Steven Spielberg says ET was inspired by his parents’ divorce

‘A divorce creates great responsibility, especially if you have siblings; we all take care of each other,’ director said

Isobel Lewis
Saturday 23 April 2022 23:07 BST
Drew Barrymore believed ET puppet was real

Steven Spielberg has said that ET was inspired by his own parents’ divorce.

Speaking on Thursday (21 April) at an event to mark 40 years since the classic film was released, the director discussed his parents splitting in 1966, while he was in high school.

Spielberg told the audience at the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival that thinking about the event had made him question the final scene of his 1977 UFO film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

“What if that little creature never went back to the ship?” he said. “What if the creature was part of a foreign-exchange programme? What if I turn my story about divorce into a story about children, a family, trying to fill the great need and creating such responsibility?”

Spielberg continued: “A divorce creates great responsibility, especially if you have siblings; we all take care of each other. What if Elliott, or the kid – I hadn’t dreamt up his name yet – needed to, for the first time in his life, become responsible for a life form to fill the gap in his heart?

“I had been working on an actual literal script about my parents’ separation and divorce and I had been working on ideas about that and what it did to my sisters and myself.”

Last week, Drew Barrymore discussed filming ET while interviewing her onscreen mother Dee Wallace on her talk show.

Wallace claimed that Barrymore, ​​who was just six years old when she played Elliott’s little sister Gertie in the sci-fi adventure, had believed the alien puppet was real.

“They would put ET in a corner when he wasn’t working and we found Drew and she’s over there, just talking to him,” Wallace said.

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