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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

The 80s were sure a great decade for memorable movies. So many iconic films came out in the 80s…ones that we still watch and talk about decades later. This episode of Trivia Rewind is about a Steven Spielberg classic from 1982.  E.T.  I was just 10 years old when this movie came out.  What a magical age to see this film for the first time. I was obviously so touched by the movie that I even had a pet box turtle that I named E.T. which I said stood for Elliot Turtle.

Before E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial became the official title, it was originally called “A Boy’s Life” and then it was called “E.T. and Me”  before finally settling on its official title. 

Recently, I sat down and watched a great documentary called  The Making of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This documentary came out in 1996 and includes rare behind the scenes footage as well as interviews with a lot of the cast and production team.   Steven Spielberg talks about wanting to tell a story about a lonely boy and the divorce of his parents. These were very personal issues to Spielberg.  He said that E.T. was on his mind for 15-20 years. He talks about being in Tunisia directing Raiders of the Lost Ark and one day he had some down time and took a walk in the Tunisian desert. While there, the idea for the E.T. movie really formed in his mind. 

Now he needed someone to write the script.  Harrison Ford, the star of Raiders of the Lost Ark was also in Tunisia along with his girlfriend at the time, screenwriter Melissa Mathison. Steven Spielberg approached Mathison about writing the script for E.T.  and she agreed. Both she and Spielberg collaborated on the script and in just 8 weeks time, she had the first draft written.  In the documentary, Spielberg said that after reading the first draft, it was a script that knocked him out.  He said the script was honest and came from both his and Mathison’s hearts. In the documentary, Spielberg’s co-producer Kathleen Kennedy recalls how Steven said It was the best first draft he ever read.

In the United States, E.T. was released on June 11, 1982 and was number one at the box office. It stayed number one for 6 weeks.  At the time, it set the record for being at number one for 16 weeks in total.  This film broke a lot of records!  The movie was such a hit that when the movie was test-screened at the Cannes Film Festival, it received a 15 minute standing ovation.  Can you imagine!?  

The film has many nominations, awards and honors.  Here are a few. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly called the film the eighth most “tear-jerking” film.  In 2006, It was Ranked #6 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time.  In 2008, it was Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “sci-fi”.

E.T. was nominated for 9 Oscars at the 55th Academy Awards. It won four Academy Awards: Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects. At the 40th Golden Globes, it won for Best Picture in a Drama and it won for Best Score. The list goes on. 

In the episode, I mention young Henry Thomas’ amazing E.T. audition with Steven Spielberg. If you haven’t see this, you must watch it! I also talk about Henry Thomas reprising his role as Elliot in a 4 minute long 2019 Xfinity commercial. E.T. returns 37 years later and sees that Elliot now has a family of his own. In the episode I mention a cool YouTube video that compares the original 1982 release and the 2002 release. It’s fun to watch a side by side comparison of the two versions. I really think you’ll enjoy taking a deeper look with these links.

I hope you enjoy this episode!

Below, you will find the transcript for this episode. You can listen to Trivia Rewind on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Please tell a friend, leave a positive review and 5 star rating if you like Trivia Rewind. Thank you for listening and supporting Trivia Rewind! 

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Here is the transcript. Spoiler alert! Unless you’ve already listened to the episode, don’t look below because you’ll find the answers.

Trivia Rewind Episode 30 –  E.T.  the Extra-Terrestrial

[00:00:00] Trivia rewind. 

[00:00:05] Debi Jenkins: [00:00:05] Hey there, this is Debi Jenkins, the host of Trivia Rewind. In this episode, I’ll be talking about a Steven Spielberg classic from 1982, E.T.  I was just 10 years old when this movie came out. I even had a pet turtle that I named E.T. which I said stood for Elliott Turtle. It wasn’t only eighties kids that loved E.T.

[00:00:27] The movie still has a following today. Before E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial became the official title it was originally called A Boy’s Life and then it was called E.T. and Me before finally settling on its official title. Recently, I sat down and watched a great documentary called The Making of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  This documentary came out in 1996 and includes rare behind the scenes footage as well as interviews with a [00:01:00] lot of the cast and production team. Steven Spielberg talks about wanting to tell a story about a lonely boy and the divorce of his parents. These were very personal issues to Spielberg. He said that E.T. was on his mind for 15 to 20 years.

