Madrid – ran the June 11, 1982 when “ET the extraterrestrial” arrived at the projection rooms, but it was not yet known what would mark the history of cinema, especially science fiction.
Forty years later, the creature continues to soften the world in its efforts to return home.
The original idea arose from the director’s own childhood experience, steven spielbergaffected by the divorce of his parents and who invented an imaginary friend.
ET longs to return home, to a galaxy three million light years from Earth and with which it tries to communicate (“my house, telephone” became such a famous phrase that it became part of the cultural heritage). He, like little Elliot, feels that his home is incomplete.
The story begins in Crescent City (California). Extraterrestrial botanists gather samples of vegetation to take to their distant planet, but agents of the American government follow them and in their flight they forget one of their members. Meanwhile, Elliot (Henry Thomas) is the victim of his older brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton). and his friends, who have him as their servant and send him for a pizza.
Along the way, Elliot discovers the lost and abandoned alien, who is on the run. However, the boy leaves some sweets on the way to his house to attract him. After different adventures, Elliot and his brothers, Michael and Gertie (Drew Barrymore), try to find a way for the little alien to return to his planet before scientists and the police find him.
The final scene, in which ET tells Elliot, “I’ll be right here,” while pointing the tip of his glowing finger at the sky, just before boarding the spaceship that will return him to his planet, became one one of the most moving and tearful endings in the history of cinema. Coincidentally, the ET script came up during the filming of the also successful film “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
During breaks in filming, Spielberg met with screenwriter Melissa Mathison to work together on the film. Once they had the outline more or less spun, Mathison wrote a first version in two weeks that immediately convinced the director.
At the audition to select the actor who will play Elliot, and after not being very convincing in the audition, Thomas improvised a scene in which, to express sadness, he thought about the day his dog died. His tears so moved Spielberg that he decided to cast him on the spot.
The inspiration for designing the face of the cute alien turned out to be a combination of the faces of the scientist Albert Einstein, the poet Carl Sandbug and the writer Ernest Hemingway. It was shot between September and December 1981 in California, with a budget of $10.5 million (according to the Box Office Mojo page) and was a box office success not only in the United States, but worldwide.
At the time, it ousted “Star Wars” (1977) (now renamed “Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope”), which until then was the box office leader.
Only one other Spielberg film would take away his reign in later years: “Jurassic Park” (1993). ET moved millions of viewers, was critically acclaimed and was nominated for nine Oscars, of which he won four, one of them the one with the best soundtrack, that of John Williams, a music that makes the viewer travel from the seat and that made a whole generation dream.
Spielberg, who had previously worked with Williams on “Jaws” (1975), was especially amazed at the score for “ET the Extra-Terrestrial.” His fascination was such that when he heard it for the first time he couldn’t hold back his tears and asked her not to change a single note.
The film was the first big-screen movie experience for many children born in the 1970s, while others have been able to enjoy it via videotape, DVD or television in the years since.
What is so special about the film that 40 years later it continues to excite and attract the public? Perhaps the simplest answer is that it tells a story about a feeling as universal as friendship, in addition to showing the public that aliens can be affectionate and familiar, instead of simple monsters from another world as cinema imagined until then.