The creators of the cult film return to its genesis. Faced with these memories, the directors of the new French guard assess his legacy. A sincere and sometimes surprising tribute.
Forty years and not a wrinkle. Whether you were a child in the 1980s or 2020s, the enchantment operates as on the first day. Presented in 1982 at the Cannes Film Festival, AND the alien wrote a page in the history of cinema. Steven Spielberg’s tale of Los Angeles siblings hiding a lonely little alien and coming to his rescue ran for more than a year and was the highest-grossing film of all time for ten years. Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope.
In honor of this anniversary, documentarians Basile Roze and Émilie Valentin are trying, for France 5, to unravel the manufacturing secrets of this film, the idea of which was suggested to Steven Spielberg by François Truffaut when the director of Last Metro played actors on Encounter of the Third Kind. Who remembers that this blockbuster that revolutionized Hollywood inspired a video game so sloppy that the unsold ones were buried in a wasteland? With a certain panache, the hated designer of this game looks back on this disaster.
Basile Roze and Émilie Valentin also collected the memories of Henry Thomas who at the time lent his childish face to Elliott, the little boy who took ET under his wing and refused to see him die. After a failed audition ending in an improbable improvisation, the young actor did not think he would land the role. At the time, this fan of Star Wars is even a little disappointed.
On set, zero lightsabers or space battles. Just an imposing animatronic manipulated by puppeteers whose mission was to make him breathe or blink, even between takes. “ Drew Barrymore, who was 6 years old during the filming, did not always distinguish between reality and fiction. When it was cold, she wrapped a scarf around the puppet’s neck to prevent her from catching a cold! Or she would bring him food. Steven Spielberg had sought to preserve the illusion”remembers Henry Thomas.
Among the other tasty anecdotes about the creature, the demonstration that the bald extraterrestrial who wants to “phone home” is descended from the cat. Its creator, the sculptor Carlo Rambaldi, was inspired by his own four-legged friend to establish the proportions and imagine the look of ET
Beyond the scenes, this investigation has a much more ambitious aim. She seeks to understand why this story has become timeless. Psychologist, youth author, astronomer are thus summoned to decipher this tale which speaks as much of the fear of growing up as of the pain of the first bereavements. The new hopes of French SF, directors Leo Karmann and Simon Astier, intervene to explain their relationship to this work. Without forgetting the more unexpected presence of trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, directors Rebecca Zlotowski and Charlotte Le Bon. They are unanimous: through ET and Elliott, it is part of his childhood trauma that Spielberg exorcises.
These parallels will be confirmed on the release, Wednesday, February 22, of The Fabelmans. This autobiographical film depicts the awakening to the cinema of the maestro, the tormented marriage of his parents or the depression of his mother, a repressed artist and desperate housewife. Still, in Steven Spielberg’s filmography, ET the extraterrestrial occupies a special place. In an interview with Le Figaro, Henry Thomas remarked:It’s an adventure film that hides a deep message about compassion and friendship. Everyone recognizes themselves in these protagonists who take care of each other and want to save a being they consider one of their own. »