[00:01:16] He talks about being in Tunisia, directing Raiders of the Lost Ark and one day he had some downtime and took a walk in the Tunisian desert. While there the idea for the E.T. movie really formed in his mind. Now he needed someone to write the script. Harrison Ford, the star of Raiders of the Lost Ark was also in Tunisia along with his girlfriend at the time, screenwriter Melissa Mathison. Steven Spielberg approached Mathison about writing the script for E.T., and she agreed. Both she and Spielberg collaborated on the script and in just eight weeks time, she had the first draft written. In the documentary, Spielberg said that [00:02:00] after reading the first draft, it was a script that knocked him out.  He said the script was honest and came from both his and Mathison’s hearts. In the documentary Spielberg’s co-producer Kathleen Kennedy recalls how Steven said it was the best first draft he had ever read. 

[00:02:20] In the United States, E.T. was released on June 11th, 1982, and was number one at the box office. It stayed number one for six weeks. At the time it set the record for being at number one for 16 weeks in total. This film broke a lot of records. The movie was such a hit that when the movie was test screened at the Cannes Film Festival, it received a 15 minute standing ovation. Can you even imagine? The film has many nominations, awards and honors. Here are just a few. In 2003 [00:03:00] Entertainment Weekly called the film the 8th most tear-jerking film. In 2006, it was ranked #6 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies Of All Time. In 2008, it was ranked #3 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 Greatest Films in the Genre Sci-Fi.  E.T. was nominated for nine Oscars at the 55th Academy Awards. It won four Academy Awards: Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects. At the 40th Golden Globes, it won for Best Picture in a Drama and it won for Best Score. The list goes on. 

[00:03:47] So now that I’ve talked a little bit about this endearing film, Let’s talk trivia and fun facts. In this episode of Trivia Rewind, I’ll ask you 10 questions about the movie. Then I’ll go [00:04:00] back and give you the answers and some fun facts. Are you ready? 

[00:04:05] Here’s question one. At the beginning of the film what game are the kids playing around the kitchen table that they won’t let Elliott join in on?

[00:04:18] Question two. At the beginning of the movie, what were the aliens coming to the Earth to get specimens of?

[00:04:28] Question three. What is the name of Elliott’s sister?

[00:04:34] Question four. When Elliott introduces E.T. to some of the things in his bedroom, what toy does E.T. try to eat? 

[00:04:46] Question five. When everyone thinks E.T. is dead how does Elliott know he’s really alive? 

[00:04:55] Question six. What does E.T. dress up as on [00:05:00] Halloween? 

[00:05:02] Question seven. Why did Elliott’s science teacher send him to the principal’s office? 

[00:05:10] Question eight. When Elliott is about to introduce E.T. to his brother what does he make his brother take off so it won’t scare E.T.? 

[00:05:21] Question nine. What popular electronic toy does E.T. use as part of his device he makes to phone home?

[00:05:31] And question 10. At the end of the movie, as E.T. is about to leave, what is the last thing he says to Elliott? 

[00:05:41] Those were our 10 questions. Let’s go back and get the answers and fun facts. Question one. At the beginning of the film, what game are the kids playing around the kitchen table that they won’t let Elliott join in on?  They were playing Dungeons and Dragons. [00:06:00] Actor Henry Thomas plays Elliott. In the documentary Steven Spielberg said he had a hard time finding the right person to play Elliott. About four to five weeks out from shooting the film Henry Thomas was recommended to Steven Spielberg. Henry, hadn’t read the script and only knew a little bit about the movie when he auditioned for the role.  

[00:06:21] In the documentary  Henry Thomas talks about the improvisation he did during the audition. It’s an unforgettable audition and I will post a link to it on triviarewind.com in case you have never seen it. It’s so amazing to see young Henry Thomas audition for this film. At the end of the audition, you can hear Steven Spielberg say, “okay, kid. You got the job.” Later, Thomas said that he thought of his dead dog for inspiration. Everyone inside the room was in tears after his emotional audition. Many of the memorable scenes with Elliott and E.T. were done in one take. Steven Spielberg filmed E.T. in [00:07:00] chronological order. That’s not the way movies are always filmed. In E.T. this was mainly done because of the child actors. Filming it out of order would be hard to get the kids to show the right kinds of emotions if they weren’t invested in the story from the beginning. 

