In 2002, for the 20th anniversary of the original release of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, a special edition of the film was released with minor changes. Steven Spielberg, who directed the film, said that he regrets making these changes, which were done to make the ’80s classic more attuned to today’s standards. Describing the art of filmmaking as “sacrosanct,” Spielberg says he’ll never make changes like that again.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, popularly referred to as E.T., is a classic science fiction film released in 1982. It tells the story of a young boy named Elliott, who discovers a friendly alien who has become stranded on Earth. The alien, who is later named E.T., forms a strong bond with Elliott and his family and is determined to find a way to return home.
The film is set in suburban California and showcases the wonder and magic of childhood imagination. The special effects used to create the alien and his spaceship were groundbreaking at the time, and the iconic imagery, such as E.T. riding in a milk crate on Elliot’s bike’s handlebars in front of the moon, have become some of the most memorable moments in movie history.
The 2002 release and Spielberg’s big regret
In the scene that is the basis for Spielberg’s regret, Elliot, E.T., and Elliot’s friends are chased by federal agents who have their guns drawn. In the original, Elliot’s mother is actually heard saying: “no guns, they’re only children.” Spielberg decided for the film’s 2002 edition that this scene had to be changed.
In the updated version, instead of guns, the agents carried harmless radios. In reference to this change, Spielberg said, “That was a mistake. I never should have done that. E.T. is a product of its era, and no film should be revised based on the lenses we now are either voluntarily or being forced to peer through.”
He continued, “I should never have messed with the archive of my own work, and I don’t recommend anybody do that. All our movies are kind of a measuring, sort of a signpost, of where we were when we made them, and what the world was like, what the world was receiving when we got those stories out there. So I really regret that.”
Going even further, Spielberg also said, “For me, [art] is sacrosanct. It’s something that is our history, it’s our cultural heritage. I do not believe in censorship that way.” With this in mind, the 30th-anniversary release of E.T. saw the restoration of the scene to how it was in 1982.
Spielberg’s long career
Spielberg’s long film career began with the 1975 thriller Jaws, which became the highest-grossing film of all time at the time of its release. Throughout the ’80s, Spielberg continued to establish himself as one of the most prominent directors of his generation with hit films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and of course, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
In the 1990s, Spielberg branched out into producing while continuing to direct, creating such acclaimed films as Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private Ryan. He continued into the 2000s with films like Catch Me If You Can, Munich, and War Horse. Later expanding his talents into television, he produced the award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers and The Pacific.
Spielberg’s career has been marked by his ability to tell powerful and emotionally resonant stories that often address important social issues. He’s won numerous awards for his work, including three Academy Awards for Best Director and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. He has also been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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