by Michael S. Palmer
HDD has already rated the 30th Anniversary Edition 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial' Blu-ray must own, but last week we were also fortunate enough to sit down with Elliot's mother, Mary -- better known as the friendly and energetic Dee Wallace. Take a minute to examine her IMDb page, would you? Wow, what a career. Thanks to her work in 'Critters', 'Cujo', and 'E.T.', I'll always think of her as my Second Mom – it was such a thrill to meet her in person – but her resume includes everything from horror classics, blockbusters, television series, and everything in between. She's worked for filmmakers like Rob Zombie, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Wes Craven, and J.J. Abrams. And now, between acting jobs, she travels the world teaching and practicing the art of self-healing.
As always, we only have a short time for these brief interviews, but I knew this was going to be a fun one immediately. As I navigated a path between cameras and lighting equipment, Dee Wallace called out in a mock-sinister voice, "Michael, come into my lair." I laughed, and continued in my attempt avoid breaking any of the fancy equipment.
HDD: You don't have to answer it, but what's the question you get asked the most at these press junkets.
DW: "Did you know when you were making it that it was going to be such a big hit?"
HDD: Is there anything you've wanted to talk about -- E.T. or something else in your career – that people never ask you?
DW: Well, you're just full of it, aren't you? [everyone laughs] Well, I had one question today about a role I've always wanted to play, which is a nun. And one really interesting question about Mary and what Mary meant and how I came up with Mary. It occurred to me, in the moment, that I was talking about my mother. It was a poignant moment today, really.
HDD: Before we get to the movie, High-Def Digest primarily does Blu-ray Disc reviews. Do you have a favorite Blu-ray, are you a fan of the format?
DW: Oh, dear, you're putting me on the spot. Yes, E.T.! Have you seen all the Special Features yet?
HDD: I have, they're amazing.
DW: Aren't they awesome? What was your favorite?
HDD: The E.T. Journals, of course. Is that what it was really like on set?
DW: Yes, absolutely. It was low key. [This documentary] is literally like you're participating in the film that you love. I thought it was just amazing how they put that together. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
HDD: How did you first become involved with 'E.T.'?
DW: Steven [Spielberg] auditioned me for a movie called 'Used Cars' [Robert Zemeckis' first feature], but he saw this child-likeness he had in mind for Mary and so he just offered me 'E.T.' when it came along.
HDD: You've worked with huge directors like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. As an actress, what makes the actor-director relationship really special? How do you know when you're working with someone of that caliber?
DW: When they don't have to micromanage what you do. They have a vision and they're very secure in their vision. They know they've put together the right people. And then they go okay, everybody from the cameramen to the actors to the music, bring yours in now. Bring your talent in now. Bring your ideas in now. And not be so locked in and straight-jacketed to a line or a vision when something new can happen. Things just got added on the 'E.T.' set all the time. Magic moments like when we were at the family dinner table scene about Mexico. And Steven had given Henry a line about [his father] went to Mexico with Sally, which I didn't know was coming. It hit me so hard I teared up, and I didn't want my kids to see me crying, so I got up from the table and walked away. That was not in the script (that I remember). So in that moment, Steven wanted to expand that moment, and built a set literally in that moment over at the sink, and brought me into that close up where I say "He hates Mexico." So that's the sign of a great director. When he sees a moment and allows it to be born.
HDD: There were a lot of practical effects on set -- the E.T. puppet and so forth. What was it like seeing the finished film for the first time?
DW: I ran out of the room crying, thinking my career was over.
DW: I did, it's a truthful statement, I'm ashamed to say it. You know, there's something traumatic about seeing it for the first time put together for me, and for many actors. What happens is you can't look at it objectively. You remember everything that went down on the set. You remember the stomach ache that you had that day. You remember all the scenes you shot that aren't on the screen anymore, right? So you have no objectivity the first time. Absolutely none, I don't think.
By the third time I saw ['E.T.'], I said this is the best movie that's ever been made. This is the most beautiful film I've ever seen. But not that first time.
HDD: So that third time was when you realized, not necessarily that E.T. was going to be a big hit, but that it was emotionally successful and worked as a movie itself.
DW: Absolutely, I knew we had a brilliant script and cast and everything while we were shooting it, but there's a joke on set where you never hear the dailies are bad. It's just somehow all these amazing dailies made a really shitty picture. But in this case, all those dailies that were so brilliant came together in an even more brilliant picture.
HDD: Last question, what's next for you?
DW: Well, I just finished 'Hansel & Gretel' as the Witch [editor's note, not the 'Witch Hunters' version], and I'm coming out as one of the witches in Rob Zombie's 'Lords of Salem'. And I also do a lot of healing work, so a lot of my time is devoted to healing and doing private sessions with people all over the world.
HDD: Excellent, thank you so very much for your time.
And thanks again to the friendly folks at Universal Home Entertainment for inviting HDD to the 'E.T.' Blu-ray press junket. For more information about Dee Wallace, check out www.iamdeewallace.com. 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial' 30th Anniversary Blu-ray will be available on Tuesday, October 6.