E.T.’s Script Originally Included A Cameo Meant For Harrison Ford

In the cut scene, Harrison Ford plays Elliott’s condescending school principal after he drunkenly convinces his classmates to release the frogs — meant for science class dissection — into the wild. While the scene was primarily between Ford and Henry Thomas, with Ford consumed in shadows that obscure his face, there was also a brief moment with the school nurse, played by Melissa Mathison. Now, Mathison was not an actor. She was the screenwriter of “E.T.,” and she was dating Harrison Ford at the time, who she would go on to be married to for 21 years. Spielberg thought it would be fun for this couple to cameo in the movie. Seems perfectly harmless, right?

Throwing someone who has never acted before into a major motion picture can make that person incredibly uncomfortable, and that’s exactly what happened with Mathison. In the book “The Films of Harrison Ford” by Lee Pfeiffer and Michael Lewis, they claim that “the sequence was scrapped when Melissa’s nervousness in front of the camera would not abate.” When every other actor in “E.T.” is completely dialed into that story and tone, someone so visibly anxious on camera will stick out in a major way. In the end, the couple’s cameo was not meant to be. However, I believe that to be a rather simplistic look as to why that scene wound up getting scrapped, and it speaks to Steven Spielberg’s deft touch as a director.

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