15 things you (probably) didn’t know about E.T.


Released in 1982, E.T. was a runaway success, surpassing Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film of all time — a record it held for ten years until... Anyone... Anyone... Bueller...

Jurassic Park.

Access the part of your brain that remembers something useless, like Avogadro's Number, you'll never need that, wipe that memory clear and store the above to wow easily-wowed friends with in future. In fact, dump a whole load of memories (holidays, previous pets, credit card PINs) and upload these 15 facts you probably didn't know about E.T.

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(Images: Rex & YouTube)

1. Chances are you don't own E.T. on LaserDisc, right? The 90s release includes deleted scenes, one of which shows Harrison Ford playing Elliott's school principal, disciplining the youngster for acting up in class. Spielberg cut it out from the final film because he feared too much attention would be paid to Ford, rather than what was actually happening. There's a rather bad quality YouTube clip above.


2. E.T.'s spaceship was originally going to be a yawnsome flying saucer-shape, before designer Ralph McQuarrie (Star Wars trilogy, Battlestar Galactica, Cocoon) stepped in with the significantly more memorable bell-shaped spacecraft.


3. Depending on the scene, two dwarves and a 10-year-old boy born with no legs took turns wearing the costume. The boy was adept at walking on his hands and played E.T. in this kitchen scene. A professional mime also played E.T.’s hands.


4. Carlo Rambaldi, E.T.’s creator, based the alien's appearance on the faces of poet Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein and, depending on which story you believe, Ernest Hemingway, a five-day old baby or a pug dog. Sandburg and Einstein (pictured) appear to be universally agreed upon as inspiration, though. Bit harsh.


5. Rambaldi had a Himalayan cat whose eyes inspired E.T.'s goggly peepers and Rambaldi’s own 1952 painting Donne del Delta (Women Of The Delta), which includes a female character with an elongated face and neck, is thought to have prompted the alien's extendable windpipe. Donald Duck is also thought to have been a key influence on E.T.'s rather pronounced derriere (sorry, Don).


6. Rambaldi (pictured) made three E.T. torsos and four heads, waxing $1.5 million of the film’s $10 million budget. One of the heads was capable, electronically, of 35 different facial moves at the forehead, eyes, eyebrows, lips and tongue.


7. The by-now-famous clip above shows the incredible audition that landed Henry Thomas the part of Elliot. To push himself to tears (which, in turn, moved Spielberg to tears) the young lad thought about the day his dog died. You can hear the director hiring Henry on the spot, in the final seconds.


8. It took twelve crew members to operate E.T. and Spielberg said each scene took “an average of three takes per human and 15 takes per E.T.”

Eating and speaking were the most difficult actions for the crew to master with his "phone home" line and the moment he tastes the potato salad causing particular headaches.


9. The doctors and nurses that work on E.T. as he gets ill are all real medical staff. They were told to treat E.T. the same way they would treat a real patient in an ER, so that their dialogue and actions would seem real.


10. Spielberg shot the film in chronological order to invoke a real response from the kids when E.T. leaves Earth right at the end.


11. A 9 page treatment for a sequel, called E.T.: Nocturnal Fears, was penned just days after the original film's release. Spielberg eventually put the kibosh on it saying: "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."


12. In the original script Elliott lured E.T. to the woods with M&M's. Spielberg's people approached the makers of M&M's, Mars Inc., with a deal to use the candy. They rejected it and the movie's producers turned to Hershey's and their Reese's Pieces, a relatively new product.

Hershey's Vice President agreed, despite not being allowed to read the script. He even greenlit a $1 million spend over six weeks concurrent with E.T.'s release, to promote the film in return for being allowed to use E.T., the movie and its trademarked images to promote Reese's Pieces.

Within two weeks of the film's release date, sales of the candy had tripled.


13. A first printing of the moon poster (left) currently fetches in excess of £1,400 in pristine condition, on auction sites.

That's more than you would get for the alternate John Alvin theatrical poster which featured a glowing alien finger touching a boy's finger (bottom right) in homage to Michelangelo's painting of "The Creation of Adam" (top right).


14. An Officer and a Gentleman star Debra Winger provided the voice of E.T. She said: "Steven Spielberg asked me to come in and record a few sentences for this picture he was doing about a cute alien coming to a small home in the suburbs. I went in for like one day, maybe two, to do these recordings. I've never seen the movie, so I don't know what he used. Well, I know about "phone home" and all that, but I never watch anything I'm in. I can't bear it."

She also plays the ghoul, pictured above, wearing a monster mask, lab coat and carrying a poodle. You can see her 1 min and 53 secs into this clip)


15. The movie was a smash hit but the Atari game was less so - some say it was the worst game ever made. It was so badly received that Atari were rumoured to have dumped huge sums of cartridges in landfill deep in the New Mexico desert. The rumour was proved as fact when a documentary about Atari dug them up in April.


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