Steven Spielberg regrets digitally editing guns out of E.T.

Steven Spielberg
(Image credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME)

Like a mosquito carrying dinosaur blood, Steven Spielberg believes older films should remain preserved in amber.

At Time's 100 Summit, the director argued movies should never be retroactively edited for modern audiences as he expressed regret that he once removed the guns from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial years after its release.

"That was a mistake," Spielberg admitted. "I never should have done that because E.T. is a product of its era."

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For its 20th anniversary in 2002, Spielberg famously altered E.T. so that officers were now carrying walkie-talkies instead of guns, as they were originally. "I regret that a gun was used as a threat to stop children on bicycles," he said in a 1995 interview, per the Los Angeles Times. "And if I ever reissue the picture, I'll use the digital miracle of, you know, CGI to take the guns out of the cops' hands."

He did just that, but Spielberg has since changed his mind about this, and the guns were later restored to the film. At the Time summit, he noted he made this change because he was sensitive to the fact that "the federal agents were approaching a bunch of kids with their firearms exposed." But the director now believes "no film should be revised based on" modern sensibilities.

"I should never have messed with the archive of my own work, and I don't recommend anybody really do that," he explained. "All our movies are a kind of measuring, sort of a signpost of where we were when we made them and what the world was like, and what the world was receiving, when we got our stories out there."

Spielberg noted he also feels this way about changing the language of older books, stressing, "I do not believe in censorship that way."

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