Harrison Ford Had an Unexpected Deleted Cameo in ‘E.T.’

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Harrison Ford’s girlfriend at the time, Melissa Mathison, initially rejected Steven Spielberg’s offer to write E.T., but reconsidered after Ford encouraged her.
  • Harrison Ford filmed a deleted scene in E.T. as Elliott’s school principal, but Spielberg decided to remove it because it didn’t add to the story and went against the film’s tone.
  • Even as a famous actor, Harrison Ford was not immune to being cut from a film, showing Spielberg’s influence and decision-making power.


Eclipsed perhaps only by his role as Han Solo in the Star Wars films, Harrison Ford will always be best known for taking up the whip as Indiana Jones, with the original trilogy and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull all being directed by Steven Spielberg. Spielberg was the king of Hollywood in the 80s and 90s, not only with the extremely successful Indiana Jones, but other game changers such as Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Spielberg nearly cast Ford in roles for those latter films, parts that later went to Sam Neill and Liam Neeson. Then there was the Spielberg and Ford pairing that wasn’t a nearly but an actually, when Harrison Ford filmed a part for perhaps Spielberg’s biggest movie ever, 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. There is an intriguing backstory about how this came to be, but though Ford shared the screen with Henry Thomas‘ Elliott, Spielberg decided to delete the scene from the final film.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape from Earth and return to his home planet.

Release Date
June 11, 1982

Cast
Henry Thomas , Dee Wallace , Robert MacNaughton , Drew Barrymore , Peter Coyote , K.C. Martel

Writers
Melissa Mathison

Runtime
115 minutes


The first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, came out in 1981. While filming this iconic movie, Spielberg had a fateful encounter that would shape his next project. Harrison Ford’s girlfriend at the time, and later his wife from 1983 to 2004, was a screenwriter named Melissa Mathison. She had written the script for the classic family film The Black Stallion in 1979. Spielberg was a fan, and when Mathison showed up on set to spend time with Ford, Spielberg told her as much. He had the idea for E.T. in his head at that time, but he needed a writer. Spielberg thought Mathison would be perfect, but when he asked, she rejected him, telling the director that she’d retired because she found screenwriting too hard. Steven didn’t take “no” so easily for an answer. As he told the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2022:

“I went to Harrison and said, ‘Your girlfriend turned me down. She doesn’t want to write my next movie.’ He said, ‘Well, let me talk to her.’ He talked to her and she came to me the next day and said, ‘OK you got Harrison so excited about this. What is it that I missed?’ I think I hadn’t told her the story very well because I told her the story again and she got really emotional and she committed right there in the Tunisian desert.”

The rest was history. Melissa Mathison wrote E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 1983. The pairing was such a success that Mathison and Speilberg collaborated twice more, once on a segment for 1983’s controversial Twilight Zone: The Movie, then again for 2016’s BFG. It would be Mathison’s last writing credit, as she passed away in 2015 before the film was released.

Harrison Ford Shared a Deleted Scene With Henry Thomas in ‘E.T.’

After how well Raiders of the Lost Ark had gone, Harrison Ford agreed to do a cameo for Spielberg in E.T. According to a 2017 Entertainment Weekly article about the cameo, it was decided that Ford wouldn’t play the likable good guy everyone loved, but someone against type. He’d be young Elliott’s school principal, and we’d meet him right after that famous frog scene incident where Elliott is kissed by Erica Eleniak. The next scene has Elliott sent to the principal’s office, but while it’s Ford sitting at the desk admonishing his student, you might never have known it, had the scene made the final cut. Ford’s face is never shown. We hear his voice (even that’s not a giveaway, as his gruff tone is absent) and we see his body and hands, but he’s not the focal point. Rather, it’s a fearful Elliott we are watching.

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In the deleted scene, Harrison Ford is filmed from behind and in the shadows. Elliott apologizes for what he did. While Ford goes on and on about deceit and treachery and how we can be our own worst enemy, he swivels in his chair and looks out the window. As he does this, Elliott’s own chair lifts from the ground, raised by E.T. back at his friend’s home, before it drops to the ground without the principal having noticed. It’s then that Elliott’s mother (Dee Wallace) walks into the office. The principal tells her not to worry, that he and Elliott have talked. The best thing, he thinks, is for Elliott to go home for the rest of the day and think about what he did. “Tomorrow is the first day of your life,” he tells him. He then dismisses Elliott, and Harrison Ford is dismissed from E.T.

Why Did Steven Spielberg Decide To Remove Harrison Ford From ‘E.T.’?

Henry Thomas was just 10 when he landed the role of Elliott in E.T. As he told Entertainment Weekly at a 2012 E.T. reunion, he was more excited about meeting Indiana Jones. He said:

“When I met Steven, the first thing out of my mouth was I think, ‘I love Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my hero was Harrison Ford. I basically was just excited to meet Steven in hopes that I would meet Harrison.”

Thomas joked that he didn’t say anything to Ford when he actually got the chance to meet him. So why was the scene between them cut? It simply didn’t work. E.T. focuses mostly on the kids and Elliott’s mom, with the only other adult interaction being the U.S. government coming after Elliott’s alien friend. To have Elliott be admonished by his principal didn’t add anything. It also works against the tone, with the office and the moment being so dark. Even Harrison Ford, one of the most famous actors in the world, wasn’t beyond being removed from a film when his boss was a man even more influential than him. Steven Spielberg was right in removing this scene. Now, if only he’d left everything else alone when it came to that 20th anniversary release with the guns to walkie-talkies fiasco.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

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