It’s one of the most beloved, waterworks-busting finales in all of movie-dom. But E.T. could have actually ended in a very different way.
Robert MacNaughton, who memorably played Elliott’s sarcastic yet protective older brother Michael in the 1982 classic, reveals that director Steven Spielberg had planned to close out the movie in a much quieter fashion — but with one very telling twist.
In an interview with Yahoo! Movies, MacNaughton, now 50, says that originally the film’s final scene depicted the kids all playing Dungeons & Dragons at home, and hinted that Elliott might still be able to communicate with his far-flung pal.
“The last scene was going to be all of us playing Dungeons & Dragons again, except this time, Elliott’s the dungeon master. Because he was the one that found E.T., he sort of got in with the group,” MacNaughton recalls. “And so that was supposed to be the final scene, it was in the script and everything, and then they would pan up to the roof and you’d see the communicator and it’s still working — in other words, Elliott is still in touch with E.T.”
That all changed, apparently, when the film came together in post-production. “But after they did the score, the music, and they saw what they had with the spaceship taking off and everything — how can you follow that? I mean, it was a wise choice,” he says.
Dungeons & Dragons, apparently, was a key element in the making of E.T. The film was written by Harrison Ford’s then-partner, Melissa Mathison, and MacNaughton recalls how one of his auditions took place at Ford's house, where he was asked to play the game with Ford's kids.
“It was funny because Dungeons & Dragons was even in the audition process [for E.T.],” he says. “One of the auditions was at Harrison Ford’s house, because he and Melissa Mathison, who wrote the script, were together, and his kids Ben and Willard played Dungeons & Dragons. So one of the auditions was at Harrison Ford’s house with all of us playing Dungeons & Dragons.”
Now a married father, MacNaughton has largely stepped away from acting and has been working for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 20 years, first in Arizona and then in New Jersey. He would, however, make one exception when it comes to jumping back in the game: a guest shot on Stranger Things, which, appropriately, pays heavy homage to E.T.
“Of course I’d say yes!” he says, when asked if he’d come on board for Season 3 should producers come calling. “I think they’re brilliant.”
It’s enough to turn Stranger Things’ world upside down.