The rumors are finally confirmed, during a special screening of ET: The Extra-Terrestrial at the White house in 1982, Ronald Reagan did make a comment about everything in the movie being true. However, Spielberg says he is pretty sure Reagan was only joking around.
Quint (aka Eric Vespe) of Ain’t It Cool News used the promotional push for Spielberg’s new movie, Super 8, as an excuse to get an interview with Spielberg to talk about Quint’s favorite movie, Jaws. At end of the very long interview, Quint asked Spielberg about the rumor that Reagan had whispered to Spielberg that ETs were real during the movie screening, and for the first time ever, Spielberg commented on the incident.
An excerpt from the interview:
Quint: Now, I’ve heard a story that I wanted to run by you. I have no idea if it’s true, but an effects friend of mine told me about a special screening of E.T. for Ronald Reagan. Have you heard this story?
Steven Spielberg: I was there!
Quint: The story I heard is that when Reagan saw it he started talking about how close to reality it was and he was quickly ushered out of the room. Is that true?
Steven Spielberg: No, he wasn’t ushered out of the room. He was the President of the United States! Nobody could usher Ronald Reagan out of the room! It was in the White House screening room and Reagan got up to thank me for bringing the film to show the President, the First Lady and all of their guests, which included Sandra Day O’Connor in her first week of as a Justice of the Supreme Court, and it included some astronauts… I think Neil Armstrong was there, I’m not 100% certain, but it was an amazing, amazing evening.
He just stood up and he looked around the room, almost like he was doing a headcount, and he said, “I wanted to thank you for bringing E.T. to the White House. We really enjoyed your movie,” and then he looked around the room and said, “And there are a number of people in this room who know that everything on that screen is absolutely true.”
And he said it without smiling! But he said that and everybody laughed, by the way. The whole room laughed because he presented it like a joke, but he wasn’t smiling as he said it.
The room did laugh and then later on I’ll never forget my conversation with the President. He pulled me aside, he said… and I can’t do Reagan. I wish I could do that breathy, wonderful voice of his… And Nancy Reagan was standing right next to him and the President said to me, “I only have one criticism about your movie,” and I said “What’s that?” He said, “How long were the end credits?” I said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe three, three and a half minutes?” He said, “In my day, when I was an actor, our end credits were maybe 15 seconds long.”
He said, “Why don’t you let everybody get a credit… three and a half, four minutes, that’s fine, but only show that inside the industry, but throughout the rest of the country reduce your credits to 15 seconds at the end?” Nancy Reagan turned to him and said, “Oh, Ronny, they can’t do that. You know that.” And he went, “Oh, yes, yes. I suppose.” (laughs) That was the extent of my conversation about that. That was his only criticism, he felt the end credits were too long!
Quint: So, do you think he actually let something slip there?
Steven Spielberg: I don’t think he let something slip there, no. I think he delivered a joke without smiling, without a little bit of a twinkle behind the joke. I think the joke landed because everybody laughed, but because I’m a little bit of a Ufologist I was hoping that there was something more to the joke than met my eye. I’m sorry to say I think he was simply trying to tell a joke.
Listen to the interview here.
It was also interesting to see Spielberg referring to himself as a Ufologist. We have written about Spielberg’s comments on UFOs before, and will be featuring more, including a new picture we received from the Reagan library, in the next issue of Open Minds Magazine.