[00:07:15] Playing Elliott in E.T. was a breakout role for Henry Thomas. Prior to E.T. he only had one other credited role. A People Magazine article from 1992, mentions that Henry Thomas’ mom said they set up a trust for him and gave him $5 a week for her allowance. Nowadays, you can find Henry Thomas in a variety of productions one of which is The Haunting of Hill House, a Netflix drama series, which in 2019 he won a Saturn Award for Best Actor in a Streaming Presentation. In a 2012 article with The Mirror, Thomas admits that his new found fame wasn’t always a plus. The article quotes him as saying,  [00:08:00] “My world went completely crazy. I was that stupid kind of famous where you can’t go anywhere. It was like that for the first six months after E.T. was in cinemas. I’d go out and get mobbed. I was a shy kid and being approached by adults all the time just freaked me out. I was like a circus freak. But the only time I had to deal with it was when I left the house. So I stopped leaving the house. I became an 11 year old hermit.”  In 2005 Henry Thomas ranked #4 in E’s 50 Cutest Child Stars All Grown Up and in 2013, he was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame. In 2019 Henry Thomas reprised his role as Elliott in an Xfinity commercial. In the commercial Elliott is all grown up now and has his own family.  I’ll post a link to the four minute commercial on triviarewind.com. 

[00:09:00] [00:09:00] Question two. At the beginning of the movie, what were the aliens coming to the earth to get specimens of? They were coming to get plant specimens. Government agents show up and when the aliens quickly take off, they leave one alien behind and there starts our movie. In the documentary, Steven Spielberg said that he wanted E.T. to only be three feet tall. Originally Spielberg didn’t want someone to be in an alien suit to play E.T., but producer Kathleen Kennedy convinced him that for some scenes it would work. In order to finish off their model they found someone to make glass eyes to really make E.T. look real. Three different people put on the E.T. suit for the movie.

[00:09:47] Spielberg didn’t like the jerky hand movements of the electronic E.T. model so he hired Caprice Roth, who is credited as the E.T. Movement Coordinator. He wanted someone that could do mime type of [00:10:00] work. Spielberg really thought this brought E.T. to life. In one scene when E.T. puts his hand on Elliott’s shoulder, you can see that E.T.’s hand is a little shaky. Spielberg said that Caprice Roth had coffee that morning and that caused her hand to shake a little.

[00:10:17] Question three. What is the name of Elliott’s sister? Her name is Gertie and she is played by actress Drew Barrymore. This was her breakout role and had only been credited in one movie prior to being in E.T.  In 1982,  she won the Young Artist Award for Best Young Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture. In the documentary, Steven Spielberg said Drew Barrymore was the first choice for this role. She had previously tried out for a role in Poltergeist but Spielberg didn’t think the role was right for her. In the documentary  Spielberg says that nobody else was even considered for the role of Gertie. In the [00:11:00] movie when she looks at E.T.’s feet, she improvises the line,  “I don’t like his feet.” Spielberg wanted to let the kids be kids and say things that might not be in the script. This often worked to his advantage. Near the end of the movie when Elliott is sick, Gertie cries and in the documentary Drew Barrymore says they were genuine tears and that she had never had tears so readily available. 

[00:11:27] Question four. When Elliott introduces E.T. to some of the things in his bedroom, what toy does E.T. try to eat?  E.T. tries to eat a metal matchbox type of car. 

[00:11:41] The person that did the voice of E.T. was Pat Welsh. The story of how she got the job is pretty cool. She was at a photo store and the person in line behind her was the movie’s voice designer, Ben Burtt. He heard Pat talking and then once outside talked with her about doing the [00:12:00] voice role for E.T. According to a People Magazine article, she was just a housewife at the time. It’s been reported that she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and that gave her the voice they were looking for. In the People Magazine article it says it only took a nine and a half hours for her to complete the voice work and she was paid $380. 

[00:12:23] Ben Burtt, E.T.’s voice designer changed her voice by lowering it just a little bit. He then mixed her voice with the sound of a breathing animal to give it the non-human alien sound. He said that there were actually 18 different contributors to the voice of E.T. A lot went into giving us E.T.’s voice. While filming the movie, actress Debra Winger and Steven Spielberg both provided the voice in the first cut so that the actors could hear E.T.’s dialogue. Spielberg didn’t want to use Debra Winger’s voice as the voice for E.T. in the film because he didn’t want a [00:13:00] recognizable voice to voice the part. 

[00:13:03] Question five. When everyone thinks E.T. is dead, how does Elliott know he’s really alive? As Elliott watches, dead flowers come back to life and bloom. That’s how Elliott knows that E.T. really is alive.

[00:13:21] So much about the making of E.T. can be learned in the documentary. Two things that Steven Spielberg says he regrets about the movie is that a gun was used to threaten the children when riding on the bicycles to get away. And he regrets that the guys running to the empty van had guns in their hands. He said he regrets using any guns in the movie. When he re-released the movie in 2002, Spielberg replaced the guns digitally and gave them walkie talkies instead. In his next re-release in 2011, he went back to the original version. I found a cool video [00:14:00] on YouTube that puts the original version next to the 2002 version so you can see all the differences. I’ll post a link to this video on triviarewind.com. It’s kind of fun to watch. 

