Steven Spielberg has directed many memorable movies during his long career, but E.T. The Extra Terrestrial remains one of his most iconic. To this day, it’s one of his best-reviewed movies, currently holding a 98 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the most iconic moments from the classic 80s sci-fi family flick, of which there are many, is the ending, which is just about as perfect as it gets. But according to star Robert MacNaughton, the ending was almost quite a bit different.
The actor, who plays Elliot’s older brother in the movie, recently spoke with Yahoo in honor of E.T. celebrating its 30th anniversary. While speaking about the ending, Robert MacNaughton revealed that the original ending was quite a bit different than what ultimately made the cut. It was originally going to involve another Dungeons and Dragons game, as well as confirming that Elliot was still in contact with the movie’s titular, lovable alien. Here’s what he had to say how the original script changed.
“The last scene in the movie wasn’t supposed to be the scene that ends up in the movie. The last scene was going to be all of us playing Dungeons and Dragons again, except this time, Elliott’s the dungeon master. Because he was the one that found ET, he sort of got in with the group. And so that was supposed to be the final scene, it was in the script and everything, and then they would pan up to the roof and you’d see the communicator and it’s still working, in other words, Elliott is still in touch with E.T. But after they did the score, the music, and they saw what they had with the spaceship taking off and everything [laughs], how can you follow that? I mean, it was a wise choice.”
On the one hand, this sounds like it may have been a nice little callback. The movie opens with the kids all playing Dungeons and Dragons and this would have provided a little something for Elliot’s character arc. On the other hand, as Robert MacNaughton says, how can you follow Steven Spielberg’s ending? As far as iconic imagery goes, there are few things that rival the spaceship at the end of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as it exists. Interestingly enough, the ending of Stranger Things is actually a lot like the original ending of E.T. It shows the boys playing Dungeons and Dragons again. Only Will slips away to puke up a slug, in itself a great ending.
It was also recently revealed that Harrison Ford had a cameo in E.T. where he played Elliot’s uptight, condescending principal. The moment was deemed too distracting by Steven Spielberg. And the footage hit the cutting room floor to become part of the movie’s mythology.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is returning to theaters for a limited run next month in honor of its 35th anniversary, which will only add to its incredible accomplishments. The movie was released in the summer of 1982 and went on to surpass Star Wars: A New Hope as the highest-grossing movie ever made. That record wouldn’t be broken until Spielberg himself broke it with Jurassic Park in 1993. Plus, E.T. is still one of John Williams’ greatest scores. Not that a different ending would have hindered that success, but it is certainly hard to picture it any other way now.