By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Book Review: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – From Concept to Classic by Linda Sunshine, Melissa Mathison, and Laurent Bouzereau on Blogcritics.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s classic film, Newmarket Press has reissued E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – From Concept to Classic. Originally available as a hardcover volume in 2002, this softcover coffee table book contains a mixture of interviews and trivia about E.T., with the centerpiece being Melissa Mathison’s full screenplay. It should be noted, the book doesn’t present a properly formatted shooting script, but rather an annotated, illustrated version. New to this edition is a brief foreword by Steven Spielberg.
For anyone who loves the movie, From Concept to Classic makes a fine companion. The wide array of production photos and concept art keeps the book interesting, especially if you’re just looking for something to casually flip through. The interviews included throughout were conducted by Laurent Bouzereau, best known for the documentaries he’s produced for DVD and Blu-ray releases. They help convey the story of how E.T. was made. Particularly of interest is how closely Spielberg worked with Mathison on all aspects of the screenplay.
The most fun aspect are the little sidebar notes and lists that offer fun facts about the production. Depending on how comprehensive your knowledge of E.T. already is, some of this stuff might be old hat. There’s a list of ideas that didn’t make the final cut, such as E.T. healing J.R. on Dallas. It’s also noted that both M&M’s and Dungeons & Dragons refused to allow their products to be mentioned by name. Of course, Hershey scored big by allowing then-new Reese’s Pieces to be used. I don’t understand what the D&D honcho’s beef was, but the result was a scene of the kids playing a generic, unnamed role-playing game.
It didn’t initially dawn on me that the book was a reissue until I noticed the side note in the script about the FBI agents’ guns being replaced by walkie-talkies. In fact, this reprinted script includes all the material added for the 2002 “special edition.” There’s a fairly in-depth section towards the book’s end that details all the changes made for that reissue. At this point, Spielberg apparently disowned the altered cut (thank God) and it’s not part of the Blu-ray release. So it’s a little odd that From Concept to Classic devotes so much space to discussing it. It makes sense in the context of the 2002 DVD, however, when I’m sure some people might’ve assumed that version was the new standard (à la the Star Wars special editions). Luckily Spielberg ended up opposing the revisionist E.T., so the “special edition” material dates the book somewhat.
Laurent Bouzereau’s feature-length ‘making of’ documentary, available only on the old special edition laserdisc, remains the best document about the production of E.T.. That said, as movie tie-ins go, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – From Concept to Classic is enjoyably light reading.