Melissa Mathison dead at 65

Melissa Mathison, the screenwriter who crafted the
enchanting worlds of iconic family films including E.T.
the Extra Terrestrial, has died. She passed away
Wednesday at age 65 after a bout with
neuroendocrine cancer, her sister, Melinda Mathison
Johnson, confirmed.
The LA native had a humble but high-profile start —
her first credited work was in assistant roles on The
Godfather: Part II and Apocalypse Now, before she
broke out with her script for The Black Stallion, which
was released as a feature length film in 1979.
It was in 1976 on the set of Apocalypse Now that she
met Harrison Ford, who she would wed in 1983 and
divorce in 2004 after multiple separations. She and
Ford had two children, Georgia and Malcolm.
Throughout her over 30-year career, she often
collaborated with producers Kathleen Kennedy and
Frank Marshall and worked with directors like Frank
Oz on The Indian in the Cupboard and Martin
Scorsese on Kundun.
But history will most fondly remember her for
fleshing out the story of that friendly, homesick alien
E.T. The film, directed by Steven Spielberg and
released in 1982, would become one of the highest
grossing of all time.
“Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and
love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T.,”
said Spielberg in a statement.
The script for E.T. earned Mathison her first and only
Oscar nomination. She lost out to John Briley’s
Gandhi screenplay for the prize.
In a 1995 interview with the Los Angeles Times,
Mathison, who was one of five children born to a
journalist father and a mother who sometimes
worked in publicity, remembered the Hollywood Hills
household in which she grew up as a place where
independence and creativity were encouraged.
“We weren’t your mainstream ’50s family,” she told
the newspaper. “Both my parents had wonderful,
eccentric, artistic friends who treated us as friends as
well. How your mind worked was considered
Mathison was a political science major at UC
Berkeley when she took a leave to work as Francis
Ford Coppola’s assistant on The Godfather, Part II,
the Times reported in 1995.
Her last credited work is on Spielberg’s big screen
adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved novel The BFG,
which comes out next year.


One thought on “Melissa Mathison dead at 65

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