[00:14:12] Question six. What does E.T. dress up as on Halloween? The kids put a sheet on E.T. and dress him up as a ghost. In this scene Steven Spielberg has someone dress up as Yoda as one of the trick-or-treaters that the kids and E.T. pass when walking down the street. When E.T. sees the Yoda character, it’s like he recognizes him and he starts saying “home home.”  Maybe they’re from the same planet!  In the documentary George Lucas talks about seeing the Yoda character and how everyone in the screening audience cheered. He was flattered that Spielberg included his character in E.T.  You may even hear some familiar music in this scene. The award-winning composer John Williams not [00:15:00] only did the score for E.T. he did it for the Star Wars movies as well. 

[00:15:06] Question seven. Why did Elliott’s science teacher send him to the principal’s office? Elliott created quite a scene in his classroom. As his class was about to dissect frogs, Elliott let his frog go and opened the jars that belong to several of his classmates and lets their frogs go toto. This prompted the other students to release their frogs. Then to top it off Elliott kisses a girl in the class. The teacher grabs him by the collar and walks him off to the principal’s office. In the documentary Steven Spielberg said that when he was a kid, he let frogs go in his science class and never got caught. Spielberg discusses this scene in the movie and how Henry Thomas did not want to do the scene where he kissed the girl. He joked that Henry Thomas was [00:16:00] willing to give up his entire movie career over this one scene. In the documentary Henry Thomas said that when he read the script and saw the part about kissing a girl, he thought, no way I have to do this? 

[00:16:13] One scene that was cut out of the movie was a scene when you actually see Elliott in the principal’s office. The actor that played the school principal was Harrison Ford. You can see this cut scene in the documentary. In this unseen footage, as well as other footage you see in the movie, rarely are the adult’s face shown. Steven Spielberg did this intentionally. Really the only adult’s face you see is Elliott’s mom’s face until you get towards the end of the movie. And if you feel like this movie is shot from a low angle, that’s because Steven Spielberg wanted it at the eye level of a child.

[00:16:52] Question eight. When Elliott is about to introduce E.T. to his brother, what does he make his brother take off [00:17:00] so it won’t scare E.T.? He makes his brother take off his football shoulder pads. Robert McNaughton plays Michael, the older brother to both Gertie and Elliott. Spielberg called Robert McNaughton the anchor of the kids. He had the most experience of all the child actors on set. In 1983 he won a Young Artist Award in the Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture category. Remember that scene where E.T. is in the closet and hiding amongst all the stuffed animals? The idea for that scene came from filmmaker  Robert Zemeckis.

[00:17:39] Question nine. What popular electronic toy does E.T. use as part of his device he makes to phone home? That toy was a Speak and Spell. The electronic toy Speak and Spell was created by Texas Instruments and debuted in 1978 at the [00:18:00] Consumer Electronic Show. A 1978 model was used in the movie. Do you remember any of the other items that E.T. used along with a Speak and Spell to try and phone home?  Some of those items were a hanger, a record player, a coffee can, a saw blade and lots of wires. 

[00:18:22] Question 10. At the end of the movie, as E.T. is about to leave, what is the last thing he says to Elliott? He says, “I’ll be right here.” In the documentary, Steven Spielberg said this particular E.T. was his favorite. He said this E.T. was operated by wires. Did you know that there was an alternate ending to E.T.? In that ending, it showed the boys back in the house playing Dungeons and Dragons and this time Elliott gets to play  and is the dungeon master. The emotional ending we see [00:19:00] now won in the end and I can see why. It’s a great way to end the movie and it really tugs at your heart. 

[00:19:07] E.T. was a hit even as far as the White House. Steven Spielberg gave president Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan a personal screening of E.T. in June of 1982. A 1982 issue of People Magazine talks about the movie and quotes Spielberg as saying, “Nancy Reagan was crying toward the end”  he reports “And the president looked like a ten-year-old kid.” In the documentary, the topic of a sequel was discussed. The producers decided never to do a sequel. Steven Spielberg said it would shame the memory of E.T. if they tried.  To see the documentary about the making of E.T., visit triviarewind.com.  I’ll post the link to where you can watch it for free.

[00:19:56] Well, that’s it for this week’s episode.  I hope you learned [00:20:00] something new about this great film. Please subscribe to Trivia Rewind and leave a positive review wherever you listen to podcasts. Visit us on Twitter and Instagram and you can visit us at triviarewind.com. Thanks for listening. And I’ll be back next week for more Trivia Rewind. .

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