Most of the full-body puppetry was performed by a 2'10" tall stuntman, but the scenes in the kitchen were done using a 12-year-old boy who was born without legs but was an expert on walking on his hands.
The end of the film was one of the most significant musical experiences for composer John Williams. After several attempts were made to match the score to the film, Steven Spielberg took the film off the screen and encouraged Williams to conduct the orchestra the way he would at a concert. He did, and Spielberg slightly re-edited the film to match the music, which is unusual since normally the music would be edited to match the film. The result was Williams winning the 1982 Academy Award for Best Original Score.
He recreated this at his last appearance with the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 2013 conducting the orchestra live while the last reel was shown on the jumbotrons.
The Halloween scene, where E.T. sees a child in a Yoda costume and seems to recognize him, suggests that they are from the same galaxy. In Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), in the galactic senate scene where all the senators are on their feet shouting, you can see E.T. species among the senate pods in the lower right corner.
At one point during filming, Drew Barrymore was consistently forgetting her lines, annoying Steven Spielberg to the point where he actually yelled at her. He later found out that she had reported to work with a very high fever. Feeling guilty, he hugged her and apologized repeatedly as she cried and cried. He then sent her home - with a note from her director.
At one point, Gertie looks down at E.T. and says, "I don't like his feet." This was ad-libbed by Drew Barrymore and was actually her referring to the grouping of wires coming out of the E.T. puppet. She also ad-libbed the line, "Give me a break!" after Elliott tells her only little kids can see E.T.
The doctors and nurses who work on E.T. are all real emergency room technicians. They were told to treat E.T. the same way they would treat a real patient, so that their dialogue and actions would seem real.
The filmmakers had requested that M&Ms be used to lure E.T., but The Mars company denied their request, fearing that E.T. was so ugly, he would frighten children. Reese's Pieces were used instead, and as a direct result, Reese's Pieces sales skyrocketed. Because of this, more and more companies began requesting that their products be used in movies - a common practice which was done previously with the James Bond film franchise (the end credits of a Bond film prior to 1982 listed contributing companies with their product used in a feature film). Contrary to popular belief, this was not the birth of product placement. This had been done before in Superman (1978) when a young Clark Kent gets up one morning and there is a box of Cheerios on the table next to his bed. Product Love at First Bite (1979) [37:48], a can of Tab cola would be shown on a shelf.E.T.'s novelization still referred to the candies as M&Ms as opposed to Reese's Pieces.
This script was being developed at Columbia at the same time as another script about an alien visitation. The studio did not want to make both, so the head of the studio had to choose which film to make; he decided to let E.T. go and make Starman (1984). E.T. was then made by Universal Pictures.
Steven Spielberg worked simultaneously on both this film and Poltergeist (1982) in 1982 (which was directed by Tobe Hooper but produced by Spielberg), and both were made to complement each other. "E.T." represented suburban dreams, and "Poltergeist" represented suburban nightmares.
E.T.'s voice was provided by Pat Welsh, an elderly woman who lived in Marin County, California. Welsh smoked two packets of cigarettes a day, which gave her voice a quality that sound effects creator Ben Burtt liked. She spent nine-and-a-half hours recording her part, and was paid $380 by Burtt for her services. Burtt also recorded 16 other people and various animals to create E.T.'s "voice." These included Spielberg; Debra Winger; Burtt's sleeping wife, who had a cold; a burp from his USC film professor; as well as raccoons, sea otters, and horses.
The highest grossing film of 1982. It became the most successful movie in film history until Steven Spielberg beat that record with Jurassic Park (1993), released on the same date 11 years later, June 11. In a strange coincidence, the next film to snatch that title was Titanic (1997), only for James Cameron to also outdistance himself with Avatar (2009).
Richard Attenborough later said that he felt bad that his own film, Gandhi (1982), beat this film to the Best Picture Academy Award because he considered his friend Steven Spielberg's film more deserving of the award and was convinced before the ceremony that it would win. Attenborough described E.T. as "a quite extraordinary piece of cinema".
It's never mentioned where exactly Elliott and his family live, but based on the license plates and the spot Elliott points to on the map when he's showing it to E.T., it appears to be somewhere in northeastern California, near Lake Tahoe.
Though many have suggested that the film contains elements of Christian allegory, director Steven Spielberg says any parallels are strictly coincidental. Furthermore, Spielberg adds that if he ever made a Christian allegory, his mother, a devout Jew, would probably never forgive him.
Steven Spielberg is said to have gotten the idea for the film from the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) when the aliens show up. Spielberg wondered what would happen if one of those aliens was stuck on Earth. Some fans think E.T. bears a resemblance to those aliens, and even the spaceships from the two films are cited for their visual similarities.
