10 THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT E.T.
Ahead of tonight’s screening at the Festival Theatre accompanied by John Williams’ iconic score performed live by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Kyra Gaunt reveals 10 things you might not know about E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.
1. The film was initially conceived as Night Skies – a sci-fi horror film that Spielberg started working on in the late 1970s about a family being terrorised by aliens in their home. Spielberg decided against this idea and instead used the horror aspects for Poltergeist, and used a family-friendly twist on the alien element for E.T. Alternative titles for E.T. at various stages of production were A Boy's Life, E.T. and Me, and E.T. - His Adventure on Earth.
2. It took 5000 hours for the construction of E.T. to be completed. Four separate heads were created for filming – one as the main animatronic and the remaining three for expressions – while multiple alterations were made to E.T.’s body shape throughout the process. Real people were required to wear costumes for scenes where E.T. is walking, as this was too difficult to do using puppets.
3. The film’s producer Kathleen Kennedy visited the Jules Stein Eye Institute to study real and glass eyes in an attempt to create a lifelike look for E.T., as the film’s team felt that the eyes were especially important to engage the audience. Spielberg said he wanted “something of a cross between the eyes of Einstein, Sandburg and Hemingway”.
4. Spielberg cried reading the film’s screenplay. The film’s production staff loved screenwriter Melissa Mathison’s script so much that they ended up using her first draft as the actual shooting script.
5. The film was shot in chronological order, as Spielberg wanted to ensure the most convincing performances from the cast and allow the young actors to bond with E.T.
6. Some of the plants in E.T.’s spaceship were created in unconventional ways. In order to create large blossoms on one of the giant trees, a number of condoms were inflated and had molten polyfoam poured over them. Once the "blossoms" had cooled, the condoms were deflated, leaving a perfect alien flower. However, special effects team member Robert Short said, “The only problem was occasionally one of the condoms would pop while the material was still wet. Then there'd be foam over us, the walls, everything. We got to the point where we'd just tape the condoms to the ground, pour the stuff - and run."
7. Spielberg initially approached Mars to ask for permission to use M&Ms as E.T’s favourite candy. Mars turned him down, so the team at rival company Hershey suggested he use their newly launched product Reese’s Pieces. The film’s product placement reportedly resulted in a sales increase of 65%.
8. A number of different sounds and actors were used to make up E.T.’s voice. The main voice actor was Pat Welsh, an elderly woman and heavy smoker with a gravelly voice, but 16 other people and animals were also recorded, including Spielberg himself, Debra Winger, friends and partners of people on-set, a raccoon, a sea otter, and someone burping…
9. Spielberg cast real doctors and nurses for the scene where they are trying to save E.T. Doctor Alex Lampone worked on the scene and said of the director, "He wanted the organized chaos that cardiac arrests tend to stimulate, where everyone is jumping in because a lot of things must be done simultaneously."
10. E.T.’s communicator functioned in real life. Science and technology interpreter Henry Feinberg was approached to design a device for the film that would actually work. A coat hanger, tin can, umbrella, and record player were just some of the parts used to make it possible for E.T. to “phone home”.