Steven Spielberg Pulls A Reverse Lucas

To the great distress of Star Wars fans everywhere, George Lucas has become infamous for the numerous changes he has made to the Original Trilogy over the years. These changes have ranged from the banal, such as adding digital beasts to scenes on Tatooine, to the outrageous, such as changing the bar fight between Han Solo and Greedo so that Greedo, no Solo, shoots first, and adding a bizarre scream to the penultimate scene of Return Of The Jedi When Steven Speilberg re-released the E.T. The Extra Terrestrial for its 20th anniversary in 2002, he did something similar by replacing guns being held by the government agents chasing E.T. and the children with walkie-talkies. Fans were upset and Speilberg admitted last fall that he regretted the decision to remove the guns from that particular scene. Now, with the movie scheduled to be released on Blu-Ray in October, Spielberg is bringing back the movie as it was originally seen in theaters:

As far as purists are concerned, the folks at Universal buried the lede in the announcement of their new anniversary edition of E.T. Hidden between all the selling points advertised in the Blu-ray trailer below, you’ll catch something special in the footage about 25 seconds in: The guns are back.


That infamous 2002 rerelease also removed a line in which an angry Elliott called his brother “penis breath,” and redubbed another line in which Elliott’s mother told him he couldn’t go out “dressed like a terrorist.” (She tells him he couldn’t go out “dressed like a hippie,” of which screenwriter Melissa Mathison complained, ”That doesn’t make sense. The mom is a hippie, for God’s sake.”) Other scenes included a CGI E.T. rather than the original physical puppet. Spielberg has wielded the magic touch to restore those scenes as well.  Detailing the deleted scenes that will be part of the disc’s extras, the press release notes that they include two scenes from the 2002 version, and a publicist for the release confirmed to me in an email: “It’s the original 1982 version of the film intact.”

Here’s the trailer for the Blu-Ray release (the guns appear around :25)

And, here’s the trailer for the 2002 release, which shows the agents carrying walkie-talkies around the 1:13 mark):

Good on you, Speilberg. Now how about talking some sense into your friend George?

Photo via Slate

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Herb says:

    Spielberg and Lucas are in the enviable position in Hollywood where there is no one to tell them no. They’re probably not the only filmmakers who would like to change past work, but everyone else has some corporate suit nixing the idea. “It costs too much, forget it. Let it be. Now get out of my office and go make another movie.”

    That said, I don’t really blame either one of them for their recent lapses in judgment. I blame the army of yes-men who made it happen.

  2. @Herb:

    It also helps that they own, or control the companies that own, the various rights tied to their movies. Francis Ford Coppola wouldn’t be able to go back and digitally change The Godfather films because the rights to the films are divided among at least 3 different groups (his studio, Paramount Pictures and its parent company Viacom, and the estate of Mario Puzo)

  3. Herb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “It also helps that they own, or control the companies that own”

    Helps? Or hurts? Haha

    Actually, to be fair, I think for Spielberg, it helps. He is the better filmmaker. His yes men get all the good ideas.

  4. @Herb:

    Perhaps helps wasn’t the right word because, in Lucas’s case at least, it has just led to weirdness.

    And, yea, Spielberg is clearly the better filmmaker. I couldn’t see Lucas doing something as good as Schindler’s List.

  5. @Doug Mataconis:

    Perhaps helps wasn’t the right word because, in Lucas’s case at least, it has just led to weirdness.

    There were a few of the Star Wars edits that I thought were improvements, like putting Biggs back into the first film, although in most cases this was the result of putting original footage back in, not newly generated content.

    In a broader sense, post release edits can are a mixed bag. Sometimes they make the film worse. Other times, they make it much better. Three particular examples I can think of where the “director’s cut” is considered far superior to the original theatrical release: Blade Runner, Watchmen, and Brazil.

  6. PJ says:

    I don’t have an issue about this as long as the original version is still available.
    The original version of E.T. was available when you bought the 3 disc edition, the re-release in 2005 omitted the disc with the original version though.

    George Lucas testified in front of Congress back in 1988:

    “My name is George Lucas. I am a writer, director, and producer of motion pictures and Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm Ltd., a multi-faceted entertainment corporation.

    I am not here today as a writer-director, or as a producer, or as the chairman of a corporation. I’ve come as a citizen of what I believe to be a great society that is in need of a moral anchor to help define and protect its intellectual and cultural heritage. It is not being protected.

    The destruction of our film heritage, which is the focus of concern today, is only the tip of the iceberg. American law does not protect our painters, sculptors, recording artists, authors, or filmmakers from having their lifework distorted, and their reputation ruined. If something is not done now to clearly state the moral rights of artists, current and future technologies will alter, mutilate, and destroy for future generations the subtle human truths and highest human feeling that talented individuals within our society have created.

    A copyright is held in trust by its owner until it ultimately reverts to public domain. American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history.

    People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society. The preservation of our cultural heritage may not seem to be as politically sensitive an issue as “when life begins” or “when it should be appropriately terminated,” but it is important because it goes to the heart of what sets mankind apart. Creative expression is at the core of our humanness. Art is a distinctly human endeavor. We must have respect for it if we are to have any respect for the human race.

    These current defacements are just the beginning. Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tommorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces,” or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new “original” negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.

    In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.

    There is nothing to stop American films, records, books, and paintings from being sold to a foreign entity or egotistical gangsters and having them change our cultural heritage to suit their personal taste.

    I accuse the companies and groups, who say that American law is sufficient, of misleading the Congress and the People for their own economic self-interest.

    I accuse the corporations, who oppose the moral rights of the artist, of being dishonest and insensitive to American cultural heritage and of being interested only in their quarterly bottom line, and not in the long-term interest of the Nation.

    The public’s interest is ultimately dominant over all other interests. And the proof of that is that even a copyright law only permits the creators and their estate a limited amount of time to enjoy the economic fruits of that work.

    There are those who say American law is sufficient. That’s an outrage! It’s not sufficient! If it were sufficient, why would I be here? Why would John Houston have been so studiously ignored when he protested the colorization of “The Maltese Falcon?” Why are films cut up and butchered?

    Attention should be paid to this question of our soul, and not simply to accounting procedures. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.

    I hope you have the courage to lead America in acknowledging the importance of American art to the human race, and accord the proper protection for the creators of that art–as it is accorded them in much of the rest of the world communities.”

    Obviously, when he does it, it’s different…

  7. Gustopher says:

    For all the changes George Lucas has done to Star Wars, Chewbacca still doesn’t get a medal at the end.

    Why does he hate Wookiees?

  8. @Gustopher:

    I know, right? I’ve always believed that Wookie yell at the end of A New Hope is Chewie saying “Hey, where the hell’s my medal?”