It’s hard for me to pick a favourite genre of book, almost as hard as it would be to pick a favourite child (I know that picking a favourite child probably packs more emotional punch but books are serious business around here), but I think that eventually Science Fiction would win out and any book featuring an alien would reign supreme. I can lay the blame for my love of stories with an otherworldly being solidly at the feet of Stephen Spielberg and the ground-breaking film he co-produced and directed in 1982. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial hit the screen in June of that year and that little creature with a heart that filled his entire chest changed the world. For 35 years it has remained a movie you can rely on to fill you with hope and satisfaction every time you watch it.
Here at WPL, we have the 20th anniversary edition of the film which includes a reunion of the cast among the exciting special features. Along with Steven Spielberg they have Henry Thomas (Elliott), Dee Wallace (Mary), Robert McNaughton (Michael), Drew Barrymore (Gertie) and Peter Coyote (known as ‘Keys’ because of the sound that his keys made as he walked through the forest) in interviews alone and with each other. The cast for this film was fairly small and that helped to create a feeling of intimacy around E.T. and his short time on Earth. In interviews, Spielberg has said that so much of the inspiration for this story came from his own childhood. He keeps the camera angles very low and the main dialogue is between Elliott, Michael and their friends so it plays out just like you are among a conversation with the kids. I love when Elliott first introduces E.T. to all of the Star Wars toys on his desk like that is just naturally one of the first things you would want to tell a being from another planet – “here is Lando Calrissian and here is Greedo” – not anything about how Earth works, just toys. Mary, their mother, is the classic afterthought of a parent who seems to get in the way of their good times together. We also have a wonderful commemorative book from the 20th anniversary which includes the complete screenplay so you can relive the hilarious dialogue between the three siblings. When you check out one of our copies of this DVD – I know that you will – you should watch these reunion interviews and see the love that these actors have for each other years after this iconic film was made and marvel at the incredible talents that made the story come alive.
And what a story! I cry every time I watch it even though I know what will happen. I occasionally watch E.T. deliberately so that I can have a really good cathartic cry. I know what is going to happen, I could practically act it out if such a performance was required, but seeing those moments of heartache and joy on screen get me every time. There is magic on that screen between the little extraterrestrial and the children as they experience their adventure – from the first moments when Elliott leaves the little trail of Reese’s pieces to the last seconds of John Williams outstanding score – it’s just perfection. I’m not the only person who feels this way about E. T., you know. It was a worldwide lovefest for E.T, and the movie brought in over $11.8 million dollars on the first weekend – that was way back in 1982! When the 20th anniversary film was released the movie had made over $700 million. Reviewers loved it, it received many award nominations, and won 4 Oscars including one for John Williams, and they made endless spinoff toys and gadgets. I still have my original plush E.T. and a complete set of trading cards.
With this being the 35th anniversary of the film, there are film screenings being held at theatres and there are special edition DVD sets available to purchase but it really all comes down to the story of a peaceful alien who is left behind and the friendship he develops with the boy who saves him. Elliott doesn’t think twice before he starts to put a plan in motion to help his new friend and the other kids drop everything that they are doing so that they can do the same. They derail the government’s plans every step of the way and outrun them on BMX bikes (which has got to be one the most exciting chase scenes in movie history) and end up flying across the night sky. The idea that E.T. or any other extraterrestrial being might come to Earth has always been fascinating to filmmakers and authors, and Speilberg’s is just one of many stories about aliens that we have here on the shelves at WPL. These stories open up a whole new world of possibilities, a chance to welcome new friends, share candy, and maybe look at Star Wars figures together. E.T. is 35 years old this year and I look forward to watching for at least another 35.