The summer of 1982 is often cited as a perfect storm of popcorn cinema. Conan the Barbarian, The Road Warrior, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Star Trek II, The Thing, Poltergeist — a slate of movies that blockbuster buffs still talk about to this day. But as influential as those films continue to be, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial remains the gem of the '82 run. Mesmerizing audiences of every age, E.T. became the highest grossing film of all time with a worldwide total of $792 million (a total rarely matched by modern blockbusters) and nabbed nine Oscar nominations, including Best Director for Steven Spielberg and Best Picture.
Naturally, there was sequel talk.
Back in the '80s, Hollywood wasn't the franchise machine it is today (unless you were a low-budget, highly successful horror flick), but Universal Pictures and Steven Spielberg must have known, even before E.T. graced screens on July 11, 1982, that they had a hit on their hands, as a treatment for a sequel was penned mere days after the original film's release. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, a copy of the nine-page pitch for E.T.: Nocturnal Fears (dated July 17, 1982) has been readily available for consumption for years. Written by Spielberg and E.T. writer Melissa Mathison, the sequel picked up soon after the end of the first film, Elliot out of school for the summer and dealing with feelings of loneliness in the absence of E.T. His family is closer and reinvigorated after their otherworldly encounter, with Elliot's Mom divorcing Elliot's Dad and finding new romance with Dr. Keys (Peter Coyote's character from the first film). Nocturnal Fears has all the right vibes of a feel-good Speilberg movie… that is, until the evil aliens show up.
Speaking to the American Film Institute, Spielberg explained why E.T. 2 never happened: "Sequels can be very dangerous because they compromise your truth as an artist. I think a sequel to E.T. would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity. People only remember the latest episode, while the pilot tarnishes." But flipping through the treatment for Nocturnal Fears, it's clear that Spielberg's worst fears could have come true. Whereas E.T. hits all the right chords with its portrayal of friendship, love and intergalatic interaction, Nocturnal Fears takes a 180-degree turn that's closer to his 2005 War of the Worlds. The treatment depicts a second ship descending in the familiar redwood forest, but with slightly more terrifying plans:
"The aliens onboard are EVIL. They have landed on Earth in response to distress signals designating its present coordinates. These aliens are searching for a stranded extraterrestrial named Zrek, who is sending a call for 'Help.' The evil creatures are carnivorous. Their leader, Korel, commands his crew to disperse into the forest to acquire food. As the squat aliens leave the gangplank, each one emits a hypnotic hum which has a paralyzing effect on the surrounding wildlife. These creatures are an albino fraction (mutation) of the same civilization E.T. belongs to. The two separate groups have been at war for decades!"
Later in the script, Elliot and his friends are kidnapped and violently interrogated by Korel and his alien mafia, demanding to know the whereabouts of Zrek (aka E.T.). Thankfully, E.T. is aware of the attack and arrives on the scene to save the day. As is evident, the tone of the treatment (despite an abundance of exclamation points) is drastically darker than the first film. Perhaps more incubation time could have lead to a more organic follow-up, but it never happened. At least, not with Spielberg.
In 1985, author William Kotzwinkle followed up his novelization of the E.T. screenplay with an original sequel, E.T.: The Book of the Green Planet. The book takes the action to E.T.'s home planet of Brodo Asogi, where E.T. is finds himself demoted and forbidden to return to Earth on future missions. Longing to reconnect with Elliot, E.T. decides to break the laws of his planet, growing a spaceship out of a turnip with the help of his friend, Botanicus. During his adventure, E.T. also checks in with Elliot through brain wave messages, keeping an eye on his Earth friend as he braves his own alien world: dating. Why didn't this story ever get made into a movie?
As a time-honored classic, E.T.'s legacy helped the recognizable alien pop up in various ways over the subsequent decades. In 1990, Universal Studios introduced the E.T. Adventure ride, which put audience members in a bike seat for the film's big chase scene. E.T. even succumbed to corporate sponsorship, acting as the face of British Telecommunications '90s-era "Stay in Touch" campaign and making a very special Olympics-themed episode of Nickelodeon's GUTS. In 1999, E.T. even made a cameo appearance in George Lucas' Star Wars — Episode I: The Phantom Menace, unleashing a fervor of imagination on the part of Star Wars mythologists (theoretically, E.T.'s inclusion in the SW universe means Earth exists in it too).
Rumors have and continue to pop up that Spielberg may return to the world of E.T. (the most recent being a 2009 National Enquirer report that pegged it as an upcoming Spielberg/Barrymore collaboration), but the wishful thinking is all born from the same thing: a love for the first movie. No one actually wants a sequel, people long for that perfect blend of human drama and sci-fi, a combination rarely emulated in today's summer movies. Even Spielberg has trouble mustering up his old tricks — reviews of his long-gestating Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were… less than favorable. There's always a chance that in the next thirty years, whoever holds the rights to E.T. could see the moneymaking potential in a continuation of the E.T. brand. But as long as Spielberg's around, the legacy of the original will be preserved. As E.T. might put it, placing a finger to the heart, "I'll... be... right... here."
Or maybe this will really happen one day:
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[Photo Credits: Drew Struzan, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox ]
Just shy of 30 years ago, the world saw one of the most awe-inspiring family films that has ever been released on the big screen: E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, one of Steven Spielberg's most cherished masterpieces. And now, the monumentally beloved science fiction classic will be available on Blu-ray!
Starring a young Henry Thomas, a younger Drew Barrymore, and a not-particularly-young Dee Wallace, E.T. captured Spielberg's love affair with the the spirit of childhood, with the otherworldly themes that have imbued so many of his works with unparalleled originality and imagination.
Check out the Blu-ray trailer and the special features below, and stock up on Reese's Pieces ready: E.T. comes out on Blu-ray/DVD in October.
E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial Blu-ray Bonus Features
- The E.T. Journals: In this all-new bonus feature, retrace the day-to-day experience of creating E.T from never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes footage shot by Academy Award®-winning cinematographer John Toll. This piece will give viewers a unique feeling of being on the set and living the excitement of what it was like to make E.T.
- Steven Spielberg & E.T.: Watch an all-new interview with Steven Spielberg, as he reflects back on the film and discusses his experience working with the actors, as well as his overall and current perspective on E.T.
- Deleted Scenes: Two scenes from 2002 version of the film.
- A Look Back: A special insider’s look into the making of E.T. featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg, the cast, and others intimately involved with the film.
- The E.T. Reunion: The cast and filmmaker reunite to discuss their thoughts on the impact of the film.
- The Evolution and Creation of E.T.: From idea to screenplay, through casting and making the film.
- The Music of E.T.: A Discussion with John Williams: Interviews and footage focused on the long-standing relationship between John Williams and Steven Spielberg.- The 20th Anniversary Premiere: Composer John Williams played the score of E.T. live at the Shrine Auditorium for the re-release premiere of E.T. This featurette gives us a behind the scenes look at this presentation.
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Special Olympics TV spot
- Designs, Photographs and Marketing
- E.T. Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux
- E.T. Designs by Carlo Rambaldi
- Spaceship Designs by Ralph McQuarrie
- Designs by Production Illustrator Ed Verreaux
- Production Photographs
- Marketing E.T.
- UltraViolet™: The revolutionary new way for consumers to collect movies and TV shows, store them in the cloud, and instantly stream and download to computers, tablets and smartphones. Consumers can now truly enjoy their movies anytime, anywhere on the platform of their choice. Currently available in the United States only.
- Digital Copy: The Blu-ray™ Combo Pack includes a digital copy of the film compatible with iTunes®, iPad®, iPhone®, iPod™, iPod™ touch, Android or online retail partners.
- pocket BLU™ App: The popular free pocket BLU™ app for smartphones is now even better with newly updated versions for iPad®, Android™ tablets, PC and Macintosh computers, with features made especially to take advantage of thedevices’ larger screens and high resolution displays.
- Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease.
- Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the film.
- Mobile-to-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy content on the go, anytime, anywhere.
- Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.
- Keyboard: Entering data is fast and easy with your device’s intuitive keyboard.
- BD-LIVE™: Access the BD-Live™ Center through your Internet-connected player to access the latest trailers, exclusive content and more!
E.T.: The Extra Terrestiral DVD Bonus Features
- Steven Spielberg & E.T.
- Deleted Scenes
- A Look Back
- The E.T. Reunion
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Even if the some of the images are redone the story remains true to form--and fits surprisingly well in this savvy 21st century. As it goes an alien botanist visiting Earth to collect some vegetation gets stranded when his space friends have to make a hasty exit before getting caught by the big bad American scientists lead by "Keys" (Peter Coyote known as such because of the keys jangling from his belt). E.T. ends up befriending an 11-year-old boy Elliot (Henry Thomas) and his siblings older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and discovers such earthly pleasures as beer TV and Reese's Pieces. Yet as much fun as he's having all E.T. really wants to do is go home and soon it becomes a matter of life or death for the little alien to get there as quickly as he can. Elliot who has now bonded with his new friend tries as hard as he can to help E.T. get home before its too late--and before Keys and his group get hold of him.
Seeing the young actors on the big screen again especially Thomas and Barrymore and knowing how they've grown up makes the film that much more fun to watch. When the film came out in 1982 Thomas was a true find. His Elliot was full of energy and had a fresh unassuming quality which inspired many young actors after him (i.e. Haley Joel Osment). Interestingly in his adult career Thomas has laid low with subdued roles in such fare as the HBO movie Indictment: The McMartin Trial. Although he is a talented indie actor he has veered away from that excitable little boy we remember. Of course we all know how Ms. Barrymore turned out becoming one of Hollywood's leading actresses--but as Gertie Barrymore was unbelievably adorable with just a hint of how precocious she actually was. The rest of the cast did their jobs just as admirably especially Dee Wallace Stone as Elliot's mom who as a single mom wounded by a divorce still managed to make dinner wipe tears and understand how her son could become attached to an alien.
Why mess with a classic? Well if you're a perfectionist like director Steven Spielberg you want to make the 20th anniversary of one of your most beloved films to be the best that it can be. Honestly when watching the film again it's hard to pinpoint where the changes were made since they blend seamlessly with the rest of the film. Apparently 140 shots were reworked E.T. got a more friendly makeover and a few never-before-seen scenes were added in (like the great scene where E.T. falls into a bathtub of water). True E.T. looks even more lifelike and you can tell the spaceship had a few more bells and whistles on it but it doesn't really matter. The film is a pure gem proving once again what an incredible visionary Spielberg truly is.
Director Steven Spielberg wanted this E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial to be something extra special. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the film's release this Friday will have more than 140 shots reworked, including making the little alien more lifelike and replacing the figurine of Elliot riding his flying bicycle in front of the moon with a real child. Bill George, who supervised the special effects changes for Industrial Light & Magic told The Associated Press, "What worked in 1982 doesn't quite hold up."
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Special that commemorates the 20th anniversary of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," originally released in theaters on June 11, 1982. The film was nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture. The program takes viewers on a retrospective tour behind the making of Steven Spielberg's classic suburban fairy tale.