Melissa Mathison, the screenwriter of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982), passed away yesterday at the age of 65. Her sister said the cause of her death was neuroendocrine cancer.
Mathison began her career in film as an assistant on acclaimed movies such as “The Godfather Part II” (1974) and “Apocalypse Now” (1979), jobs that she attained by babysitting for Francis Ford Coppola’s family back in the 60’s.
Her first official work as a screenwriter was for the 1979 film “The Black Stallion,” directed by Carroll Ballard. She always had a special fondness for family movies, and in 1995, she also wrote the screenplay for the fantasy-adventure film adaptation of “The Indian in the Cupboard.”
A fierce advocate for children and their portrayal in movies, she shared her thoughts about the film industry needing more challenging children films in an interview in 1995.
To quote her:
“I go to movies with my children and see fat kids burping, parents portrayed as total morons, and kids being mean and materialistic, and I feel it’s really slim pickin’s out there. There’s a little dribble of a moral tacked on, but the story is not about that. We’d get back in the car after seeing a movie and I’d say, ‘Now what did you think about this?’ and they’d have nothing to say.”
Mathison was married to actor Harrison Ford from 1983 to 2004.
Rest in peace, Melissa.