Steven Spielberg Needed Some Help From Harrison Ford To Get E.T. Written

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" may have earned a reputation as an beloved (and sometimes heartbreaking) classic, but the film wouldn't have been possible without a good word from Hollywood's favorite grump. Speaking before a 40th anniversary screening of his alien classic, director Steven Spielberg recalled how he thought screenwriter Melissa Mathison would be a great fit for the film, even though she claimed she was retired (incidentally, she'd go on to write scripts for another few decades). Mathison refused to hear him out, but Spielberg didn't give up: he asked Harrison Ford, her then-boyfriend, to put in a good word. Cue near-instant success:

"[S]he came to me the next day and said, 'OK you got Harrison so excited about this. What is it that I missed?' I think I hadn't told her the story very well because I told her the story again and she got really emotional and she committed right there in the Tunisian desert."

Given Spielberg's track record, Mathison didn't need to worry about the film's success. Just a few short years beforehand, "Jaws" had done so well that it ushered in a new era of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. And while "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was still in production when Spielberg won Mathison over, the director would help take both her and Harrison Ford's careers to the next level.

Mathison helped E.T. become the creature we love

Although Steven Spielberg had been working on "E.T." for a while, Mathison helped transform early iterations of the alien into the creature that we've come to love. Most notably, she was the one who came up with the idea for E.T.'s telekinesis — a small detail, but one which would make the high-stakes finale all the more exciting. She also made a lot of smaller changes and helped Spielberg bounce ideas around. By the time the first draft of the script was complete, the collaboration had already paid off: Spielberg was incredibly pleased with Mathison's work and barely made any adjustments before filming began.

As it turns out, Harrison Ford was rewarded for his persuasiveness, too: he was given a brief cameo in "E.T." as Elliot's principal. Curiously though, you might be hard-pressed to identify him on-screen. The "E.T." crew made it a point to only show most adults' faces near the film's finale, a decision that would eventually present the grown-ups as out-of-place in a kids' world. Unfortunately, this meant that Ford's role was essentially a voice cameo. Even still, he and Mathison certainly got to leave their touch on the magical movie.