Sad news for genre fans of all ages. Melissa Mathison has passed away today at the age of 65. She is perhaps best known as the screenwriter behind director Steven Spielberg's blockbuster smash hit E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which arrived in theaters in the summer of 1982. She succumbed to a long illness reports Deadline.
Melissa Mathison was a graduate of UC Berkeley, and a native of Los Angeles, born in the city in 1950. She was 29 years old when she first broke big in Hollywood, providing the hit film The Black Stallion with its screenplay way back in 1979. From there, she would write E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which opened the same year as her film The Escape Artist, which starred Raul Julia, Desi Arnaz and Teri Garr.
After E.T. proved to be such a big hit, she would go onto collaborate on the anthology movie Twilight Zone: The Movie, which debuted in 1983. She wrote the segment entitled 'Kick the Can', which was directed by Steven Spielberg. Her other notable screenplays include 1995's The Indian in the Cupboard and the 1997 drama Kundun. She also translated the screenplay for the 2008 Hayao Miyazaki animated film Ponyo.
Melissa Mathison's final project as a screenwriter is The BFG, based on the children's novel by Roald Dahl. It marked her first collaboration with director Steven Spielberg in over thirty years. The film is set to be his next directorial effort, and stars Mark Rylance as the Big Friendly Giant. Production on that film is still moving forward.
Melissa Mathison was married to Harrison Ford from 1983 until 2004. They share two children together, Malcolm Carswell Ford (born March 10, 1987) and Georgia Ford (born June 30, 1990). In 1990, while working on Kundun for director Martin Scorsese, she met the Dalai Lama and formed a lasting relationship. She continued to work as an activist for Tibet freedom and was a member of the board of the International Campaign for Tibet.
Steven Spielberg credits the writer with much of E.T.'s success. She was actually nominated for an Academy Award for the script. On the special edition DVD of the movie, Steven Spielberg had this to say about her work.
"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."
Melissa Mathison never remarried. The BFG is said to currently be in post-production. The movie will serve as her final Hollywood credit, but her work will live on, with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial considered a timeless classic and one of the best family movies ever made.