E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison passes away at 65

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Nov 5, 2015, 10:14 AM EST

Sad news out of Hollywood: E.T.'s "mother" has passed away.

Variety reported late Wednesday (Nov. 4) that screenwriter Melissa Mathison died at the age of 65 from neuroendocrine cancer. Her death was confirmed by her brother, Dirk.

Mathison wrote the original screenplay for E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, after developing the concept with director Steven Spielberg. The story was concocted out of the ashes of Spielberg's abandoned alien invasion film, Night Skies, and was also partially based on an imaginary friend that a young Spielberg invented after his parents got divorced. Mathison's screenplay was nominated for an Oscar.

She called her moving script a "boy meets dog story" and a tale of "redemption and resurrection."

Spielberg said on a special-edition DVD commentary about Mathison's script, "Melissa delivered this 107-page first draft to me and I read it in about an hour. 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."

In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, Spielberg said, "Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T."

Mathison had actually reteamed with Spielberg recently to write the screenplay for his next movie, The BFG, based on a story by Roald Dahl and due out next year. Her other screenwriting credits included The Black Stallion, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Escape Artist and Martin Scorsese’s film about the early life of the Dalai Lama, Kundun.

Mathison was also married for 21 years, from 1983 to 2004, to actor Harrison Ford, with whom she had two children, Georgia and Malcolm.

Sci-fi fans, movie buffs and children of all ages will always owe her a debt of gratitude for bringing a sweet, wise and compassionate little alien into our lives and hearts.

(additional info via The Los Angeles Times)