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Monday, July 08, 2013

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

I'm going to begin this blog entry by revealing three things about myself that I don't believe that I have ever revealed before on this blog.

Three little details that I've kept hidden until now.

But don't worry. These secrets are not major bombshells at all. In fact, I think that they're kind of lame myself. Of course, this is merely my opinion.

Okay, so here's secret #1. I have a weakness for anything that has the delectable combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

I mean it too. One of my favourite ice cream flavour is peanut butter chocolate chip. I used to dip pieces of Hershey bars into a jar of peanut butter. And, you don't even want to lock me inside a storeroom filled with Reese's Peanut Butter cups. I am telling you right now, that would NOT be a wise idea.

I even will readily admit to liking those little orange, brown, and yellow candies known as Reese's Pieces. They're kind of like an M&M, only instead of chocolate, they are filled with peanut butter on the inside.

Mind you, in recent years, I have embarked on an affair with Peanut Butter M&M's...but I still find myself seeking out a package of Reese's Pieces every once in a while. You know, for old times sake.

One secret down, two to go. Here's the second one.

I have always admired Drew Barrymore. Yes, she may have had a rather troubled childhood (being dragged to Hollywood parties by your own mother at an age when girls should be playing with dolls was the main cause, which lead to total emancipation from her mother in 1989), but these days, she's cleaned up her act in a huge way. While there were some movies that didn't do so well at the box office, I think that Drew Barrymore has done some fantastic work over the years. Her role in “Ever After” was critically acclaimed, and was highly praised by filmgoers. I liked her character in “Never Been Kissed” because I could totally identify with her character. I saw a little bit of MYSELF in “Josie Grossie”, and only Drew Barrymore could have done the role justice as Josie turned into a beautiful, yet eccentric swan. And, proving that she is a triple threat in the film industry, adding the titles of director and producer onto her resume.

Yes, Drew Barrymore is definitely the perfect example of taking the hardships that she was given, and transforming them into a rich and rewarding career. And, I feel no shame in admitting that I admire her wholeheartedly.

And, finally, secret #3.

I feel kind of deprived that I never owned a “Speak & Spell”.

The toy that was first introduced in 1978 was an educational one, and was just one of three toys in the initial line (the others being Speak & Read and Speak & Math), and almost every kid in my grade one class either owned a Speak & Spell or knew someone who had.

The only one in my class who didn't have one was myself.

It wasn't really because I needed one. My spelling skills in first grade were quite good, and considering that the toy was designed to teach children how to spell words that were commonly misspelled, it was a bit pointless for me to have one. But I didn't care. I really wanted one because I always did love toys in which you had to push a lot of buttons. Why else would I confess that my favourite childhood toy was my older sister's hand-me-down Merlin toy? And, why else did I become such a hard core video game player during my teenage years?

Okay, so those are my three secrets. My addiction to Reese's Pieces, my admiration towards Drew Barrymore, and how deprived I was as a child that I never received a Speak & Spell.

Hmmm...Reese's Pieces, Drew Barrymore, Speak & Spell. Reese's Pieces, Drew Barrymore, Speak & Spell. Where have I seen all three of those mentioned? What movie had all three of these things?

I think that this movie came out around the summer of 1982. I believe that it was a Spielberg production, and that the star of the film was a wrinkled beige creature with a limited English vocabulary who had an obsession with telephones, and could make something as simple as an ordinary bicycle fly through the sky.

It was a movie in which the main character had a craving for Reese's Pieces. It was a movie that starred Drew Barrymore, who was barely seven years old when the film was shot. And the Speak & Spell? It plays a very important part in the film's conclusion.

And, I already see some of you nodding your heads and smiles curling on your faces, as you know exactly what the movie is.

That movie was the biggest summer blockbuster of 1982, and the largest grossing film of all time until 1993, when “Jurassic Park” dethroned it.

Today's blog topic is “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial”. The film, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and was released on June 11, 1982 starred Henry Thomas as Elliott, Dee Wallace as Elliott's mother, Mary, and Drew Barrymore as Henry's little sister, Gertie.

Other actors to appear in the movie were Peter Coyote, who played a government agent named Keys, and C. Thomas Howell, K.C. Martel, and Sean Frye, who played the three friends of Henry's brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton).

Oh, and there was also the real star of the picture...the lovable alien with a face that only a mother (and a couple of children) could love. E.T., who was voiced by then 67-year-old Pat Welsh, a woman whose voice was very deep and raspy – a side effect from smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

And, the inspiration behind the story of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial came from Spielberg's own childhood.

When he was a young boy, Spielberg's parents divorced, and to fill the void of his father leaving, he invented an imaginary alien friend...someone who could be the father who he felt had left, and the brother that he never had. But it wasn't until 1981 that Spielberg decided to bring his childhood creation to life. After telling screenwriter Melissa Mathison about his childhood memory, including a failed attempt at a film project entitled “Night Skies”, she came back to him eight weeks later with the initial draft for what would become the biggest film of 1982. The draft was revised a couple of more times before the final script was given the greenlight.

