Daniela Rambaldi has worked in the fashion industry practically her entire life. She has juggled her career with being a mother of five kids. Rambaldi also currently serves as the Vice President of the Carlo Rambaldi Foundation. Her father, Carlo Rambaldi, was the creator of E.T. Carlo Rambaldi had a long career in the industry before passing away in 2012.
We spoke to Daniela Rambaldi about her life and memories of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.
Can you talk a little about your dad’s work and creations when it comes to E.T.?
My father is known mostly for having created E.T. but not many know that he was a multifaceted artist. E.T. ‘s first sketch was inspired by a painting he had made in 1952 which represented women from his homeland Ferrara. They are characterized by their long necks.
Were you alive when your dad worked on E.T.? If yes, what do you remember, if anything, about his time working on the film?
I was 12 years old when he started working on the movie. I remember one night, around midnight, the phone rang at our home. It was Steven Spielberg and he said to my dad, ‘Carlo, this is Steve, I’m sorry for the late hour call but I have a BIG problem! We must have a meeting first thing in the morning!’
Steven and my father had already worked together on Close Encounters of the Third Kind in which my father created ‘Puck’. To make a long story short, the next morning Steven met my father at the Carlo Rambaldi Ent. Inc. lab in Northridge. Steven was very unhappy on the first day of shooting E.T. He didn’t like the alien that was made by others. My father looked at the storyboard and said, ‘Steve, but I must start all over, I’ll need six months at least.’ Steven replied, ‘Carlo, I can give you three months, come on you can do it, you’re a genius!’ My father accepted, but, I guarantee you, he worked day and night for those three months to deliver on time what everyone today knows to be E.T. As he was used to doing, he sketched a first design and then a 3D 12 inch model.
One day, before the next meeting with Steven was scheduled for approval on the characteristics of E.T., my father called me to the lab, showed me the 3D model and asked me, as a 12 year old, what was my impression. Did it give me shivers, did it make me feel empathetic, did it disgust me? I said, ‘Dad, he’s really ugly but I feel sorry for him and if I ever met him in real life I would help him for sure.’ Those were the exact words he wanted to hear. It was spot on.
What are some of the things that inspired your dad’s work on E.T.?
As I said, the first thing that inspired my father was a painting from 1952, The Delta Po Women. It inspired E.T.’s neck. E.T.’s eyes got inspiration from our Himalayan cat while his funny behind was inspired by Donald Duck. The reason E.T.’s neck was protractible was because my father thought that it would give him an empathetic trait…being able to size down or size up depending on who he was interacting with.
Was E.T. a film you enjoyed or watched a lot as a child?
I think I saw it once a month for about 5 years and then at least once a year usually around Christmas. It is now a family holiday tradition!
Did your dad ever discuss or mention anything about what it was like to work with Steven Spielberg?
My father had much respect for Steven. They would joke a lot on the set when Steven would ask my father to make E.T. do silly things and play jokes on crew members. And of course Steven thought, and said, what a genius and kind soul my father was.
What is your favorite thing about your dad’s work and career?
Surely my father wasn’t a traditional one. I only saw him at night before going to bed. He practically lived in his lab, although he was always aware about what was going on behind his back! I loved how creative he was. Once he told me, ‘Dany, choose something you really love in life, that way it won’t feel like you have a 9 to 5 job.’ True, so very true!
What is something about your dad that you would like fans to know about?
He was a very funny man, always playing pranks on his family and friends. He was generous and kind with the weaker and weakest, and never bragged about his charities. He didn’t like being in the spotlight but gave out autographs with a big smile.
Does your family have any souvenirs or items you held onto from your dad’s time working on E.T.?
Oh yes! We have all the design projects, the various mechatronics that gave E.T.’s body life. The list is so long. We tour all of his career around the world with exhibits.
Are there any upcoming projects that E.T. fans may want to know about?
Two major ones are a work in progress. One of them will give film students all around the world the opportunity to experience the ‘Rambaldi Campus,’ which means a one month cultural and didactic activities vacation. Students will have the opportunity to study Italian, the ‘dolce vita’ film era, master classes on film making, and hands on workshops while touring one of the most beautiful regions of Italy, Calabria.
The second project has been a ‘work in progress’ for a while now and that is the opening of the Carlo Rambaldi Museum. It will show the making of all the movies he worked on. A behind the scene experience that will give a profound understanding of how a genius mind achieved his success.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the fans of your father’s work?
I would like to mention that E.T. has had a great impact on my life. It is wonderful to see that all of the events I create with E.T. that involve kids, sponsored by the Carlo Rambaldi Foundation, always have an impact on children’s imaginations. Such events are prone to support talents and inspire new generations to pursue their dreams and passions.
Be sure to visit the Carlo Rambaldi Foundation here.