Thirty years ago, when I was seven years old, several very important things happened tome that changed my life. They involved two high-profile Stevens, a pen and paper, my fighting parents and an “escape” visit to the local flea pit cinema to watch a gentle, big-eyed alien melt my heart.
Around the same time “E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial” came out in theaters in 1982 – spreading its wonderful, timeless, fairytale messages to the world of childish innocence and the intense, emotional bond of a magical friendship – I had started understanding just how much I loved stories.
Thinking about this month being “E.T’s” 30th anniversary jogged memories of the first time I watched it and how, as a young boy of a similar age to Elliott (Henry Thomas) in the film, I desperately wanted a special friend from another world to come and save me.
Save me, mostly, from the real world. Save me from the fact my parents argued all the time, that my mother was constantly stressed and took her anger out on me, and that my father was never around.
And, I guess, there were many, many millions of children and adults at the time – and now – who were going through their own issues and wished for an E.T. too; so much so that Steven Spielberg’s beautiful, sometimes jolting and shocking movie (the horrific scene with E.T. lying white and ‘dead’ in the river still hits me every time) touched their nerves so powerfully that “E.T.” surpassed “Star Wars” and stayed the highest grossing film for 10 years.
There was something achingly familiar and effortless about the way Spielberg took
us into a world of bad adults wanting to corrupt innocence. The director introduced
audiences to their inner child in a way that was so intense that it forced us then, as
children, to look at the real world in a different way too.
At least, it did for me.
Because, at that time, I also began reading Stephen King books, where he too depicted
the innocence, excitement and terror-filled experience of growing up (especially in his
novel “IT” which oozes childhood nostalgia) and it made me see that these were the
stories I loved, these were the stories I wanted to tell to myself and other people.
It also made me, at seven years old, fall in love with everything to do with America. I began
to dream of one day being able to live there, to write stories about this faraway and
magical land, to be involved in the film industry and to one day – hopefully – direct a
Many of these dreams I have now, fantastically, made come true (apart from the direct
a movie one, which I’m still working on!). I write child-like adventure stories, I live and
work on and off in California and am very much involved in the film industry as a writer,
script editor, blogger, production assistant and passionate filmgoer.
But, just as importantly, back then in 1982 – having sucked up the creative force and childish, emotional power of “E.T.,” the two Stevens and used the fuel of family issues – my imagination kicked into overdrive.
It was around this time, shortly after sitting wide-eyed in the darkness of my local, smelly
cinema in a cold, rainy southwest England watching E.T. and Elliott’s adventure unfold,
that I went and stole a little blue exercise book from school (marked with thin lines so I
had more space to write lots in it) and started writing my first story.
It was a story about a boy who fell through the floor of his school into a magical, fantasy land. I remember it well.
But I don’t remember it because of the story itself (especially as I don’t recall finishing
it), but more for the pure, unadulterated creative power, escapism and completely
involving feeling that writing the story gave me at the time; a feeling that made me believe in magic.
Writing the story helped me deal with reality because I went away from it, inside my mind; I realized I could create worlds and characters which could do anything they wanted, be anyone they wanted. They could have amazing adventures, caring friends, supportive role models, battle the nastiest people and overcome evil.
In short, using my words I could create magic on a page.
And so, a little alien with a glowing heart, two amazing Stevens, arguing parents and a pen and paper all helped shape my destiny as a writer and creative person thirty years on.
Which is why, knowing Spielberg’s “E.T.” is still universally loved and moves children
and adults to tears today as much as it did back in 1982, means something special to me.
It means that people still enjoy and still want these stories.
Why? Because we all need magic in our lives and storytellers help us find it and believe
in it. That’s why I’m glad to be a storyteller and very happy I grew up with the magic of E.T. and Elliott’s friendship.
Thank you Mr Spielberg.
What were your memories of first watching “E.T.” thirty years ago?