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Why Harrison Ford got cut from Steven Spielberg’s ET

Harrison Ford had a cameo role in ET, as Elliott's school principal, and filmed a bizarre scene with a levitating Henry Thomas that ended up being cut.


Steven Spielberg‘s ET is notable for not having big-name stars in the cast, certainly at the time. In fact, arguably the cast-member who is now the most famous is the one who was only 6 years old during filming – Drew Barrymore. This works well, as the focus of the family movie is the central relationship between Henry Thomas’ Elliott and ET. But a big Hollywood star almost had a cameo – before it was cut for being too distracting.

By the time ET was being filmed, Harrison Ford had hit mega-stardom thanks to Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. He was dating the screenwriter of ET – Melissa Mathison – and agreed to a cameo role as the school principal who comes down hard on Elliott after the chaotic frog escape scene.

Young Henry Thomas was thrilled, as he recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 2012; “When I met Steven, the first thing out of my mouth was; ‘I love Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my hero was Harrison Ford. I basically was just excited to meet Steven in hopes that I would meet Harrison.”

“He did the scene where ET is home levitating all of the stuff for his communicator up the stairs,” Spielberg said. “Elliot is in the principal’s office after the frog incident. We don’t ever see Harrison’s face. We just hear his voice, see his body.”

“Henry’s chair starts levitating,” Spielberg said. “So as ET is lifting all of the communicator paraphernalia up the stairs, Henry starts rising off the ground in the chair until his head hits the ceiling. Just as Harrison turns, ET loses control of the weight of everything and it all falls down the stairs, and Henry comes crashing down to the ground, and lands perfectly. Four-point landing. The principal turns around, and as far as he’s concerned, nothing ever happened.”

“That was the scene that we cut out,” Spielberg said. “But that’s where [Henry] got a chance to meet Harrison.” Thomas added; “That was a very big day for me.”

Check out our guide to the best adventure movies.