Costume Designer Deborah Lynn Scott on 40 Years of E.T‘ and Making ’Avatar 2: ‘There are Huge Leaps in Every Technical Way ’

“Titanic,” “Avatar” and “Back to the Future” are just a few of Deborah Lynn Scott’s many credits as a costume designer, but Steven Spielberg’s “E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial” is one that Scott is particularly fond of. “I have fun memories of making it, and I can’t believe it’s 40 years,” Scott says as the film celebrates its 40th anniversary. “I think it’s lasted partly because Steven was adamant about not doing a sequel or remake and all those things that keep it a classic and unique.”

Henry Thomas plays Elliot, the 10-year-old who befriends the lost alien and with his siblings Gertie (Drew Barrymore) and Michael (Robert MacNaughton) helps E.T go home.

When it came to making Elliot’s red hoodie and Gertie’s timeless overalls, Scott says any ideas and conversations around the look of the film were about keeping it classic. “You’re not going too far one way or another, and it’s not specific to its period.”

The film, which has earned over $792.9 million at the box office, was Scott’s second film. “I shopped the whole movie, and it wasn’t a very large budget,” Scott says.

For the wardrobe, she shopped as if she were that character or their mother. With Gertie’s look, which the costume designer describes as “boyish,” Scott says, “You have two older brothers, so she’s not too much of a girl, and her mom would want her to embrace that part of it but she’s still treasuring this little girl.” With that, Scott would add in a ruffled shirt or put Barrymore’s hair in a pigtail and bows.

For the Halloween scene where Gertie dresses E.T in a wig, hat, pearls and top, Scott recalls there were a lot of conversations around that moment. She says, “In a way, E.T was almost like a living doll to Gertie, and she wasn’t afraid of him anymore.” She’s dressing him up with things she finds. Scott says, “I remember taking a bunch of stuff from my costume box at my house thinking things would look fun.” The key was to not overdo it and remember the story was from a child’s point of view. “The whole movie is that, so it was important to not to go beyond the boundaries of what that looks like.”

“E.T” would mark Spielberg and Scott’s first collaboration of many. Scott would go on to work on movies where her budgets were in the millions, which she would learn to manage. Of Spielberg, she remembers, “It was a very protected environment, partially because of the children, but mostly because Steven, that’s the way he wanted it. He wanted to nurture it.” She adds, “I remember this gentle, soft, very communicative director.”

James Cameron is another director Scott frequently collaborates with. Of the new “Avatar: The Way of Water,” out later this year, she said the filmmaker is someone who doesn’t like to repeat himself. “There are huge leaps in every technical way which allow the costumes and me to go out there.” She adds, “It’s a brand new horizon.”

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