20 Things You Might Not Know About E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

The first time I ever saw Reece’s Pieces was in a theater lobby that was showing E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. I bought some, and was eating them when they appeared in the film. What a genius product placement: I thought the candy was developed for the movie. There aren’t many who saw that movie in theaters who weren’t emotionally affected by it. You may have seen it many times since then, but did you know that the script was originally supposed to be a sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Steven Spielberg was approached about a sequel, and considered what would happen if one of the aliens stayed behind and terrorized a family. That idea was later split into two films: the nice story of the alien left behind (which was combined with Spielberg’s autobiographical story of a child dealing with divorce), and another movie about a terrorized family called Poltergeist. What else do you want to know about E.T?

4. Henry Thomas’ improvised audition won him the part of Elliott.

The most difficult role for Spielberg to cast was that of Elliott, the boy who discovers and befriends E.T. Spielberg’s friend Jack Fisk (Sissy Spacek’s husband and the production designer of such films as Badlands and Eraserhead) suggested a young actor by the name of Henry Thomas, whom he directed in his 1981 film Raggedy Man. Spielberg brought Thomas in for a meeting to audition at Universal Studios, but instead of giving Henry the script to read, the director opted to have the young actor improv a scene with a government agent (played by casting director Mike Fenton) who is trying to take his alien best friend away from him. Spielberg’s only direction to Thomas was to do whatever it takes to stop the government agent from taking the alien away. In the heartbreaking audition (seen above), Thomas broke down in tears while pleading with Fenton not to take his friend, prompting Spielberg to conclude the session with “OK kid, you got the job."

12. E.T.’s favorite candy was supposed to be M&Ms.

Spielberg brought his idea to Mars Incorporated, the company that owns M&Ms, to ask if they could use their little candies in a scene where Elliott attracts the inquisitive alien back to his house. Universal Studios legally barred the company from seeing the final script, so Mars passed on the cross-promotional opportunity. Spielberg and company then brought the idea to the Hershey Company to see if they could use Hershey Kisses, but the company was looking to get more exposure for their newest creation, Reese’s Pieces, and suggested the peanut butter filled treats instead. Hershey agreed to spend $1 million for the rights to promote the use of their product in E.T., and Reese’s Pieces became the little alien's candy of choice. The agreement certainly paid off for Hershey, as the company reported a 65 percent increase in profits on Reese's Pieces just two weeks after the film premiere.

I know I became addicted to those candies and bought more than my share. You can see the Henry Thomas audition and read the rest of the 20 Things You Might Not Know About E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at mental_floss.

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