Two reviews of the E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 20th Anniversary Edition Premiere (March 16), featuring full live score-to-film orchestral accompaniment by John Williams.
Shrine Auditorium, March 16, 2002
Los Angeles orchestra, JOHN WILLIAMS, Conductor
Review by Elvisjones
The entire principal cast was present as well as principal crew – Kathleen Kennedy, Allen Daviau (photography), James Bissell (production design), Costume Designer, Dennis Murren (effects supervisor) and of course John Williams and Steven Spielberg.
Also in attendence were Erica Eleniak and C. Thomas Howell, who have smaller parts in the film. Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner, Haley Joel Osment, Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina the Teenage Witch), the babe from “The Princess Diaries” and the bald guy from “The West Wing” were also seen at the event.
The screening really went off without a hitch. The only things I noticed were that sometimes JW was a little bit behind the picture, and that the harpist took some liberty with the solo during the scene where ET and Elliot mirror each other’s movements.
I was really amazed that the orchestra didn’t seem to hit one bad note. Also, the mix between the music and the dia/snd fx was really good. It seemed almost like watching a “normal” movie.
I had the priviledge of running into a violinist and violist from the orchestra before the performance and they told me the following things: they had three rehearsals with JW. The first was just with the music, the second two were against picture. JW did not use any click tracks, but conducted the entire thing to picture using streamers and punches and a large “stopwatch”-type clock with a sweeping second hand.
While standing in the lobby waiting to sit, I noticed a gentleman I recognized so I went over and talked to him – it was Rob Coleman, animation supervisor for ILM. I talked to him about the CGI Yoda and he said that despite the negative comments heard on the internet, he was pleased with it. He said he was especially thrilled to hear that Frank Oz approved of it – and he said something to the effect of “As long as George and Frank are happy, I’m happy.” We also talked about how I was up at the Skywalker Ranch over the summer mixing a movie and I stayed in the cabins at the Ranch and he had never stayed there! I told him it helps to be connected in this business – hahahaha.
So then we went to our seats. I was seated just a few seats away from the babe from “The Princess Diaries”. Peter Coyote came out and asked us all to turn off our cellphones, etc. Then he introduced the founder of the Special Olympics, the benefactors of the event. She spoke for several minutes, then Peter Coyote returned to introduce “Maestro John Williams”.
Williams came on stage and took the podium, almost immediately launching into the overture for E.T.There was not any new material in the overture – it was sort of an amalgamation of the “Flying Theme” and the concert version of “Adventures on Earth”. While the orchestra performed it, the screen showed colorful shadowing images of the musicians (pre-filmed I believe) against a starry backdrop, and also some somewhat awkward shots of JW conducting from the orchestra’s perspective. The overture seemed to be about 4 or 5 minutes long and then the theater darkened entirely. A scrim was lowered in front of the orchestra – they were still visible, but they didn’t call attention to themselves.
Then the Universal Logo came up on screen and the live orchestra kicked in and it sounded really great. Of course, it was the new Universal logo, the one with the ET theme in it – does any one know if Williams conducted the actual “official” version of this too? If so, I just scored a film for Universal so I guess we’ve almost sort of
worked together :)
Anyhow, the movie looked really good. I found the CGI to be tasteful and well executed. There were 2 new scenes, both of which had music in them – there was no new thematic material but I’m afraid I couldn’t ascertain whether they were scored with entirely newly written arrangements or whether they were simply tracked with music verbatim from other scenes. In any case, the more recognizable scene used music from ET’s Halloween.
Some really memorable moments included the first big presentation of the “Flying Theme” as ET and Elliot first fly on the bike – this got big applause from the crowd. Also, when the group of kids take off that also got big applause. Finally, when ET’s ship took off and left a rainbow trail in the sky the audience was cheering and clapping like crazy. I totally got the chills sitting there. It was really exciting. They kept clapping through that trumpet fanfare all the way to the last note of that great cue.
The end credits rolled over live video of JW and orchestra performing the end titles. As the trumpety fanfare returned the audience rose to it’s feet and again applauded and cheered through the entire trumpet fanfare and the french horns blasting out that great theme that’s first heard on the piccolos at the beginning of the film. It was really exciting. The orchestra came to wonderful crescendo and the audience cheered and applauded and Steven Spielberg came out on stage and introduced the cast and crew that made ET. He closed by thanking the audience for “making the last 20 years feel like 20 minutes”.