The young actors, Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton, found the E.T. puppet's eyes too far apart to comfortably look E.T. in the eye when they had to act with it. The actors solved the problem themselves by selecting a single eye to look at for every scene.
John Sayles wrote a semi-sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) called 'Night Skies', about a group of hostile aliens that come to Earth and lay siege to an isolated farmhouse where a terrified family has barricaded itself inside. Spielberg decided not to go ahead with the rather dark project, but a subplot about the relationship between the lone good alien and an autistic boy inspired him to redevelop the concept as 'E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial". Interestingly, the idea of a family barricading itself in a farmhouse against hostile aliens bears a striking resemblance to Signs (2002), whose producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are frequent Spielberg collaborators (Kennedy also co-produced E.T.).
Steven Spielberg reportedly spent $100,000 on the 20th Anniversary re-release of the movie in 2002. The new version, released theatrically and on DVD, contained some additional scenes, small CGI enhancements of the E.T. puppet, and in the scene where Elliot and his friends escape from the FBI, the rifles held by the federal agents were digitally replaced with walkie-talkies. Spielberg stated that he always regretted using this scene in the first place, and that he would remove it if he ever re-issued the film. However, in 2011, he changed his mind again, stating that there would be no more digital alterations of his movies, and urging people to watch E.T. in its original, unaltered 1982 version. The Blu-Ray and UHD editions that were later released contain only the original theatrical version, and the 20th anniversary DVD version has since gone out of circulation.
E.T. provided the inspiration for Neil Diamond's song "Heartlight" but no mention is ever made of the movie in the lyrics. The songwriters paid the studio a nominal sum for use of ideas from the movie.
Elvis Costello was asked by Q music magazine March 2008 if he was paid handsomely for the use of 'Accidents Will Happen' of which two lines were sung by Michael (Robert MacNaughton) when he is looking in the fridge. He replied: "No, I don't think they offered any money. We had no way of knowing it was going to be so huge so there was the chance we'd given it for nothing and they'd use it for some big production number. Haha! But you really have to be paying attention to notice."
According to an interview with Robert MacNaughton (Michael) on Yahoo Movies, MacNaughton explained that the original ending involved a game of Dungeons & Dragons: "The last scene in the movie wasn't supposed to be the scene that ends up in the movie. The last scene was going to be all of us playing Dungeons and Dragons again, except this time, Elliott's the dungeon master. Because he was the one that found ET, he sort of got in with the group. And so that was supposed to be the final scene, it was in the script and everything, and then they would pan up to the roof and you'd see the communicator and it's still working --- in other words, Elliott is still in touch with E.T.. But after they did the score, the music, and they saw what they had with the spaceship taking off and everything [laughs] --- how can you follow that? I mean, it was a wise choice."
In mid 2009, the home featured in the film, located in the Tujunga Canyon, was saved from immolation in the treacherous Station Fire. The owner of the residence said the scorched hill behind the house "looks like the surface of the moon," but that the structure itself incurred no damage in the wildfire, which up to that time had burned over 127,000 acres and claimed 62 homes.
Steven Spielberg asked Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones to contribute a song for the E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Story Book Album. Spielberg was so pleased with their song "Someone in the Dark" that he asked them to make the entire album, which, in spite of the size of the task, they agreed to do. This boxed set included an LP, a book to read along with it and a poster of E.T. and Jackson. Epic Records allowed Jackson to record the album for MCA Records on the conditions that it not be released until after Christmas of 1982 so as to not compete with 'Thriller' and that "Someone in the Dark" not be released as a single. Both of the conditions were breached by MCA Records; they released the storybook in November 1982 and gave promo copies of "Someone In the Dark" to radio stations. MCA Records were forced to withdraw the album and were prohibited from releasing "Someone In the Dark" as a single after court action was taken by Epic against them in a $2 million lawsuit, which MCA settled by paying Epic chief Walter Yetnikoff $500,000. Jones claims neither he nor Jackson received a dime for making the record, in spite of the large cash settlement involved and its considerable success: The audio book earned Jackson a Grammy Award in 1984 for Best Recording for Children. Upon collecting the award, and taking home a record eight Grammys from an unprecedented twelve nominations, the singer stated that of all the awards had gotten that night, he was "most proud of this one".
According to Steven Spielberg, none of the children were acting. They had to act through the movie in a chronological order and never saw the E.T. costume without an actor inside (let alone the actor without the costume). When the ending was filmed, they had actually befriended the alien and now had to say goodbye forever. Their heartbreak was real.
Secrecy was so tight during production that even the poster designers didn't know what E.T. looked like when they were creating the iconic first poster of a human and an alien hand touching. They only had Steven Spielberg's notes to go on.
Steven Spielberg originally intended on a sequel, writing a proposed script during the summer of 1982 when E.T. was in its initial release. The proposed film would have taken place on E.T.'s home world, and imagery from purported pre-production was published in some tabloids. Ultimately Spielberg scrapped the plan, believing that any sequel could only rob the original film's virginity.
