"ET phone home..." We've all heard it; likely used it a time or two in conversation or as a joke (but really, feel free to take this as a nudge to call "home" and check in on a loved one). As with yesterday's doodle about The Tale of Genji, this classic was written by a woman!
Melissa Mathison was born in Los Angeles on June 3, 1950, and grew up in the Hollywood Hills. Her father was Richard Mathison, a journalist who worked at the L.A. Times and then Newsweek. She attended UC Berkeley, majoring in political science, but put her studies on hold to work as an assistant to Francis Ford Coppola on the 1974 “The Godfather, Part II.”
Melissa Mathison was not happy with the movies. She once told the LA Times that Hollywood portrayed parents as total morons and kids as mean and materialistic. So Mathison wrote her own kids movies.
Mathison explained on the special edition E.T. DVD, “I would write for four or five days in my little office in Hollywood, and then drive out to Marina Del Rey where Steven Spielberg was editing in a little apartment on the beach. I’d bring him my pages and we’d sit and go through them…It took about eight weeks for us to get the first draft, which was quite fast, I think.” Steven Spielburg is quoted, "Melissa delivered this 107-page first draft to me and I read it in about an hour. I was just knocked out. It was a script that I was willing to shoot tomorrow. I didn't really want to do a lot with it. It was honest...Melissa's voice made a direct connection with my heart."
Melissa Mathison was nominated for an Oscar for her original screenplay of the 1982 film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The blockbuster was directed by Steven Spielberg and starred a then-6-year-old Drew Barrymore.
The following year, Mathison married actor Harrison Ford. They'd met when she was an assistant on the set of "Apocalypse Now." They moved with their children far from Hollywood to a ranch in Wyoming, and Mathison put her career on hold. She told Newsweek that she didn't want to be missing her kid's childhood while she was away busy writing about children.
Mathison wrote scripts for the movies "Black Stallion," "The Escape Artist" and "Indian In The Cupboard," a segment in the “Twilight Zone” movie as well as the TV movie “Son of the Morning Star”, also "Kundun" about the 14th Dalai Lama. Near the end of her life, she had returned to working with Steven Spielberg on his adaptation of the Roald Dahl story, "The BFG."
Melissa Mathison passed away from neuroendocrine cancer, November 4, 2015. In statement after the passing of his friend, Spielberg wrote that Mathison, "had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T."