“That was a mistake”: Steven Spielberg regrets digitally disarming Feds in ‘E.T.’


Even a filmmaking legend can have some big-screen regrets.

That’s the takeaway from Steven Spielberg, who tells Time his decision to digitally edit out firearms from the hands of federal agents in a 20th anniversary rerelease of his classic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was a mistake.

Spielberg made the comments after taking the stage for a sit-down as part of the 2023 TIME100 Summit Tuesday.

The Oscar winner, who has graced the magazine six times — “Seven, I count the shark,” he joked about Jaws‘ toothy villain — looked back at his storied career.

Spielberg says of the reedit, which saw federal agents’ guns swapped out using computer graphics technology, “That was a mistake. That was a mistake. I never should have done that. Because E.T. is a product of its era. No film should be revised based on the lenses we now are, either voluntarily — or being forced to — peer through.”

He added, “I was sensitive to the fact that federal agents approached a bunch of kids with firearms exposed, and I thought I’d changed the guns to walkie-talkies.”

Spielberg expressed, “I have never should have messed with the archive of my own work. I don’t recommend anybody really do that.”

The filmmaker added, “All our movies are a kind of a signpost of where we were when we made them, what the world was like … when we got those stories out there. So I really regret having that out there.”

The same goes for a recent trend in reediting so-called “problematic” language in classic works. “It is absolutely, for me, is sacrosanct. It’s our history. It’s our culture heritage. I do not believe in censorship in that way,” he said to applause.

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