It seems that audiences are not the only ones who have grown tired of being treated like children, as veteran film director Steven Spielberg has voiced his staunch opposition to Hollywood’s penchant for updating its past works for ‘modern audiences’.
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The Fabelmans director shared his opinion on the increasingly common phenomena during a recent appearance at the Time 100 Summit, an event meant to celebrate the publication’s centennial by hosting “leaders from the global TIME100 community to spotlight solutions and encourage action toward a better world as we look ahead to the next century”.
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Speaking at length about his approach to film making, Spielberg was at one point asked by moderator and former TIME Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal “if there are films you would edit, looking back at them, [is there] something you would have done differently?”, particularly in light of his notorious decision to digitally replace the guns held by government agents chasing Elliot and his alien friend with walkie-talkies in the 2002 20th Anniversary release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, to which the director quickly admitted, “That was a mistake.”
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“I never should have done that,” said Spielberg. “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, but that was because years went by and I changed my own views,” he explained. “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.”
Informed by Felsenthal that censors were “taking certain language out of [Road Dahl’s] Charlie and the Chocolate Factory“, Spielberg was then pressed on whether he thought all art should avoid trying to retroactively “apply today’s standards to yesterday’s work”, prompting the Ready Player One helmsman to exclaim, “Nobody should ever attempt to take the chocolate out of Willy Wonka! Ever! Or the vanilla, or any other flavor out of anything that has been written.
“It is absolutely, for me, it is sancrosanct,” he opined. “It’s our history, our culture, our cultural heritage.”
“Warts and all,” interjected Felsenthal. “Yeah,” agreed Spielberg. “I do not believe in censorship that way.”
Notably, this is not the first time Spielberg has expressed regret at his now infamous E.T. edits (which have been absent from all subsequent releases of the film beginning with the 2012 Anniversary Blu-ray).
Per recaps of a 2011 screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark provided by the AV Club and Slashfilm, the director told attending audiences that, looking back on his decision, “I was disappointed in myself.”
“I was overly sensitive to some of the criticism E.T. got from parent groups when it was first released in ’82 having to do with Eliott saying ‘penis breath’ or the guns, and I thought [if I change some things]…” he continued. “It was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T.”
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