LOS ANGELES — The woman behind the simple, immortal lines “E.T. phone home,” “I’ll be right here,” and “Be good” has died.
Screenwriter Melissa Mathison, an Academy Award nominee for “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial,” died in Los Angeles on Wednesday after an illness. She was 65.
Mathison wrote the scripts for “The Black Stallion,” “The Indian in the Cupboard” and “Kundun,” as well as “E.T.” director Steven Spielberg’s portion of “Twilight Zone: The Movie.”
Mathison was married to Harrison Ford from 1983 to 2004, and the couple had two children.
After “Stallion,” Spielberg spoke to Mathison (then dating Ford while they were all on the set of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) about a horror film with aliens he wanted to make called “Night Skies.” But after “Raiders,” Spielberg wanted to get back to the tranquil feel of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Mathison began reworking the script into what would become “E.T.”
However, Spielberg’s “Night Skies” studio, Columbia Pictures, called Mathison’s script “a wimpy Walt Disney movie,” according to Spielberg’s biography.
Spielberg brought the film to Universal instead, and the rest is Hollywood history.
Mathison’s brother, Dirk Mathison, told CNN, “She was a lovely and brilliant woman and she will be greatly missed. She was a central figure in so many lives because she was so kind and giving and just a brilliant screenwriter.”
Friends and colleagues, including “E.T.” actress Dee Wallace Stone, remembered Mathison on social media.
Melissa changed the world forever when she wrote the beautiful script for E.T. I am honored that I was a part of… https://t.co/4rXO7TW9uN
— Dee Wallace OFFICIAL (@Dee_Wallace) November 5, 2015
Mathison worked with Speilberg once more, writing the script for “The BFG,” an adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel, set for release on July 1, 2016.