9. IT PUT REESE’S PIECES ON THE MAP
Wanting to draw the frightened, nervous alien out of hiding, Elliott offers a tantalizing treat, setting out Reese’s Pieces candies for the little creature to munch on. It works. E.T. is intrigued, and once he samples the peanut buttery goodness, he’s hooked. Spreading them throughout his house, Elliott lures the alien inside and up to the bedroom. While it may seem like mere product placement, the idea works because it connects E.T. and Elliott. The creature is like a child in the sense that he can’t get enough candy.
The filmmakers initially wanted M&Ms for the movie, but the Mars company said no. The reasons for the denial vary, largely depending on whom you ask. Some say executives thought E.T. was too ugly and would scare children, so they didn’t want their product associated with it. Others claim they didn’t think the film had much commercial appeal. Regardless, they turned the offer down, so the producers approached Hershey, whose Reese’s Pieces were a very similar candy to M&Ms. They said yes, of course, and ended up with their relatively-new product prominently featured in the biggest hit movie of the era. Sales of the candy went through the roof afterward, and Reese’s Pieces have become a mainstay of Hershey’s product lineup ever since. For the 2002 re-release, there was even a tie-in TV commercial featuring the film’s hero.
10. HARRISON FORD SHOT A CAMEO THAT WASN’T USED
Here’s another Star Warsconnection: Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford, shot a cameo for E.T. in which he played a school principal who lectures Elliott after some concerns arise about his behavior in school. (Ford was also dating screenwriter Melissa Mathison at the time, and of course, he previously worked with Spielberg on Raiders of the Lost Ark.) In keeping with Spielberg’s desire to have all adults except for Elliott’s mother remain unseen until about half an hour into the film, the principal is in shadow as he swivels around on a chair in his dark office. During the sequence, Elliott briefly levitates while the school leader has his back turned. The boy’s concerned mom comes in to speak briefly to the principal at the end.
Ultimately, Spielberg felt the scene didn’t add anything important — and he worried that Ford’s presence would be a distraction from the story — so he cut it. This was a wise move, as Ford’s distinct voice does indeed draw attention to itself, making it easy to forget what the moment is supposed to be about. If you want to get a glimpse of how everything played, a very grainy version of the scene is available on YouTube.
11. THERE ARE MULTIPLE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN E.T. AND STAR WARS
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are longtime friends. They are also friendly professional rivals, with Spielberg once having helmed the highest-grossing movie of all time (Jaws), until Lucas’s Star Wars stole that honor away from it. Then E.T.came along and bumped Star Wars to second place. Lucas took out an ad in the Hollywood trade publications, congratulating Spielberg on snatching the top spot, just as Spielberg had done before. Because their creators have a relationship, the two movies share a few connections between them. Spielberg inserted some shout-outs to Lucas’s hit in E.T., such as the scene where Elliott has some Star Warstoys sitting around his room. During the Halloween scene, E.T. (disguised as a ghost) sees a child trick-or-treating in a Yoda costume. He elicits squeals that seem to be a sign of recognition.
Lucas, meanwhile, returned the favor years later, paying tribute to his pal’s beloved alien creature in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Look very closely during the scene set in the Senate — where Amidala calls for the chancellor to be removed — and you will see several E.T.s sitting among all the other races. It was Lucas’s playful way of saying that Spielberg’s little hero and his brethren exist within the same galaxy as his own characters.
12. THE FROG SCENE CAME FROM REAL LIFE
There are many scenes in this movie that stand out. Ask ten different people for their favorite moment, and you could well wind up with ten different answers. Still, most people would agree that the frog scene is a highlight. Elliott decides that it’s his duty to free all the frogs from his science class before they can be dissected. He lets his frog loose, then runs through the classroom, letting everyone else’s go, too. The sequence ends in total chaos, with kids and frogs running and jumping everywhere. While all this is going on, Elliott grabs the girl he has a crush on and gives her a kiss.
According to Spielberg biographer Joseph McBride, this was inspired by an incident from Spielberg’s own past. The book Steven Spielberg: A Biography reports that the budding filmmaker’s father repeatedly insisted he take science and math classes that could set him on the path to becoming a doctor or electrical engineer. Such classes didn’t really go too well. Aside from not wanting to take them, he had other troubles. On the day that he was required to cut open a frog, young Mr. Spielberg got sick, fled the classroom, and vomited. He returned shortly thereafter, making certain to release several of the frogs before class was over.
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