How ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Inspired a Scene in ‘ET’

In 1982, ET the extraterrestrial was the undisputed box office champ of the year and eventually ousted the spot Star wars as the highest-grossing film of all time, a record it held until its release Jurassic Park 11 years later. While “Weird Al” Yankovic was nowhere near a household name then Steven Spielberg‘s classic first phone call home, the accordion-playing parodist was indirectly responsible for a small joke in the film.

Spielberg shot much of the film in roughly chronological order to elicit a greater emotional response from his young actors. Tight security on set meant no one got a look at the title character until absolutely necessary – even ONE‘s co-stars.

“I remember the first time I saw ET was when I saw him in the movie,” said Robert MacNaughton, who played older brother Michael. said in 2002. “I kept pumping Henry [Thomas, who played Elliott] for information because he already had these scenes with him.”

ET meets Gertie in ‘ET the Extra-Terrestrial’

While Thomas didn’t spill any secrets, he suggested a moment that will appear in the film: When Elliott swears Michael to secrecy and claims “absolute power,” Michael mockingly agrees in a voice that sounds like Yoda, the Jedi master from The Empire strikes back. The moment was inspired by one of Yankovic’s songs.

“We used to listen to Dr. Demento,” MacNaughton told Yahoo! in 2017, “and at the time ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic had a song called ‘Yoda’ that was like Kinks‘ sang ‘Lola.’ And then I used to play it for Henry, and I used to do a Yoda impression, just between us. But when we were making the movie, he said, ‘You have absolute power’ sounds like something Yoda would say.” Inspired, Spielberg kept it in the final cut.

Casual Weird Al fans may wonder how a song that wasn’t released until the 1985s Dare to be stupid was familiar to listeners of Demento’s program. Yankovic had been sending the comedy DJ his own homemade tapes since he was a teenager, and credited the good doctor’s encouragement to take music seriously. When ONE was in production, Yankovic had already released two singles: “My Bologna,” a bid on Crackis “My Sharona”, and “Someone else drives the bus,” -one Queen parody that was taped live on a 1980 episode of Demento’s show. But he would still submit tapes — like an early version of “Yoda” — for listener approval.

Listen to ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s early ‘Yoda’ demo

And approve that they did: The early version of “Yoda” barely left Demento’s listener-desired Top 10 in 1981, among others. both local and national broadcasts in late October 1981, when the children’s first encounter with ET was filmed. (Spielberg appeared on set for Halloween dressed as an old woman.) When Yankovic secured Ray Davies‘permission, he remade “Yoda” to Dare to be stupid, but the fan-favorite original would be released on Dr. Demento-branded collections as well as Yankovic’s exciting career Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic.

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