Spielberg says he regrets editing guns out of ‘ET’, pandering to ‘today’s standards’

US director Steven Spielberg attends the 40th Anniversary Screening of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” presented on the Opening Night of the 2022 TCM Classic Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, April 21, 2022. (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 11:18 AM – Thursday, April 27, 2023

At the Time Magazine 100 Summit, Director Steven Spielberg took part in a master class and expressed remorse over editing guns out of the film “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”

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The 1982 theatrical cut of the movie had a scene where federal agents chased children around while holding firearms. However, for the film’s 20th anniversary release, Spielberg removed the guns and substituted walkie-talkies for the weapons.

“That was a mistake… I never should have done that. ‘E.T.’ is a product of its era. No film should be revised based on the lenses we now are, either voluntarily, or being forced to peer through,” Spielberg said. “‘E.T.’ was a film that I was sensitive to the fact that the federal agents were approaching kids with firearms exposed and I thought I would change the guns into walkie talkies… Years went by and I changed my own views. I should have never messed with the archives of my own work, and I don’t recommend anyone do that. All our movies are a kind of a signpost of where we were when we made them, what the world was like and what the world was receiving when we got those stories out there. So I really regret having that out there.”

The Time 100 moderator brought up recent news about Roald Dahl and other authors’ novels being banned for foul language and reprinted with “more inclusive” wording by today’s standards, in response to Spielberg’s guilt over the edit.

“Those who might cheer specific edits to Dahl’s work should consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities,” said Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, a human rights organization that stands for free speech and expression.

“Nobody should ever attempt to take the chocolate out of Willy Wonka! Ever!” Spielberg said jokingly. He added on a more serious note: “For me, it is sacrosanct. It’s our history, it’s our cultural heritage. I do not believe in censorship in that way.”

Spielberg’s most recent film, “The Fabelmans,” received seven Oscar nominations, including best picture and best director.

A Bradley Cooper-starring adaptation of Steve McQueen’s 1968 action movie “Bullitt” is reportedly the director’s next upcoming project.

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