Henry Thomas (11 years old at the time) in the famous scene where the bicycle, being chased by the police, decides to take flight… Photo
One of Steven Spielberg’s most beloved films turns 40. It was December 7, 1982 when ET the extra-terrestrial it was released in Italian theaters thrilling children and entire families. It was the feature film that marked the childhood of a generation. It’s been four decades and ET it still has the same effect, it doesn’t age, despite the fact that technology is advanced and digital special effects have taken over those of a handmade nature.
The official trailer of ET the extraterrestrial
That funny alien, with gigantic eyes created by our Carlo Rambaldi (protagonist of an exhibition in Milan that we tell you about in the gallery below), has not only made the heart of the young protagonist Elliott beat faster. But also those of millions of children and parents who came out of the cinemas with tears. Here are some curiosities about one of Steven Spielberg’s most touching films which was nominated for 9 Academy Awards (it won 4). Presented at the Cannes Film Festival, it was released in the USA in June 1982, becoming the highest-grossing ever (it remained so for 10 years, when it was surpassed by Jurassic Park).
The documentary on Arte, the special box set and the exhibition in Milan
If you want to “celebrate”, ET – Spielberg’s intimate blockbuster and the documentary available on the Arte channel, in Italian. We can see it in streaming from December 9, 2022, free of charge and with subtitles, as well as on the site arte.tv/it or on ARTE apps for smart TV, Fire TV, Apple TV and mobile devices.
Also available is a brand new home video release, Blu-ray and 4k Ultra HD, from Universal Pictures HE. This anniversary release contains over 45 minutes of unreleased special content!
In Milan it is then open until 29 January ET The exhibition 1982-2022. Organized by Cineteca Milano, it can be visited at the MIC – Interactive Museum of Cinema.
1982 is also the year of Poltergeist, written and produced by Spielberg himself for Columbia Pictures. The director also presented the project to the studios ET the extra-terrestrial which was rejected and labeled as “a silly Disney film”. Steven Spielberg proposed it to Universal who approved it and released it in theaters.
The genius of Carlo Rambaldi and the mix of inspirations
The director of The shark entrusted the creation of the extra-terrestrial to our Carlo Rambaldi (1925-2012) who had just won the Oscar for the special effects of Aliens and with whom he had already collaborated in 1977 a Close encounters of the third kind. Our cinema craftsman started from one of his paintings which depicted a old man with wrinkled skin, to this he joined the muzzle of a pug and portraits of Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway. She added a long neck and a small body at the height of a child to the head, just like the protagonists of the films. ET was meant to be ugly, but not scary. Rambaldi won his second Oscar for special effects.
Spielberg and Henry Thomas on set. PhotoUniversal
How young Elliott was chosen and what happened to Henry Thomas
The most touching scenes in the film are when the bad guys, in this case the US government, steal the alien from Elliott and when the two say goodbye. To interpret the young protagonist is Henry Thomas, chosen by Steven Spielberg between 300 applicants to the role. The eleven-year-old had the upper hand because, it is said, during the audition she improvised the tear-jerking scene, managing to really cry. He succeeded by thinking about when his dog died three years earlier.
Henry was from San Antonio, Texas. After shooting the movie (and a famous Intellivision commercial) he returned to his hometown. Also a musician, he then returned from time to time to Hollywood (Misunderstood, 1984). After graduating, however, he concentrated on his artistic career. Among his films as an adult, Vento di passioni, Valmont, Gangs of New York. On tv, he is in the cast of Stargirl.
Drew Barrymore is also in the cast
The first to be cast was little Drew Barrymore, who was rejected instead for Poltergeist. She was preferred to Juliette Lewis and Sarah Michelle Gellar. At the time, the actress was 6 years old. For maximum credibility, Spielberg told the children that the ET puppet was a real alien.
Drew Barrymore (Gertie, Elliot’s little sister) and ET The actress was 7 years old at the time.
The scene of the bike flight and the Moon
The scene in which the children beat the police with their BMX bikes and fly thanks to the power of ET has entered history. That image with Elliott and his alien friend silhouetted on the moon, while John Williams’ music is pressing, is an homage to the 1951 film finale Miracle in Milan by Vittorio De Sica, loved by Spielberg (below the video). But there is also a pinch of The Adventures of Peter Pan of 1953.
Harrison Ford’s cut cameo
The director had also called Harrison Ford who had already directed ne Raiders of the Lost Ark. He was supposed to play Elliott’s principal, but Spielberg decided to cut the scene so as not to distract the audience from the story. Probably because Ford was already known thanks to the roles of Indiana Jones and Han Solo in Star Wars. The actor can be recognized by his voice, but his face is never shown. It was Ford himself who convinced his partner and screenwriter Melissa Mathison to write the screenplay for ET the extra-terrestrial. After she had already said no to Spielberg.
ET’s voice is that of an elderly smoker (and Steven Spielberg)
To lend the voice to ET was Pat Welsh, an elderly and heavy smoker, hired for only 380 dollars. During filming, however, it was Spielberg himself who gave the voice to the sweetest alien in cinema by standing to the side of the camera and saying famous phrases such as “ET phone home”.
ET the extra-terrestrial 2: title and plot
The film’s success prompted Spielberg and Mathison to write a new story for a sequel to be titled ET II: Nocturnal Fears. The story was to take place in the summer following the events told in the first chapter. Elliott and his friends are kidnapped by a mutated race of ETs and led by an evil entity named Korel. ET would save the kids and bring them back to Earth. It was never filmed.
ET the Extra-Terrestrial: The Book
The novel was published in 1985 ET The book of the green planetand (Sperling&Kupfer). Author, William Kotzwinkle: writer and screenwriter, he signed about forty books, both for adults and children.