Acclaimed award-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg is known for creating some of the most iconic and enduring works of cinema of all time. One of those works is the 1982 sci-fi/family classic, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial. However, the film’s 20th-anniversary theatrical re-release was notorious for its many changes, not the least of which were the scenes showing federal agents in the final act. CG artists edited the scenes showing the federal agents pointing the guns at Elliott and his friends riding their bikes, so instead of guns, they were painted over to be holding walkie-talkies.
The Oscar-winning director spoke about the self-imposed censorship on an all-time classic during a recent masterclass with the 2023 TIME 100 Summit. During the conversation, Spielberg admitted his decision to make those changes to E.T. was wrong. You can check out a video of the masterclass chat below:
STEVEN SPIELBERG ADMITS CENSORING GUNS OUT OF E.T. WAS A MISTAKE
Speaking on the changes made for the film’s special edition and 2002 anniversary re-release, Spielberg said, “That was a mistake.” The director continued, “I never should have done that. E.T. is a product of its era. No film should be revised based on the lenses we now are, either voluntarily, or being forced to peer through.”
With regard to the reason he made the changes at the time, Spielberg said, “E.T. was a film that I was sensitive to the fact that the federal agents were approaching kids with firearms exposed and I thought I would change the guns into walkie-talkies… Years went by and I changed my own views.”
Spielberg added that regrets the changes that were made at that point in his career. He continued, “I should have never messed with the archives of my own work, and I don’t recommend anyone do that. All our movies are a kind of a signpost of where we were when we made them, what the world was like, and what the world was receiving when we got those stories out there. So I really regret having that out there.”
The moderator of the masterclass then discussed the talk of Roald Dahl and other authors having their language censored or updated to be more inclusive by modern standards. First, Spielber quipped, “Nobody should ever attempt to take the chocolate out of Willy Wonka! Ever!” He later more seriously added, “For me, it is sacrosanct. It’s our history, it’s our cultural heritage. I do not believe in censorship in that way.”
Most recently, Spielberg directed the semi-autobiographical film, The Fabelmans, a story inspired by his youth and upbringing. While the film was not a huge hit at the box office, it performed well critically. The film was also nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. His 2021 remake of West Side Story was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. The film also earned Ariana DeBose an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
Spielberg is also lining up a remake of the classic 1968 action-thriller, Bullitt, with Bradley Cooper in line to star in the role originally portrayed by Steve McQueen.
What do you think of Steven Spielberg’s comments? Do you appreciate his perspective and his capacity to change his views on the subject, or do you think the changes for E.T. were warranted? Let us know how you feel about the subject on The Illuminerdi Twitter account.