Steven Spielberg has been promoting his new movie Ready Player One, with the director vowing in a new interview that he will never digitally alter one of his old movies ever again. The director was asked at a Ready Player One press event about using new technology to tweak any of his existing films, but the filmmaker says he learned his lesson from the controversial changes he made in the 20th Anniversary Edition of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, most notably, where he changed the guns used by federal agents to walkie-talkies. Here's what the director had to say, promising to never again use new technology to fix his past mistakes.
"When E.T. was re-released, I actually digitized five shots where E.T. went from being a puppet to a digital puppet. And I also replaced the gun when the FBI runs up on the van, now they have walkie-talkies. So there's a really bad version of E.T. where I took my cue from Star Wars and the digital enhancements of A New Hope that George put in. I went ahead, because the marketing at Universal thought we needed something to get the audience in to see the movie, so I did a few touch-ups in the film. In those days, social media wasn't as profound as it is today. But what was just beginning erupted in a loud negative voice about, 'How could you ruin our favorite childhood film by taking the guns away and putting walkie-talkies in their hands?', among other things. So I learned a big lesson. That's the last time I ever decided to mess with the past. What's done is done, and I'll never go back into another movie I made, or have control over, to enhance or change it."
What's rather ironic is that, while Spielberg seems to have learned his lesson, his old friend George Lucas never did. Lucas has refused to release the original theatrical cuts of the Star Wars trilogy, and has only made his Special Edition trilogy available for fans, despite those same fans demanding the original untouched trilogy be released again, over the past 20 years. While the original trilogy was released quietly on DVD in 2006 in limited edition, there has been no Blu-ray version of it released. While Lucas no longer owns LucasFilm, many fans are still waiting for the original trilogy on Blu-ray, although it isn't known if that will ever be released.
Even when Steven Spielberg made the E.T. alterations on the 2002 special edition, it also included the 1982 theatrical version as well, so fans could choose which version they wanted to watch. Other changes Spielberg made included the opening scene where E.T. was spotted running, and another in the cornfield, where the E.T. practical puppet was replaced with a digital puppet, using technology that wasn't available at the time the movie was made. The 20th Anniversary version also included a number of deleted scenes that were originally shot for the movie but discarded from the theatrical print, although one scene with Harrison Ford as Elliot's (Henry Thomas) high school principal, was not added.
The filmmaker previously addressed the controversy around the E.T. special edition during a 2011 interview, where he said he regretted altering the film, not because of the controversy, but because he was disappointed in himself, adding that he ultimately realized he, "robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T." in making those alterations. Spielberg made these new revelations during a Ready Player One press event attended by Slash Film.