While it not may necessarily be a horror film, there’s no arguing the longstanding effects of Steven Spielberg’s modern sci-fi classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and how it defined a generation of cinema and still continues to capture the hearts and imagination of movie lovers all over!
Considering its contributions to the world of modern genre films (albeit mainly family flicks) and the fact that the titular alien hero is so damn irresistible, Dread Central couldn’t help but jump at the chance to chat with star Dee Wallace during a recent press day held for the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
During our exclusive interview we spoke with Wallace about her experiences working on the project alongside Spielberg, how E.T. changed everything in her career and looked back at some of the actress’ favorite moments from the film.
Read on for more from Wallace, and look for the digitally remastered 30th Anniversary Blu-ray of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial hitting shelves everywhere on October 9th courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
Dread Central: Looking back at this movie and seeing its impact on fans for 30 years, personally for you, what sort of impact has it had on your life? We hear about your professional life, but what about you as a person? Is this something that you look back on and say, “I can’t even believe that this is something that I was a part of”?
Dee Wallace: No, I look back and go, “Wow, how blessed I was to be a part of this and still am!” I think I’ve lived this movie. I think, in retrospect, I did E.T. so I could really learn the message of E.T. in my own life, which is, “No matter what happens, keep your heart light open and keep it on and stay in love.” I think that’s the message for everybody and that’s the truth that we all get. On whatever level we get it on when we watch this film is that if we’re going to create the world we want, and get back home, we have to start with ourselves. We have to believe we can and we have to be authentically open in our hearts to the love that we were created with.
Dread Central: Mary became such an iconic character for so many people; I think she sort of defined what mothers were in 80s cinema and your character became a template for a lot of other mother characters that followed. What were your first impressions of Mary when you read the script and what was it about her that was relatable to you?
Dee Wallace: Well, I wanted the role because of Steven. I wanted to do the movie because Steven Spielberg was getting to be Steven Spielberg. But I also wanted to do the movie because of Melissa Mathison’s script and the beauty and truthfulness of it.
I just got Mary because Mary was very much like my mom. I had a dad, but he was a very unpresent dad. He was an alcoholic who ultimately committed suicide so for most of my life, my mom raised me and supported us by herself, even though he was there. So I knew that dynamic of “I have to go to work. Oh my god my kid is sick! How am I going to go to work if my kid is sick?” I remember my mom going, “I shouldn’t leave her at home by herself but I don’t have anybody to watch her, we’re too poor.” That whole frenetic “How do I keep my life going and support my kids and create a happy life for them?” at the same time.
And did my mom know what was going on in my life half the time? No, she didn’t.
Dread Central: Family is so important in this; did you have favorite moments with the kids? I always enjoyed the dynamic between your family because it was so believable; there was such a realism to that, and I think that relatability is just one part of the reason why this movie endures.
Dee Wallace: I think that A- a lot of that was because you had two very young actors that had never acted; they were just brilliant actors, because they were real in the moment. And then B- because Steven, throughout the entire film, would throw things out while we were shooting, “Okay Drew, now say this line. Okay Drew, take a bite of your hamburger and say this line.” And so he would keep it fresh all the time, but also he would take all of us and go, “Okay, say this line but don’t tell Dee. Dee, you say this line but don’t tell the kids you’re going to say it.” And I love working that way, because you just become the character and you have those real moments that you’re talking about and relating to right now.
Like when Elliott (Henry Thomas) said “penis breath”, I didn’t know he was going to say “penis breath” so that reaction was a genuine real reaction instead of a studied reaction. I could have gone, “Okay well, I should turn around and really get on him about this in front of the other kids.” That’s where your mind goes but your talent wants to come from the real thing which is a laugh- “Oh my god, my kid just said ‘penis breath.'”
So there were all kinds of moments like that where we just bonded as a family. We played basketball together, I helped them with their homework, you know- stuff like that.
Dread Central: So what’s your favorite E.T. moment then?
Dee Wallace: Oh my favorite hands down is when he walks behind me in the kitchen; when I’m doing the groceries and I don’t have a clue that any of this is going on. A little interesting note, by the way, that was done by a boy, I wish I had his name, who had no legs. They put him upside down in the costume and that’s how we got that great E.T. walk, he was walking on his hands.
Dread Central: Since this is my last question, I just wanted to ask one thing; I know you had worked steadily in the film industry before E.T., but was this the film that really changed everything for you?
Dee Wallace: Oh sure, absolutely. Dee Wallace was a household name in the biggest blockbuster of all time. How could that not change your business? It was an absolutely remarkable experience.
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