E.T.'s spaceship was designed by conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie (who also designed the mothership for Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"). Described in the screenplay as looking like something from a Dr. Seuss story, McQuarrie gave the ship a distinctly Victorian, Jules Verne-like appearance.
Elliott tells Gertie that only kids can see E.T. so she will keep him a secret. He's unintentionally correct; a recurring gag throughout the film is their mother Mary looking at or walking right past E.T. without noticing.
In 2019, Xfinity (a cable provider company) debuted a commercial featuring E.T. returning to Earth during the holidays and reuniting with Elliott (played once again by Henry Thomas) and his family. The short film was directed by cinematographer Lance Acord and Steven Spielberg was consulted throughout the production.
James Taylor wrote a song intended for use in the movie called "Song For You Far Away". The song was ultimately not used in the movie. However, it was eventually recorded in 1985 for release on his 'That's Why I'm Here' album.
It is shown throughout the movie that Elliott has rainbow blinds. Later in the movie, E.T. points at the sky, with the curtains down, when saying "phone home". At the final scene of the movie when E.T's spaceship flies off, it makes a rainbow before it leaves earth.
Steven Spielberg first approached Rick Baker about doing the designs for E.T. while Baker was prepping for An American Werewolf In London (1981). Baker did a number of designs and tests before Spielberg became furious at Baker for requesting more time and more money after the initial story changed leading to a falling out between them for some time. Spielberg next approached Chris Walas, who was booked to work with David Cronenberg on Scanners (1981). Spielberg then approached Rob Bottin, who was working with John Carpenter on The Thing (1982). Spielberg finally went to Carlo Rambaldi, whom Spielberg had worked with on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977). Rambaldi quickly took the job.
Ironically enough, the iconic phrase "E.T. phone home" isn't said by E.T. first. The actual phrasing by E.T. is "E.T. home phone." It's Gertie who first says "E.T. phone home," then Elliott, then E.T. says it.
In the Halloween scene, Elliott, E.T. and Michael walk past as a child whom is dressed up as Yoda from Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). In Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) E.T.'s people are briefly seen in the Galactic Senate. Although George Lucas wrote it as a nod to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). It's possible E.T. and Star Wars could be set in the universe as Star Wars is set "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away" and it could explain E.T.'s reaction when E.T. sees the child dressed up as Yoda and that E.T. may had known Yoda.
Director Steven Spielberg initially refused to let Universal Pictures release the film on home video formats after the film had finished its long theatrical run as he believed it would cheapen the film's legacy and ruin any prospects of a theatrical re-release in the coming years (a policy Disney also adopted for many of their classic movies until the 1990s). Spielberg said he saw the movie as a family 'event' movie like 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939) where peoples childhood memories of it should be from the experience of seeing it screened theatrically and the trip to the movie theatre should be part of that memory (possibly reflecting Spielberg's own 1950s childhood). Surprisingly Universal Pictures didn't pull rank on him over this and observed his wishes despite the financial implications. However because of this decision the film became the most pirated video of the 1980s. After several years of dealing with floods of complaints from angry parents and children every who had been ripped off after seeing it on a poor quality pirated videotape, Spielberg eventually gave in to the inevitable and allowed Universal to officially release the film onto the domestic video market in 1988 where it became a huge seller.
The first movie in motion picture where a alien visitors (namely, E.T.'s parents) have no interest in contact with humans (either hostile or for friendly visitation), they are here as botanists. E.T.'s interactions with the children is purely accidental.
The late Robert Murphy's Medic character is the dark haired, mustachioed one who delivers the report on E.T.'s treatment, "Cardiac arrest was terminated at 1500 hours and 36 minutes. He received intravenous lidocaine, intravenous epinephrine on a lidocaine drip, 2.7% sodium-chloride solution, catheters from the "A'' line. And the intravenous line should be sent for culture. He was monitored with a... EEG and an EKG. He was defibrillated twice.... All intravenous lines should be sent to the laboratory for cultures." He was an anesthesiologist who was then chief resident in charge of the CPR training program at University Hospital in Los Angeles, California in real life.
As E.T. walks by a kid dressed as Yoda in the street, you can hear "Yoda's Theme" from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) faintly playing within the film's score. John Williams scored both films.
Dee Wallace, Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas had all just starred in big thrillers right before this. Dee Wallace was in The Howling (1981), Drew Barrymore was in Altered States (1980) and Henry Thomas was in Raggedy Man (1981).
Sight & Sound magazine conducts a poll every ten years of the world's finest film directors to find out the Ten Greatest Films of All Time. This poll has been going since 1952, and has become the most recognized poll of its kind in the world. In 2012 Dutch helmer Cyrus Frisch voted for 'E.T.'. Frisch commented: "After seeing this film, the unknown does not have to be a frightening experience anymore."
