now"


Feature screenwriting debut, co-scripted (with Jeanne Rosenberg and William D. Wittliff) "The Black Stallion" at the urging of Coppola who also executive produced


Took a leave from UC, Berkeley to work as Coppola's assistant on "The Godfather, Part II" (date approximate)

Grew up in Hollywood Hills, CA

Baby-sat for the children of family friend Francis Ford Coppola

Acquired a job as a TIME magazine stringer through a friend of her father's who was a bureau chief

Began dating actor Harrison Ford

Bonus Trivia


Coppola's aides have confirmed the rumor that Mathison was the young woman to whom Eleanor Coppola refers to as her husband's extramarital interest in "Notes", her journal on the making of "Apocolypse Now".


"I'm very good at listening to kids," said the writer. "I talk like them anyway. I also baby-sat a lot and have lots of kid friends.""It was important to me that the dialogue was true. In the back of my mind as I was writing the script I told myself that my audience was a 14-year-old boy. I figured if I didn't embarrass him I'd be safe and not make the kids sound like wimps."--Melissa Mathison interviewed by Stephen M. Silverman, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 9, 1982.


Mathison is an avid collector of children's literature. She reads with her children for forty-five minutes every night.