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Pop Culture

Steven Spielberg went the extra mile to keep E.T. 'alive' on set for Drew Barrymore

7-year-old Barrymore thought E.T. was real, so Spielberg kept the illusion going even when they weren't filming.

E.T. Drew Barrymore
Phoo by zuko1312

Drew Barrymore believed E.T. was real.

It's understandable that a young child seeing a movie like "E.T." might think the wide-eyed creature from another planet is real. After all, it's an award-winning film with still-impressive animatronics that bring E.T. to life. One would probably assume, however, that a child who acted in the movie and saw the behind-the-scenes filmmaking process firsthand would know he wasn't real.

However, that wasn't the case for actress Drew Barrymore.

Barrymore played the main character's younger sister, Gertie, in the film. After an initial scare, Gertie adored E.T.—and as it turns out, so did 7-year-old Barrymore.


Barrymore recently had some of the cast members on her daytime talk show for the film's 40th anniversary and they described how she would interact with the E.T. character, even in-between takes. Henry Thomas, who played the main character Elliott, shared that it had been cold on the set one day and Barrymore asked the wardrobe lady for a scarf to put on E.T. so he wouldn't get cold.

"I really, really loved him, in such a profound way," said Barrymore, adding that she would take lunch to the adorable alien on set.

Dee Wallace Stone, who played Elliott and Gertie's mother in the film, said "We found you over there just talking away to E.T., and so we let Steven [Spielberg] know. And so Steven, from that time on, appointed two guys to keep E.T. alive so whenever you came over to talk to him, he could react to you."

How incredibly sweet is that?

For young children, the line between reality and fantasy can be quite fuzzy. Kids' imaginations allow them to believe in everything from fairies to Santa Claus to monsters in their closets, and the fact that Barrymore believed E.T. to be real is such a pure example of childhood innocence.

That Spielberg took care to honor that innocence and nurture Barrymore's imagination even when they weren't filming is so touching. It's particularly moving in this case, considering how key adults in Barrymore's life were famously not protective of her childhood.

Barrymore has shared that Spielberg has been "a big father figure" in her life and that he refers to her as his first kid. The two have been close since E.T. was filmed four decades ago and she credits Spielberg and the entire E.T. cast with showing her the true meaning of family.

The full reunion episode of "The Drew Barrymore Show" with the "E.T." cast is set to air on Monday, Oct. 31.

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