How E.T. Became More Than A Movie For Director Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg has a lot to be proud of as a filmmaker. It's impressive for a director to create one film that becomes a classic or generation-defining film, and Spielberg has created several. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," the "Indiana Jones" franchise, "Jaws" — the man is unstoppable. His innate ability to tap into childhood wonder has produced some of the best kid's films ever, including 1982's "E.T. the Extraterrestrial."

While Spielberg is known for these iconic films, he didn't start out making kid's movies, but they all involved an adult character with a childlike spirit. His amazing ability to reduce grown-ups to big kids with wide, dream-filled eyes has served him well for decades, and produced a staggering amount of blockbusters — so many that it might be difficult for his fans to pick a favorite. But it's an easy choice for the filmmaker.

During an interview at the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival (via The Hollywood Reporter), Spielberg stated that "E.T. the Extraterrestrial" is his favorite film he's ever made. Not only that, making the movie made him want to have children of his own.

'My next big production'

A successful career as a Hollywood director isn't always the best match for a family. The travel can be extensive and the hours are very long, which means missing a large amount of time with growing kids. So, at the beginning of his career, Spielberg never considered having his own children. "I never thought about having kids because there was not any kind of equation that made sense to me, because I was going from movie to movie to movie, from script to script to script," he recalled. However, his thoughts on having children changed while filming "E.T."

You've probably heard that old piece of moviemaking wisdom: Never work with animals or children. But while Spielberg keeps his stance on animals close to the chest, the famed director cherishes his time with child actors. Unlike his early films, "E.T." featured a group of children, and it was the first time that the director considered fatherhood. "It was the first time that it ever occurred to me that maybe I could be a dad. Maybe, in a way, a director is a dad or a mom. It started to really gnaw away at me."

Spielberg's bond with Henry Thomas (Elliot), C. Thomas Howell (Tyler), Robert MacNaughton (Michael), and Drew Barrymore (Gertie) produced one of the greatest films of the '80s and changed Spielberg's outlook on fatherhood. "When I left those kids and we all went our separate ways ... I really felt that [being a dad] would be my next big production," he said.

'Stories of empowerment'

Having children while remaining a famous, working director is a difficult task, but when has Steven Spielberg ever walked away from something because it was hard? He now has seven kids and six grandkids. For Spielberg, becoming a dad didn't hinder his career. Instead, he believes it has helped him tell stories better.

In the early '80s, before having children, Spielberg was already creating stories that looked at the world through a child's eyes, but his experiences as a father led him to create stories that give kids authority. He told The Guardian that he enjoys telling his children and grandchildren, "stories of empowerment" that are about "being magical or [being] able to read your mom and dad's mind, or your best friend being a Tyrannosaurus rex that only you know about and he lives in your backyard."

In addition to embracing the wonder of childhood dreams, Spielberg has become well-known for giving kids strong, empowered young characters to look up to, which he believes all stems from his experience making "E.T."