The talented Blues singer/harmonocist, songwriter and poet Michael Darrell appears as the suspicious Government Agent with a walkie-talkie who notices Michael in the van driver's seat. He is the one who knocks on the door and asks "hey...who are you?" just as the chase scene begins.
Corey Feldman was originally supposed to co-star, but his part was eliminated (he was to be Elliott's buddy until Spielberg decided Elliott was better as a loner). As is often the case in Hollywood, after the director turned Feldman down for this role, he offered him a role in another project as compensation: Billy's buddy in Gremlins (a role similar to that he would have been playing in ET).
Initially developed at Columbia, who ultimately decided to pass on the film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) was ultimately made at Universal. Nevertheless (and very ironically, because Columbia had a 5% stake in the film) , it was their biggest hit of 1982.
Before Carlo Rambaldi was hired, Rick Baker and Stan Winston were brought in to be possible designers and creators for E.T. While both men did not receive the job, they eventually went to work on future Spielberg productions. Winston worked on the Jurassic Park films and A.I. Artificial Intelligence, while Baker worked on Gremlins 2: The New Batch and the Men In Black films.
When Elliott insults Michael (the script did not actually specify what to say, just something insulting), Dee Wallace was supposed to yell angrily at him to sit down. When she actually heard him say, "It was nothing like that, penis breath!" Wallace's laughter while saying "Elliot!" was her entirely genuine reaction.
Michael mentions the possibility of alligators in the sewers when Elliott insists he saw something alive in the backyard shed. This urban legend inspired the film "Alligator" (1980), which was written by John Sayles. Coincidentally, Sayles also wrote the first draft of "Night Skies" for Steven Spielberg, a project that was ultimately aborted when Spielberg decided to make "E.T."
There are a few parallels to Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The "lead family" has two older boys and one younger girl. The family is on the verge of splitting up or has just split up. The lead male character is a loner. The lights on the alien ships (though the E.T. ship is much smaller) have certain similarities. Government agencies have the appearance of being evil but are mostly observers of the alien phenomenon.
Laird International Studios has been the site of other well-known classic movies in its lifetime. The studios has operated under a number of names, including Ince Studio (second; 1918-1925) , De Mille Studios (1925-28), Pathe and RKO-Pathe Studios (1928-35), Selznick International (1935-56), Desilu-Culver Studios (1956-70), Culver City Studios (1970-77) and Laird International Studios (1977-86), and GTG Entertainment. It was later owned by Sony Pictures, Studio City Los Angeles, and, in 2014, Hackman Capital Partners. In 2015 the Studios site is still known as The Culver Studios.
Steven Spielberg: [separated parents] Elliot's parents are divorced, and it's implied that his father wants nothing to do with his family. Divorce and absent fathers are common tropes in Spielberg's films.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Steven Spielberg shot the film in chronological order to invoke a real response from the actors (mainly the children) when E.T. departed at the end. All emotional responses from that last scene are real.
The doctor who confirms E.T.'s death was played by medical specialist and author James Khan, who was working in the ER at St. John's Hospital at the time. Khan and several of his coworkers were invited to join the cast in order to lend an air of authenticity to the medical scenes in the film. While on the set, Khan showed director Steven Spielberg his book "World Enough, and Time", and was offered the job to write the novelization for "Poltergeist", which was in post production at the time.
When E. T. is undergoing medical treatment, an off-camera voice says, "The boy's coming back. We're losing E.T." The person delivering this line is Melissa Mathison, who wrote the screenplay for the film.
Steven Spielberg and Melissa Mathison came up with the concept of a sequel called "Nocturnal Fears", where Elliott and his friends are kidnapped by aliens and E.T. would help them out. E.T.'s name would be Zreck, and his species was at war with the other aliens. This concept, however, never bore fruit.
Keys tells Elliott that E.T. came to him too and that he has been dreaming of this moment since he was ten years old. Just before this you can see E.T. meet eyes with Keys and there is a look of recognition.
The talented Milt Kogan (who played Marsh, Norman and Police Commissioner Aaron Kiel in some episodes of The Rockford Files (1974) TV Series and Desk Sergeant Officer Kogan in some episodes of Barney Miller (1975) TV Series) appears as The Military Doctor (Major), the tallest of all the other medical team members who says to Keys when he starts talking to Elliott "He shouldn't talk now." Then Keys replies to him, "Well, he has to talk now, Major." He is the same Army Medical Major who urgently orders "Defibrillate him." during the scene where E.T. is dying. And later during the scene where E.T. has died, he says "I'm going to call it. I'm calling it. What time do you have? 1500 hours, 36 minutes. Okay. Let's pack him in ice. Let's leave".