The untold story behind Harrison Ford's deleted cameo in E.T.
Henry Thomas got to perform a scene with Ford that is now famous for not existing at all (at least within the finished film)
In the famous frog escape scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a mesmerized Elliott gets to plant a big smacking kiss on a girl who would grow up to be a Baywatch babe.
But 10-year-olds don’t care about that mushy stuff. Henry Thomas was way more interested in Harrison Ford than Erika Eleniak.
The young actor didn’t just get to meet Ford, he got to perform in a scene with him – in a scene that is now famous for not existing at all (at least within the finished film).
“When I met Steven, the first thing out of my mouth was I think, ‘I love Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my hero was Harrison Ford,” Thomas told EW during an E.T. reunion in 2012. “I basically was just excited to meet Steven in hopes that I would meet Harrison.”
The Indiana Jones actor, who was then dating (and later married to) E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison, agreed to shoot a cameo for her and his friend Steven Spielberg. The joke was that Ford would play against type as the uptight, condescending principal who scolds Elliott after the frog and kissing incident.
“He did the scene where E.T. is home levitating all of the stuff for his communicator up the stairs,” Spielberg said. “Elliot is in the principal’s office after the frog incident. We don’t ever see Harrison’s face. We just hear his voice, see his body.”
Until the final act of the movie, Spielberg shot everything from a child’s-eye level, never showing the faces of any of the adults except Mary, the mother played by Dee Wallace. (“She was like one of the kids,” Spielberg says.)
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In the deleted scene, Ford’s voice snivels as his chair swivels, and his smug principal peers looks through the blinds of his office while muttering about the boy being his “own worst enemy.” But Elliott still has a psychic connection to his far-away alien friend.
“Henry’s chair starts levitating,” Spielberg said. “So as E.T. is lifting all of the communicator paraphernalia up the stairs, Henry starts rising off the ground in the chair until his head hits the ceiling. Just as Harrison turns, E.T. loses control of the weight of everything and it all falls down the stairs, and Henry comes crashing down to the ground, and lands perfectly. Four-point landing. The principal turns around, and as far as he’s concerned, nothing ever happened.”
But it’s an odd scene, shot more like a film noir than anything else in the movie. It didn’t add much, and Ford’s presence seemed more of a distraction than anything else. It ended up getting cut, and only exists now as a blurry YouTube video and in fragments on making-of featurettes.
“That was the scene that we cut out,” Spielberg said, still trying to find the silver lining. “But that’s where [Henry] got a chance to meet Harrison.”
“That was a very big day for me,” Thomas recalled.
So what does a boy say when he gets to work alongside his hero?
Thomas laughed. “You don’t end up saying anything.”
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial