×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Melissa Mathison, ‘E.T.’ Screenwriter and Ex-Wife of Harrison Ford, Dies at 65

Melissa Mathison, who was Oscar-nominated for original screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” and also wrote “The Black Stallion,” died Wednesday at UCLA Medical Center of neuroendrocrine cancer, her brother Dirk Mathison said. She was 65.

She recently reunited with Spielberg to write the screenplay for Roald Dahl adaptation “The BFG,” which is in post-production and will be released next year. Mathison, who was married to Harrison Ford from 1983 to 2004, had two children with the actor, Malcolm and Georgia.

Mathison also served as associate producer on “E.T.,” which was produced by Kathleen Kennedy.

Spielberg, who worked closely with Mathison on the concept for the film partially inspired by his parents’ divorce, said in a statement Wednesday, “Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave E.T.”

On a DVD special edition of the 1982 classic, Spielberg described her contribution: “Melissa delivered this 107-page first draft to me and I read it in about an hour. I was just knocked out. It was a script I was willing to shoot the next day. It was so honest, and Melissa’s voice made a direct connection with my heart.”

Mathison explained on the DVD: “I would write for four or five days in my little office in Hollywood, and then drive out to Marina Del Rey where Steven Spielberg was editing in a little apartment on the beach. I’d bring him my pages and we’d sit and go through them…It took about eight weeks for us to get the first draft, which was quite fast, I think.”

In a statement, Kennedy said, “Melissa was a remarkable friend not only to me but to everyone who had the privilege to know her.  She was fiercely intelligent, confident, soulful, strong and had a smile that would light up a room.  I will miss her terribly.”

Mathison also wrote screenplays for Martin Scorsese’s 1997 “Kundun,” during which she started a friendship with the film’s subject, the Dalai Lama.

She had a particular feeling for children’s literature, adapting classic novel “The Indian in the Cupboard” for Kennedy-Marshall Prods. She also wrote screenplays for “The Escape Artist,” a segment in the “Twilight Zone” movie as well as the TV movie “Son of the Morning Star.”

Mathison was born in Los Angeles on June 30, 1950, and grew up in the Hollywood Hills. Her father was Richard Mathison, a journalist who worked at the L.A. Times and then Newsweek. She attended UC Berkeley, majoring in political science, but put her studies on hold to work as an assistant to Francis Ford Coppola on the 1974 “The Godfather, Part II.”

She is survived by her two children; brothers Dirk and Mark Mathison; and sisters Stephanie Mathison and Melinda Johnson.

 

More Film

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Leonardo DiCaprio Unveils 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Poster With Brad Pitt

    Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are front and center against the backdrop of a blurred Hollywood sign in the poster for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” DiCaprio revealed the poster with the brief tweet, “Hollywood. 1969. #OnceUponATimeInHollywood.” Hollywood. 1969. #OnceUponATimeInHollywood pic.twitter.com/1CRSiiQ643 — Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) March 18, 2019 Social media reactions range [...]

  • Warner Bros. HQ LA

    WarnerMedia Setting Interim Leadership Team After Kevin Tsujihara Ouster (EXCLUSIVE)

    An interim leadership team will take the reins at Warner Bros. Entertainment following the shocking dismissal of CEO Kevin Tsujihara on Monday. The team will likely consist of Warner Bros. motion pictures group chairman Toby Emmerich, Warner Bros. television group president and CCO Peter Roth, and at least one other top executive, individuals familiar with [...]

  • Kristin Cotich Spyglass

    Kristin Cotich Named Communications Chief for Spyglass Media

    Veteran executive Kristin Cotich has been hired as executive vice president of worldwide communications for Gary Barber’s newly formed Spyglass Media Group. The announcement was made Monday by Barber, chairman and chief executive officer of Spyglass, to whom Cotich will report. Spyglass said Cotich is responsible for developing and executing worldwide communications strategies and implementing [...]

  • Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield

    Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield to Star in Stella Meghie's 'The Photograph'

    Issa Rae and LaKeith Stanfield will star in Universal’s “The Photograph,” sources tell Variety. Stella Meghie will direct and Will Packer will produce for his eponymous production company. The romantic drama centers on intertwining love stories in the past and present. Universal is very high on the pic after Meghie impressed execs with her original [...]

  • Aaron Paul attends the 2019 Sun

    Aaron Paul, Chelsea Handler and Meg Ryan Topline Sun Valley Film Fest

    Aaron Paul is an Idaho boy at heart. The three-time Emmy winning star of “Breaking Bad” and producer and actor on Nickelodeon’s bawdy, subversive animated series “Bojack Horseman” currently makes his home in Los Angeles, but Paul was born in Emmett, a sleepy city about 30 miles outside of Boise, and escapes to the spud [...]

  • Writers Guild Blasts CAA, WME for

    Writers Guild Blasts Talent Agencies CAA, WME for 'Soaring' Profits

    The Writers Guild of America has singled out Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, William Morris Endeavor and Creative Artists Agency, for allegedly soaring profits. The WGA, in an acrimonious negotiation over proposed new rules about how agencies represent writers, issued a report called “agencies for sale” on Monday morning — a few hours before a fifth [...]

  • MGM logo

    MGM Hires Robert Marick to Expand Consumer Products

    Metro Goldwyn Mayer has hired industry veteran Robert Marick as executive VP of global consumer products and experiences. In his new role, Marick is responsible for overseeing the expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business. He’s also developing a global strategy with a focus on core consumer products licensing, digital and gaming, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content