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Melissa Mathison, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, died Wednesday in Los Angeles, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. She was 65.
Mathison’s writing credits also include The Black Stallion (1979), The Escape Artist (1982), Indian in the Cupboard (1995), Kundun (1997) and her most recent collaboration with Spielberg, The BFG, now in postproduction and set for release in 2016.
“Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T.,” Spielberg said in a statement.
The screenwriter, a native of Los Angeles, was married to actor Harrison Ford from 1983 to 2004. They had met when she was a young assistant on the set of Apocalypse Now in 1976. Mathison and Ford married in a 15-minute ceremony at the Santa Monica Courthouse in 1983 and had two children together: son Malcolm, a musician, born in 1987 and daughter Georgia, an actress, born in 1990. They survive her.
“E.T. was entirely imaginative,” Mathison told The New Yorker in a 2012 interview on the 30th anniversary of the film. “Steven and I shared our imagination on this story; we both brought our own memories and strengths. In 1982 I was not yet a parent but was a stepmother, and had been a consummate babysitter and an older sister. The kids in E.T. can be directly linked to kids I knew. I even stole some of my little friends’ best lines: i.e. ‘penis breath.’ What adult woman could have thought of that?”
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