‘E.T.’ Screenwriter Melissa Mathison Dies at 65
If you are reading this website, then you grew up watching and loving the sci-fi family classic E.T. the Extraterrestrial. And while Steven Spielberg often receives most of the credit for E.T., it was Melissa Mathison and her beautiful mind that helped create the iconic alien and the world of his friend, Elliott. Mathison sadly passed away today at the age of 65, leaving behind a legacy of screenwriting credits for films you’ve seen and adored.
Variety reports that Mathison died after struggling with an ongoing illness, as confirmed by her brother, Dick Mathison. Melissa Mathison was best known for writing E.T., The Black Stallion and Martin Scorsese’s Kundun. In addition to writing the screenplay for E.T., Mathison also served as associate producer alongside executive producer Kathleen Kennedy, who went on to head Lucasfilm.
Mathison entered the scene with 1979's The Black Stallion, starring Terri Garr and Mickey Rooney and based on the acclaimed Walter Farley novel. She went on to write E.T. for Steven Spielberg, with the director later praising Mathison’s wonderful screenplay on the DVD commentary (via Variety):
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 I was willing to shoot the next day. It was so honest, and Melissa’s voice made a direct connection with my heart.
E.T. became an instant classic, treasured for decades by those who grew up with Spielberg’s touching coming of age film as well as youngsters discovering it for the first time. Mathison may not have been as prolific in quantity as some of her fellow scribes, but she delivered a handful of excellent screenplays in her time, including The Escape Artist and the second segment of The Twilight Zone Movie. She also wrote Kundun for Scorsese, and befriended the Dalai Lama during her time on the film.
More recently, Mathison reunited with Spielberg to write the screenplay for The BFG, based on the Roald Dahl children’s novel. She may be gone, but neither she nor her contributions to cinema will soon be forgotten.