Steven Spielberg digital

As the nostalgia-laden Ready Player One nears its theatrical debut, director Steven Spielberg is fielding questions about looking back on his own movies. And you can rest easy, film purists: after that debacle surrounding the re-release of E.T., The Beard has promised never to alter any of his movies again. Read the full Steven Spielberg digital alteration statement below.

At the Ready Player One junket in Hollywood, a journalist asked Spielberg if he would ever consider going back and digitally altering one of his own movies, similar to what Spielberg’s friend George Lucas did with the Star Wars films. Apparently, that journalist had forgotten that Spielberg famously already did exactly that when he altered the re-release of E.T.:

“When E.T. was re-released, I actually digitized five shots where E.T. went from being a puppet to a digital puppet. And I also replaced the gun when the FBI runs up on the van – now they have walkie-talkies. So there’s a really bad version of E.T. where I took my cue from Star Wars and all the digital enhancements of A New Hope that George put in. I went ahead, because the marketing at Universal thought we needed something to get the audience in to see the movie, so I did a few touch-ups in the film.

In those days, social media wasn’t as profound as it is today. But what was just beginning erupted in a loud negative voice about, ‘How could you ruin our favorite childhood film by taking the guns away and putting walkie-talkies in their hands?’, among other things. So I learned a big lesson. That’s the last time I ever decided to mess with the past. What’s done is done, and I’ll never go back into another movie I made, or have control over, to enhance or change it.”

This isn’t the only time the director has spoken publicly about altering E.T. In 2011, I saw a theatrical screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark in L.A. that included a Q&A with Spielberg and Harrison Ford afterward, and Spielberg – who was then prepping Raiders for its Blu-ray release – brought it up:

“For myself, I tried [changing a film] once and lived to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but because I was disappointed in myself. I got overly sensitive to [some of the reaction] to E.T., and I thought if technology evolved, [I might go in and change some things]…it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T. […] If I put just one cut of E.T. on Blu-ray and it was the 1982, would anyone object to that? [The crowd yells “NO!” in unison.] OK, so be it.”

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