Steven Spielberg is one of the fathers of the modern blockbuster. In an era where studios operate with the philosophy that producer Mike Medavoy coined as "you're only as good as your next one," it's no wonder that Spielberg continually tops himself. The director has been responsible for some of Hollywood's most memorable blockbusters for nearly five decades.
The director came from what is called the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s, largely comprised of the first generation of filmmakers formally trained in college film programs. After the fall of the studio system, New Hollywood directors (also known as the Movie Brats) enjoyed unprecedented artistic freedom. Notable alumni from the New Hollywood group include John Landis, George Lucas, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and of course, Spielberg.
New Hollywood was built on the back of a film movement that occurred a decade prior across the Atlantic. Influential filmmaker François Truffaut challenged French filmmakers to embrace the country's avant-garde traditions, creating a new style known as the French New Wave. The movement used innovative techniques to explore new cinematic themes. Hollywood took note and would soon follow suit. After Truffaut died in 1984, The New York Times called him "one of the most important film directors of the 20th century."
So when Truffaut encouraged Spielberg to make a kid-friendly movie, the director wisely took the advice to heart and created a character with a literal heart light.
'You Are Wonderful With Keeds'
It can be argued that the modern blockbuster formula originated in 1975 with Steven Spielberg's "Jaws." The classical film era was dead, and television had been eating into Hollywood's profits since the 1950s. The blockbuster formula would see films turn into cultural commodities, with the movie as the core of a larger package being sold to audiences (alongside merchandise, video games, soundtracks, etc.). Movies were becoming part of a larger spectacle.
Spielberg confessed to Rolling Stone in 1982, "I'm just scared to death of is that someday I'm gonna wake up and bore somebody with a film. That's kept me making movies that have tried to out-spectacle each other." The director set out to top the success of "Jaws" with the 1977 sci-fi film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." François Truffaut played a French scientist in the film and offered the director some words of wisdom. Spielberg explained:
"François Truffaut helped inspire me to make 'E.T.' Simply by saying to me on the 'Close Encounters' set, 'I like you with keeds, you are wonderful with keeds, you must do a movie just with keeds.' And I said, 'Well, I've always wanted to do a film about kids, but I've got to finish this, then I'm doing '1941' about the Japanese attacking Los Angeles. And Truffaut told me I was making a big mistake.'"
Spielberg kept his commitment to "1941" and followed that up in 1981 with the first of five Indiana Jones movies, "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark." But after that, he returned to Truffaut's advice and created the most memorable kids' movie of the 1980s.
Movie Brats, Unite!
With the 1982 film "E.T. the "Extra-Terrestrial," Steven Spielberg created a timeless classic that still resonates with audiences today. Spielberg creatively tells the story of a friendly alien left behind on Earth through the eyes of children. Specifically, 10-year-old, moppy-haired Elliot (Henry Thomas) and his seven-year-old sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore).
In a style that would no doubt make Truffaut proud, Spielberg paints in earnest tones despite the movie's family-friendly label. The impact of divorce is a running theme in the movie, something most children of the 80s know something about. Spielberg later revealed that his parents' divorce influenced the film. The visuals of the film are especially memorable. When Elliot's house is searched for E.T., it's done scientifically yet shot in an unforgettable style that is horrifying to children. At least it was to me at the tender age of six.
For many of those memorable visuals, Spielberg turned to Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects company founded by fellow Movie Brat George Lucas, for the film's incredible effects. They spent months crafting the iconic shot of Elliot and E.T. bicycling across the sky in front of the moon. "I really am attracted to stories that you can't see on television and stories that you can't get every day," Spielberg said. "So that attraction leads me to the impossible dream."
Thanks to encouragement from French New Wave founder François Truffaut, Steven Spielberg's impossible dream of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" remains one of the most beloved movies of the 1980s.
Read this next: 12 Best Performances In Steven Spielberg Movies
The post Director Francois Truffaut Helped Inspire Steven Spielberg To Make E.T. appeared first on /Film.