ONE of Hollywood’s busiest, most talented and well-known actresses, Dee Wallace has hundreds of film and TV credits to her name.
Brilliant turns in movies such as Cujo, The Howling and The Hills Have Eyes earned her a reputation of being a ‘scream queen’.
Her co-stars have included Harrison Ford, Brian Cox and Malcolm McDowell, as well as Dudley Moore and Julie Andrews in 1979 comedy 10.
On TV she has appeared in everything from Law & Order to My Name Is Earl to the U.S. version of The Office.
But it’s her role as Elliott’s mom in E.T. that cemented Dee’s legendary status forever.
And here in an exclusive interview to mark the 30th anniversary of the classic Steven Spielberg film – which opened in UK cinemas on December 9, 1982 – Dee tells how no one realised E.T. would become the classic it has, how E.T. was kept ‘alive’ in between takes so the young cast could talk to him, why she found her overnight fame hard to handle and how E.T.’s message of love and hope resonates stronger than ever today.
Not only is she one of the most famous faces in cinema, but she radiates an innate sense of joy and love.
As a result of her open heart I feel like Elliott – whose encounter with an extraterrestrial is one of the defining moments in movie history.
We speak about metaphysics for while she’s still a working actress Dee is now also a healer. Her latest book is Bright Light: Spiritual Lessons From a Life in Acting.
Later on in our interview she reveals how E.T. – which is unbelievably 30 years old this year – was just supposed to be Spielberg’s “little film”.
“I don’t think any of us realised it would become a classic. It was supposed to be Stephen’s little film,” she said.
“I knew it the minute I read the script, what a special movie this was.
“I knew this was the kind of project that I really wanted to be involved in.”
She continued: “You just really never know what’s going to make a mega-hit. I remember saying to Blake Edwards when we were doing 10, ‘Oh Blake, this is going to be such a big hit,’ and he said, ‘Honey, if we knew what made a hit we’d have a lot more of them.’
“The audience is what decides that. You go in, you do your best and create the best work that you can.
“You hope that the audience embraces it and it certainly has with E.T.
“Would I have thought that we would still be the icon that we are 30 years after the movie was released? Probably not.”
She added: “But yet I remember saying after the opening that this is our generation’s Wizard of Oz.”
In E.T., Dee plays Mary – mum to Elliot (Henry Thomas), Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and Gertie (Drew Barrymore).
And although she was not yet a mum in real life Dee, who was then 33, admits she felt protective over her on-screen brood.
“Absolutely. It was a big family atmosphere. The kids would all play together. We’d hang out together.
“I really felt very responsible about taking care of Drew on the set and going, ‘Ok Drew, now you know this is a scary scene but we’re just acting.’
“When kids are that young they often can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality.
“For example I went to get Drew right before the scene where we walk in and E.T.’s dying on the table.
“And E.T. was real to her. They kept E.T. ‘alive’ all the time. There was somebody working him because she’d go over and talk to him all the time.
“So I said, ‘Ok, we’re going to go and do this scene now Drew but you know it’s all pretend and he’s acting just like we are.’
“She looked at me and said, ‘I know Dee, do you think I’m stupid?’
“So I picked her up, we walked over to the set, she took one look at him and burst into tears, screaming and said, ‘He’s dying Dee.’
“That’s what I mean. They go back and forth like that. So I was very aware and of course we were all aware of never swearing on set, stuff like that.”
She added: “On most film sets you become a family anyway because you’re in such focused working conditions together for so long. Especially when you’re working with kids.”
When E.T. was released in 1982 it became an instant worldwide hit. It was the highest-grossing film of all time until it was knocked off the top spot by Spielberg’s 1993 film Jurassic Park.
Today, it is the fourth highest-grossing film of all time and a mainstay of Christmas scheduling on British TV.
But Dee – born Deanna Bowers in Kansas – found the glare of the spotlight difficult and didn’t make the most of her newfound fame.
“I come from a relatively poor family and I had been given a lot of messages about not going too far too fast, never saying you’re good enough, never allowing people to say you’re good – all the things that fame brings with it.
“And so when E.T. came out and it was a major hit and I was an instant star, all those old subconscious messages that I had been given started coming back in and I thought, ‘Oh wow, Deanna you can’t handle this, you better pull yourself back.’ So I did.
