One of the realities of big-budget filmmaking that often surprises people unfamiliar with its practices is that shooting schedules do not correspond to the pages in a script: actors may shoot a scene from Page 34 on their first day of production and something from the first few pages on their last day. E.T. was one of the very rare exceptions to this Hollywood practice.
It greatly helped that much of the film takes place in Elliott’s home — and that the home’s transformation (being sealed in by government authorities) happens at the end of the movie. Spielberg made this decision to help his young cast. “I insisted on shooting the film in complete continuity,” explained the filmmaker, “so the kids knew, emotionally, where they had been the day before, and they pretty much didn’t have any idea of where they were going the next day. So, like real life, every day was a surprise — until, finally, when E.T. began to die, Drew, Henry Thomas and Robert really believed that this was happening to their lives.”(MORE: An Inside Look at Dreamworks)
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