'E.T.' screenwriter Melissa Mathison dies

Melissa Mathison and her then-husband Harrison Ford at the White House in 1998. (AP/Neshan H. Naltchayan
Melissa Mathison and her then-husband Harrison Ford at the White House in 1998. (AP/Neshan H. Naltchayan

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Melissa Mathison, the screenwriter who crafted the enchanting worlds of iconic family films including "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial," has died. She passed away Wednesday at age 65 after a bout with neuroendocrine cancer, her sister, Melinda Mathison Johnson, confirmed.

The LA native had a humble but high-profile start — her first credited work was in assistant roles on "The Godfather: Part II" and "Apocalypse Now," before she broke out with her script for "The Black Stallion," which was released as a feature length film in 1979.

Throughout her over 30-year career, she often collaborated with producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall and worked with directors like Frank Oz on "The Indian in the Cupboard" and Martin Scorsese on "Kundun."

But history will most fondly remember her for fleshing out the story of that friendly, homesick alien E.T. The film, directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1982, would become one of the highest grossing of all time.

"Melissa had a heart that shined with generosity and love and burned as bright as the heart she gave 'E.T.'," said Spielberg in a statement.

The script for "E.T." earned Mathison her first and only Oscar nomination. She lost out to John Briley's "Gandhi" screenplay for the prize.

Her last credited work is on Spielberg's big screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved novel "The BFG," which comes out next year.

Mathison was married to Harrison Ford for 21 years before they divorced in 2004. They have two children.

AP Film Writer Jake Coyle contributed from New York.

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