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Steven Spielberg Vows to Never Digitally Retouch Old Films After ‘E.T.’ Debacle

The director has no interest in applying "Ready Player One" finesse to his cultural touchstones.

Steven Spielberg'Ready Player One' film premiere, London, UK - 19 Mar 2018

Steven Spielberg at Monday’s “Ready Player One” London premiere.

James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

The relentless pop-culture homages in “Ready Player One” include callbacks from director Steven Spielberg’s own filmography, such as “Gremlins” and “Jurassic Park.” But fans should not expect more than these seconds-long, technologically improved do-overs of his classics: Spielberg has sworn to never digitally retouch his past work. Well, never again.

Read More: ‘Ready Player One’ Review: Steven Spielberg Delivers Astonishing Sci-Fi Spectacle and Relentless Nostalgia — SXSW 2018

In an interview with Screen Rant, Spielberg looks back on how he “got in trouble” in 2002, with the 20th anniversary rerelease of “E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial.” “I actually digitized five shots where E.T. went from being a puppet to a digital puppet, and I also replaced the gun when the F.B.I. runs up on the van, now they’re walkie talkies,” he said. The result is “a really bad version of ‘E.T.’ where I took my cue from ‘Star Wars’ and all of the digital enhancements of [‘Star Wars: Episode IV -] A New Hope’ that George [Lucas] put in.”

Spielberg acknowledged that Universal’s marketing team encouraged the tweaks as “something to get an audience back,” and he would have declined in today’s social-media climate. Even pre-Facebook and Twitter, a backlash to the changes “erupted a loud, negative voice about how could you ruin our favorite childhood film by taking the guns away and putting walkie-talkies in their hands among other things,” he said. A decade later, the guns returned when the film was celebrated again with a three-decade reissue.

The “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” Oscar-winner previously atoned for his “E.T.” revisions in 2011, at a 30th anniversary event celebrating “Raiders of the Lost Ark”: “I realized that what I had done was I had robbed the people who loved ET of their memories of ET. And I regretted that.”

“Ready Player One” will be released next Thursday, March 29.

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