Dee Wallace has appeared in a long list of popular projects over the years as an actress. Her filmography includes The Howling (1981), Cujo (1983) and Critters (1986). Of course, her most memorable performance is as the single mother, Mary, in E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982).
Wallace is still working consistently as an actress and currently has a full slate of films releasing soon. She gives private sessions online that help her clients balance their lives in a successful way. She also has a radio show and gives webinars on the art of self-creation. You can keep up with Dee Wallace on her website: iamdeewallace.com.
I spoke to Dee Wallace about her experience working with Steven Spielberg and her thoughts on the legacy of E.T.
This is obviously a difficult time right now for the whole world. Films like E.T. offer comfort for a lot of people, including myself. Do you think a film like E.T. can help people cope with the stressful time we are currently living through?
When you think about it, we are really going through what E.T. experienced in the film. He was estranged and alone, as many of us are feeling now. He was separated from family. His world was literally turned upside down.
He had to adapt and learn a new way to communicate and exist. How did he get through? By keeping his heart open, trusting, and adapting. It’s a good lesson for all of us right now.
Do you remember how you first heard about the film, E.T.?
Mr. Spielberg’s office called and offered it to me. I had auditioned for Used Cars (1980) at an earlier time.
What were your thoughts on Steven Spielberg and his films before getting to work with him?
I thought he was a creative genius. I was right!
What did Spielberg tell you about your character, Mary, before you started shooting? Did he have any memorable notes or insights?
We really didn’t discuss it much. He trusted me. I trusted him. We tweaked things along the way. But I knew the strength of a single mother raising a family. I was raised by one.
How did you personally view Mary, before you started shooting?
A strong, intelligent woman, doing her very best for her family, harried, and full of love.
Was the final version of Mary in the film different from how you perceived the character at the start of the project?
Not at all.
Working with kids, animals and special effects is never easy for an actor – and you had to work with all three. You were already a veteran actor when you starred in E.T. Did you ever feel isolated on set? Did Spielberg give you more room because of the kids and special effects that were involved and took up so much of his time?
Not at all. It just flowed. The kids were professionals all the way. The only difficult issue for me was Steven likes to have you on set all the time. At one point, I sat in my room for 3 weeks without working! Drove me a wee bit crazy.
There were some talks decades ago that maybe a sequel was being developed by Melissa Mathison (Writer) and Spielberg, but ultimately Spielberg decided against it. Do you remember ever discussing a sequel with anyone?
That’s a wild rumor. As far as I know, that is not true. However, after the commercial came out this past Thanksgiving, I do think it opened the door for speculation about a possible sequel.
Have you ever thought about what happened to Mary after E.T. went home? Do you think she ended up with Peter Coyote’s character, Keys?
Hello no (laughing). I think she became a hippie and moved to an ashram!
Why do you believe E.T. has remained so beloved, and such a prominent part of our culture, so many years after it released?
Because it takes us back to what we all know is the truth: love, friendship, joy and connection. It reminds us of who we authentically are, and we are starved for that.
I know that E.T. is our generation’s Wizard of Oz and will live on forever. And that the world would be a better and happier place if we would keep our heart lights on!
Learn more about Dee Wallace at iamdeewallace.com.