Melissa Mathison, Screenwriter Who Wrote 'E.T.,' Dies

Nov 5, 2015
Originally published on November 5, 2015 5:54 pm
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Melissa Mathison was not happy with the movies. She once told the LA Times that Hollywood portrayed parents as total morons and kids as mean and materialistic. So Mathison wrote her own kids movies. She died this week at age 65. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has her story.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Melissa Mathison was nominated for an Oscar for her original screenplay of the 1982 film "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL")

PAT WELSH: (As E.T.) E.T. phone home.

DEL BARCO: The blockbuster was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred a then-6-year-old Drew Barrymore. In a special edition DVD, Mathison and Spielberg talked about her script.

MELISSA MATHISON: It took eight weeks for us to get the first draft, which was quite fast, I think.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I was just knocked out. It was a script that I was willing to shoot tomorrow. I didn't really want to do a lot with it. It was honest, and it was right from both of our hearts. But Melissa's voice made a direct connection with my heart.

DEL BARCO: The following year, Mathison married actor Harrison Ford. They'd met when she was an assistant on the set of "Apocalypse Now." They moved with their children far from Hollywood to a ranch in Wyoming, and Mathison put her career on hold. She told Newsweek that she didn't want to be missing her kid's childhood while she was away busy writing about children. The former journalist also told Good Housekeeping that if her career wasn't as well-known as her husband's, she couldn't care less. But she eventually did return to work. And after 21 years of marriage, Mathison and Ford divorced in one of the most expensive celebrity split-ups ever.

Mathison wrote scripts for the movies "Black Stallion," "The Escape Artist" and "Indian In The Cupboard," also "Kundun" about the 14th Dalai Lama. Near the end of her life, she had returned to working with Steven Spielberg on his adaptation of the Roald Dahl story, "The BFG." The film is scheduled for release next year. In statement after the passing of his friend, Spielberg wrote that Mathison, quote, "had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL")

WELSH: (As E.T.) I'll be right here.

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.