And, looking back on my experiences with watching the film (I watched it a lot when I was a kid), I can definitely see similarities between the life of Steven Spielberg and the life of Elliott, a 10-year-old boy who is very lonely following the divorce of his parents. He tries to befriend Michael's friends, but they just make fun of him. Add to the fact that Elliott doesn't seem to have a whole lot of close friends at his own school, and you have a child who is desperate for friendship, but is too afraid to show it.

But then Elliott discovers something strange while he is going out on a pizza run. In the family's tool shed, Elliott hears some noises coming from within. At first, the creature is frightened by Elliott, and runs and hides...but when Elliott returns with a handful of Reese's Pieces, the alien decides that Elliott is good people, and moves right into his bedroom!

The following day, Elliott decides to fake an illness to get out of school for the day so he can play with his brand new friend, but he is forced to let Michael and Gertie in on the secret. The three siblings all agree to keep the alien's existence a secret from their mother, and this leads to some rather...interesting disguises.

There's also something very interesting that happens between Elliott and the alien. Because Elliott and the alien develop some sort of psychic connection between them, everything the alien does, Elliott eventually does too. So, when the alien decides that he has a craving for beer, well...

And, this leads to what is considered to be one of the most iconic scenes of the entire movie.

And, when the alien watches an old movie on television in which the two characters kiss on screen, it actually causes Elliott to make a move on a girl that he has secretly had a crush on.

Ultimately, the whole goal of the film is the idea that Elliott, Michael, and Gertie have to find a way to get their new alien friend back home – leading up to the “E.T. Phone Home” scene that you've seen posted up above. And, by using an old “Speak & Spell”, an old umbrella, tinfoil, and a coffee can, Elliott and E.T manage to find a way to create a communication device designed for the purpose of him contacting his home planet so that he can go back home.

But when the United States government catch wind of the alien's discovery, they begin to do their own investigation, putting Elliott's entire family at risk. But no bond is stronger than that between a human boy and his alien friend. And, by the end of this movie, you will be needing some Kleenex to get through it.

(Well...unless you HATED the film, that is.)

Here's some more behind the scenes trivia for you regarding the making of this film.

1 – It was always Steven Spielberg's intention to have a mostly all-child cast.

2 – Henry Thomas auditioned for the role of Elliott dressed up as Indiana Jones!

3 – Robert MacNaughton reportedly went through eight different auditions before he finally got the part of Michael!

4 – Drew Barrymore ended up winning her role after telling Spielberg a story about how she was the leader of a punk band! Her creative imagination (especially for a six-year-old girl) won her the part.

5 – The part of Henry's crush was played by Erika Eleniak, who later went on to star in the television series “Baywatch” from 1989-1992.

6 – The roles of the doctors in the government laboratory scenes in the film were played by actual doctors. Spielberg believed that the dialogue would be more natural coming from people who actually knew what the terms meant and how they were pronounced.

7 – There's a scene in the movie that was left on the cutting room floor in which Harrison Ford makes a cameo. And, you can watch it below!

8 – Believe it or not, the initial choice of candy that Elliott used to lure E.T. out of hiding was supposed to be M&M's, but they refused to let the product appear in the movie. So, Reese's Pieces were selected instead, and the promotion within the film lead to a 65% increase in sales. I suppose M&M's have since learned their lesson, as they became sponsors for Star Wars and Shrek.

9 – The communicator that was used in the film. Would you believe that it actually WORKED? Of course, the device was constructed by Henry Feinberg, who worked in science and technology!

10 – This was the feature film debut for C. Thomas Howell.

11 – The video cassettes were made from green plastic in an effort to prevent piracy. By 1989, the VHS copy had sold fifteen million units.

12 – When the film was re-released in 2002 for the 20th anniversary, you may notice one major difference. The guns that the men were holding in one pivotal scene were digitally replaced with walkie-talkies! Spielberg reportedly spent over $100,000 to alter the scene.

13 – Debra Winger provided E.T.'s temp voice, and she also appears in the Halloween scene, dressed as a monster! (She's the one carrying the dog).

14 – To simulate the noise of E.T. walking, Foley Artist John Roesch used a wet T-shirt that was stuffed with Jell-O!

15 – Michael Jackson once owned one of the E.T. puppets.

16 – Pat Welsh's salary for her role at the voice of E.T. was $380.

17 – E.T.'s plants were made from an interesting ingredient – fully inflated condoms.

18 – The Neil Diamond song “Heartlight” was reportedly inspired by this film.

19 – Corey Feldman was supposed to appear in E.T., but his part was cut when the script was revised. To make it up to him, Spielberg gave Feldman a part in his next project – 1984's “Gremlins”.

20 – The film was shot entirely in chronological order.

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