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Bowdlerized: Steven Spielberg Edited the Guns Out of E.T. and Now He Regrets It

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Steven Spielberg participated in a master class at the Time 100 Summit and announced he regrets editing guns out of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” The film’s 1982 theatrical cut includes a scene of officers chasing young kids with firearms. Spielberg edited the guns out for the 20th anniversary release of the film and replaced the firearms with walkie talkies.

“That was a mistake,” Spielberg said. “I never should have done that. ‘E.T.’ is a product of its era. No film should be revised based on the lenses we now are, either voluntarily, or being forced to peer through.”

“‘E.T.’ was a film that I was sensitive to the fact that the federal agents were approaching kids with firearms exposed and I thought I would change the guns into walkie talkies… Years went by and I changed my own views,” Spielberg continued. “I should have never messed with the archives of my own work, and I don’t recommend anyone do that. All our movies are a kind of a signpost of where we were when we made them, what the world was like and what the world was receiving when we got those stories out there. So I really regret having that out there.” 

Spielberg’s regret over censoring “E.T.” led the Time 100 moderator to bring up recent news about Roald Dahl and other authors’ books being censored for offensive language and republished with language considered more inclusive by today’s standards.

“Nobody should ever attempt to take the chocolate out of Willy Wonka! Ever!” Spielberg joked. He added on a more serious note: “For me, it is sacrosanct. It’s our history, it’s our cultural heritage. I do not believe in censorship in that way.”

— Zack Sharf in Steven Spielberg Regrets Editing Guns Out of ‘E.T.,’ Says ‘No Film Should Be Revised’ for Today’s Standards: ‘That Was a Mistake’

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