Onto the after-party: I actually managed to run into that violinist again at the after-party and according to him, JW was working very hard to refamiliarize himself with the pacing of the film after all these years. The violinist also said thatthe last rehearsal had not gone perfectly and that it seemed JW was really getting into the groove of the film once it was running with the audience. He asked how it sounded from the house and seemed delighted that it sounded so good. He seemed to feel that the orchestra was performing especially passionately and that JW was really absorbed in the film. It certainly seemed so to me!
Williams and Spielberg both put in an appearance at the after party but were unreachable by fans. I stood literally about a foot away from JW but was not acknowledged and didn’t want to push my luck. He did seem to be in a BIG hurry to get out of there, and one can only imagine how tired he must be after what Peter Coyote had introduced as “an incredible high-wire act”.
It was a remarkable day that I’ll never forget.
Review by Mistamusic
Just got back from the party in L.A. Let me tell you this was a GREAT experience! I guess I’ll start from the top (where else).
We’re driving down the street past the Shrine Auditorium and the red carpet to go to the parking lot. As we pass by there’s a limo parked at the red carpet with the license plate “MUSIC 01”. I didn’t get to see who came out but I would bet it was Johnny himself. Anyway, I’m walking down the red carpet and pass by Allison Hangen (sp?) and waited in line with Ethan Hawk to get frisked. Security was pretty beefed up, they made my dad take his box camera back to the car (and myrecorder which they caught), so I was just going to wait for him, but it seems you couldn’t stand anywhere without being moved somewhere else, so I took another stroll down the red carpet and just went in to wait. Of course then they say you can’t stand in the lobby area so I pretended to wait in line for popcorn for a long time keeping an eye for more celebs.
Finally I got in the auditorium, I had seats on the very right side but pretty far forward and a very good view of the orchestra area. They had the screen down beofre the movie so we could see all the stars arriving, i guess I got there too late to see John come in. Before the film rolled, there was a speech about the Special Olympics and Spielberg’s involvement in which she also thanked John Williams a few times.
When John finally came out there was great applause for him. He lead the orchestra in a, I guess, special arrangement from E.T., in which images were coordinated on the screen that look like you were on LSD watching the orchestra play. This arrangement, I don’t believe, contained any new new material. Anyway, the lights dimmed the new Universal logo rolled and lots of applause followed. As the movie played, the syncronization seemed flawless, and the quality was awesome. There was of course lots of laughs and some crying, and when the finale came, it gave me goosebumps with the orchestra blasting away. There was applause at the end, but the credits came up while the background was Williams conducting the end credits and other cameras going through the orchestra. After the final huge chord, there was a big standing ovation. Spielberg came out on stage and thanked everyone, then brought out the cast and some crew members and thanked them. Afterwards I rushed to the bathroom and as I go in, Will Smith comes in with his kids. I didn’t want to bother him or shake his hand at the time, for obvious reasons, but it was cool to see him.
Next came the post premiere party. The large room was made up to look like a forset with an animated night sky projected and beautifully lit on the ceiling. There was food on the left and right sides of the room, places where you could get different E.T. related pictures taken in the corners, some tables in the middle, and a “Spaceship bar” in the center of the room. Up stairs was pretty much deserts and more pictures. The whole time I kept an eye out for Williams.
FINALLY, after the 3rd or so loop around the place I see him walking quickly with a couple other people at his side. I wanted to go talk to him real quick, but he stopped and started hugging and talking with people he obviously knew. I waited for him to be done, but when he was, he was off like a jet. I lost him somewhere near one of the packed food tables and never saw him for the rest of the night.
I did however get a chance to meet Henry Thomas and the older brother in the movie. Also, nearing the end of the party, I noticed a crowd piled in the corner where some of the E.T. pics were being taken. It was Spielberg! I burrowed my way in there to get his autograph. He seemed very nice considering the mob that surrounded him. He even complimented one guy who said he designed a fan site of his, “You know, that’s hard work, I really appreciate you doing that”. I was lucky enough to get him to sign a couple items before just he left. By then, the party had died down and we decided to leave. I got a gift bag on the way out and noticed they gave us a camera AFTER we left the building. I tried to get back in to take a picture or two of the place but the five or so guys at the door denied me. All in all though, my experience was well worth my $250 and is one i will never forget. I’m sure any details I left out will be covered by Yoda Clause and others who went. whew!