Spielberg reveals how ‘ET’ was the divorce movie that turned him into a father

Los Angeles, April 24 (IANS): Speaking about his 40th anniversary film “ET” at the TCM Classic Film Festival, acclaimed filmmaker Steven Spielberg explored how the split in his own family growing up influenced his original story.

The director explained that making the film was the real trigger that suddenly took him from giving up the prospect of ever being a father to putting parenthood on his vision board, ‘Variety’ reports. .

“What happened was that I had been working on a real, literal script about my parents’ separation and divorce,” in the late 1970s, Spielberg told host Ben Mankiewicz.

“I was shooting the (clicky) scene and I suddenly thought, ‘Wait a second. What if that little creature never made it back to the ship? What if the creature was part of an exchange program? ( Richard) Dreyfuss goes and he stays? Or does she stay?'”

It struck him that he could turn his family drama “into a story of children and a family trying to fulfill a great need and a great responsibility? Divorce creates a great responsibility. If you have siblings, we let’s all take care of each other (in the wake of divorce) And if Elliott, or the kid, I hadn’t quite imagined his name yet, became for the first time in his life responsible for some form of life, to fill the void in his heart?

The filmmaker told the TLC Chinese Theater opening night crowd about the devastation he felt as a teenager from divorce.

“I think when you go through something like that, when a kid goes through an episode where your parents that you trust, unconditional love and trust (both of them) come up to you and your sisters and say, ‘We’re breaking up, and we are going to live not just in two different houses but in two different states,” the world is collapsing. The sky is falling on your head.

He said the children of divorce or those who have been divorced “know the responsibility of how you have to take care of your children. It’s something that never goes away and comes out in the wash, and that’s definitely come in many of my films, both indirectly and unconsciously”.

“And in the last film that I just made, it comes out very directly,” he added, referring to “The Fabelmans,” the semi-autobiographical film he co-wrote with Tony Kushner and whose the release is scheduled for November.

Asked by Mankiewicz if he had ever imagined himself being a father up to that point in his career, Spielberg replied: “No. I didn’t want to have children because it wasn’t some kind of equation that made sense to me because I went from film to film to film, from screenplay to scripta It never occurred to me until halfway through ‘ET’: I was a parent on this film.

“I literally felt like I was very protective of Henry (Thomas) and Mike (McNaughton) and my entire cast, and especially Drew (Barrymore), who was only six years old. And I started to think, ‘Well, maybe this could be my real life one day. It was the first time I thought maybe I could be a dad. And maybe in a way, a director is a dad or a mom.”

From then on, he said, “I really felt this would be my big production”.

When Mankiewicz, in characteristic irony, asked, “Do you have kids, Steven?”, the director replied, “I have seven kids and six grandkids. So ‘ET’ worked really well for me. “

In the space of half an hour before the screening of a new IMAX rendering of the 1982 film, Spielberg and Mankiewicz made no attempt to tackle a full rundown of their careers (and the mere mention of the recent “West Side Story” was the claim that TCM fans put aside their reluctance towards remakes just for that).

Spielberg also talked about Joan Crawford, on ‘Night Gallery’, being the first SAG card-carrying actor he ever worked with, then changing that to say he shot all the interstitial segments with writer/host Rod Serling before that.

Crawford, he said, was not “Mommy Dearest” on set, but as the pitcher of Pepsi products at the time, she expected everyone on set to participate in coolers. loads of Mountain Dew she brought to the soundstage, ‘Variety’ reports.

Mankiewicz brought up “Duel” to emphasize that Spielberg belonged to the generation of renegade filmmakers like Martin Scorsese as much as he belonged to the studio system.

Spielberg came close to admitting that “1941” might have benefited from a little more studio oversight, which was happily dispensed with following the smash hits of “Jaws” and “Close Encounters.”

He joked: “The explosion that was never done for ‘Duel’, I adapted it for ‘1941’. It was the biggest bang, at that point in my career.

“It was my longest program, even longer than ‘Jaws’, which apparently would have been hard to beat, since we shot 158 ​​days, over 100 days late. But because we were shooting back to back, the studio just started writing checks, saying ‘Let’s see what happens.’ And they gave me an unlimited cap to do ‘1941’. And it took me 178 days to take the picture, because that I directed all the miniature work. It was the worst mistake you could have made, but I had a great time making the movie.

“And then I showed the picture for the first time in Texas, at my good luck theater, the Medallion Theater in Dallas,” where he’d had thrilling reactions to “Jaws” and “Close Encounters,” to take” 1941″ there, where “you could have heard a fly drop” for what he called acethe first comedy ever made without laughing”.

A detailed explanation of the writing of ‘ET’ involved the recollection of how ‘Black Stallion’ screenwriter Melissa Mathison, Harrison Ford’s then-girlfriend, initially turned down his offer to have him do the script when he had featured it on location for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

They had story sessions during lunch breaks on ‘Raiders,’ and Spielberg credited him with adding some of the script’s best concept ideas, as well as the actual writing, which resulted in what he called the best first draft ever and Kathleen Kennedy called the best screenplay she had read, period.

The director said it was that first draft that was shot.

Actors Dee Wallace and Robert McNaughton were among those in attendance at the Chinese, but Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore, who were announced to be sharing the stage with Spielberg at the re-premiere, were absent for unexplained reasons.

Spielberg had a lot to say about the actors present and absent.

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