“And I really stopped creating myself. I worked for a while but I didn’t work in the way that I probably should have been after E.T.
“I just pulled way back. And when you do that, and we all do that, whenever we get hurt or threatened or we’re in fear – any of that stuff, we are taught to shut our hearts and shut down and protect ourselves.
“In reality, it’s the opposite thing that we should be doing. We should be opening our hearts and going, ‘Ok, I was hurt but I’m not going to stop creating me. I’m going to go and create me some other way, in some other place, with some other person.’”
She added: “Perhaps that’s why this happened to me, so I’d be in a place where I could actually share that with other people and help them look at where they stopped creating themselves.”
Dee has been working as a healer since losing her husband, fellow actor Christopher Stone with whom she has a daughter Gabrielle.
She said Gabrielle, also an actress, inspires her every day “by letting me experience this unconditional love that I have for her.”
Dee was engaged to her soulmate Christopher when the pair worked on The Howling together.
He passed away when she was filming The Frighteners.
She said: “Chris and I were married 18 years, he’s the father of my daughter and he was my soulmate.
“He was my soulmate, my protector, my confidante. He’s the first one that taught me about philosophy and creating your own life.
“We just worked. We were happy when we were together and that was pretty much all the time because we lived together and did a lot of work together.
“It broke my heart when he died and I lost him. It was also terribly devastating to my daughter who wasn’t even seven when we lost him.
“But it was also the beginning of the healing work because I dropped to my knees and said, ‘I don’t want to be angry and in fear any more, I want a way that we can heal ourselves.’ And within seconds I became clairaudient and started getting messages. It just kind of spiraled from there.”
She added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was out there orchestrating all of it.”
Dee said the biggest lesson she’s learnt throughout her career is that the most important thing is love.
“My personal philosophy is that there’s only love and wholeness in this world.
“If we have a different perspective it’s because we’ve chosen it.
“In any moment of our life we can choose joy and happiness and an open heart. No matter what happens we have the ability to choose that.
“When you start exercising that right your whole life turns around.”
Dee said that the key was to love yourself unconditionally.
“You have to love yourself. Get up every morning and go, ‘How can I love me more?’ And we’re taught the opposite.
“We’re all pretty much taught that it’s ok if you get the love of yourself from what you do. That this is what I do so you can love me or you can respect me. “But just to love yourself just for the pure choice and joy and experience of loving yourself – we’re never taught that.
“Ergo the problems in the world right now. We don’t know how to love our neighbour because we’ve never learned to love ourselves unconditionally.
“If you can’t acknowledge your magnificence, the universe can’t acknowledge it for you.
“When you know that you are god, and you are – you are the god of you, you are the creating force of you working in co-creation with THE energy, and that’s an important part of it too – working in co-creation.
“But the energy can’t work in co-creation with you until you decide to commit to that.”
Dee aligns herself with E.T.’s central message that the journey home comes from following the heart.
“I think E.T.’s message is very very clear – keep your heart light on.
“Your heart light goes out. If you close your heart down you can’t get back home.
“And where do we always all of us want to be? We want to be in the home, in the freedom and the love that we naturally are.
“We want to live in the balance and peace and harmony that we know is possible.
“But we must keep our heart lights on and live in love.
“A belief system that goes against universal love in any way will not create the life you want.”
She continued: “E.T. is obviously a career highlight because I think when I’m lowered into the ground that’s the theme song I’m sure they’ll be playing.
“But also because it did so much for the world and it’s still doing so much for the world.
“I have a crop of brand new fans that are four, five and six that have just seen it.
“I’m just so proud of being a part of a film that affected the human consciousness as much as E.T. did.”
For now Dee is busy shooting other films and conducting her healing seminars which she is hoping to bring to the UK when she goes to the Edinburgh Festival next year.
Dee is particularly looking forward to coming to the UK because she’s a fan of British drama.
There’s one show she would love to be a part of – Downton Abbey.
“Downton Abbey is one of my favourite shows. I would love to be a part of that creative team. I would just love that.
“It’s so well acted and it’s beautifully shot.
“It’s just class. It’s real class.”
Just like Dee herself.