Melissa Mathison, Writer of E.T., Dies At 65


Hollywood screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who penned the Oscar-nominated script for Steven Spielberg’s ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’, has died at the age of 65.

She died yesterday at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles from neuroendocrine cancer, her brother Dirk Mathison confirmed.

In a statement, Spielberg said: “Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T.”

Mathison’s first credit was for writing the 1979 family adventure, 'The Black Stallion’ which starred Mickey Rooney and Teri Garr.

It was after that in 1982 that she penned 'E.T.’ for Spielberg, scoring her a nomination at the 1983 Oscars.

After she married Harrison Ford in 1983, the family moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Mathison put her career on hold to raise their children Georgia and Malcolm.


“I have two little children,” she once told Newsweek. “I didn’t want to be missing their childhood while I was away, busy writing about children.”

The couple divorced after a 21-year marriage in 2004.

Mathison first entered the movie business after quitting a political science course at UC Berkeley to become an assistant on the set of 'The Godfather, Part II’, a job offered to her by Francis Ford Coppola, whose children she used to babysit.

It was then that she came up with the idea for 'The Black Stallion’, after Coppola urged her to start writing.

After 'E.T.’, she went on to adapt 'The Indian In The Cupboard’ for the screen in 1995, directed by Frank Oz and produced by Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, and then wrote 'Kundun’ for Martin Scorsese.

Her last project was adapting Roald Dahl’s 'The BFG’ for Spielberg, which is currently in post-production and stars Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Bill Hader and Jermaine Clement.


Of her most famous project, Spielberg was glowing in praise on the special edition DVD of 'E.T.’

“Melissa delivered this 107-page first draft to me and I read it in about an hour,” he said.

“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.”

Image credits: WireImage/Getty/Deadline

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