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The Change Steven Spielberg Regrets Making On E.T.

Auteur filmmakers don't get much more masterful than Steven Spielberg, whose filmography reads like a miniature historical overview of the last 50 years of mainstream American cinema. However, even an artist as revered as Spielberg can make imperfect creative choices, or at least ones that he comes to regret later.

One thing that Spielberg has not done very often is make significant changes to his films after the fact. While his pal George Lucas couldn't stop tinkering with his "Star Wars" movies for decades and Francis Ford Coppola turned re-edits of his classic films into a kind of cottage industry, Spielberg has mostly resisted the urge to go back and revise his work.

There are two major exceptions to this rule. The first is "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," whose "Special Edition" and "Director's Cut" versions have noticeable differences (via Movie Censorship). The other is "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," with its infamous 20th-anniversary rerelease in 2002 (via the Los Angeles Times). It's the latter that concerns us today.

Spielberg came to regret replacing those guns with walkie-talkies

The 20th-anniversary special edition of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" contains a handful of nips and tucks compared to the original movie, along with some CGI effects that weren't possible in 1982. However, its most infamous shot by far is one of a pair of government agents holding walkie-talkies, whereas in the original film they're carrying guns. The change was subject to much ridicule at the time, even spoofed memorably on "South Park" (via YouTube).

Almost a decade later, at a screening of Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" reported on by Yahoo, the legendary director admitted that he might have been a little overzealous in some of those adjustments –- particularly those walkie-talkies.

"For myself, I tried [changing a film] once and lived to regret it. Not because of fan outrage, but because I was disappointed in myself," admitted the filmmaker. "I got overly sensitive to [some of the reaction] to 'E.T.,' and I thought if technology evolved, [I might go in and change some things] ... it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved 'E.T.' of their memories of 'E.T.'"

After that, Spielberg pledged to keep "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" in its original 1982 version for subsequent releases, a pledge which appears to continue today. As such, new viewers of the film can see Elliott (Henry Thomas) and his alien friend being pursued by armed government agents rather than guys on walkie-talkies, with no 2002-era CGI effects in sight.

Spielberg has also stayed away from any director's cuts or special editions in the years since the re-release, so it seems clear he took the lessons learned there to heart.