E.T. Screenwriter Melissa Mathison Dies At 65

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Oscar-nominated screenwriter Melissa Mathison passed away Wednesday in Los Angeles following a battle with an illness, confirmed brother Dirk Mathison. She was 65.

Mathison was nominated for an Oscar for original screenplay for E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982). She also penned The Black Stallion (1979) and was married to actor Harrison Ford from 1983 to 2004. She and Ford had two children, Malcolm and Georgia.

Steven Spielberg and Mathison collaborated recently on the screenplay for an adaptation of the Roald Dahl book The BFG, currently in post-production.

Spielberg, who had a close working relationship with Mathison for E.T., released a statement Wednesday, saying, “Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T.

Spielberg said of her on a DVD commentary to E.T.: “Melissa delivered this 107-page first draft to me and I read it in about an hour. I was just knocked out. It was a script I was willing to shoot the next day. It was so honest and Melissa’s voice made a direct connection with my heart.”

Mathison had comments of her own on the DVD extras.

“I would write for four or five days in my little office in Hollywood, and then drive out to Marina del Rey, where Steven Spielberg was editing in a little apartment on the beach,” she said. “I’d bring him my pages and we’d sit and go through them...It took about eight weeks for us to get the first draft, which was quite fast, I think.”

She became friends with the Dalai Lama after writing screenplays for Kundun, a 1997 Martin Scorsese project.

Mathison also adapted The Indian in the Cupboard (1995), and wrote “The Escape Artist” segment of the Twilight Zone (1983) movie and Son of the Morning Star (1991), a TV movie.

She was born in Los Angeles.
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