Look at this wonderful footage of Steven Spielberg and John Williams composing music for E.T. together

4 February 2022, 15:49

Steven Spielberg and John Williams compose music for E.T. together
Steven Spielberg and John Williams compose music for E.T. together. Picture: Universal Pictures

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The silver screen’s most iconic collaborative duo – in action.

John Williams’ collaboration with Steven Spielberg has given the world many of the best loved film themes ever – music that didn’t just serve to support the narrative, but that stayed with us long after the film is over and has even won its own place in the concert hall.

At the height of the Hollywood duo’s collaboration, Williams produced his heart-warming score for Spielberg’s seminal E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, which earned the American composer his fourth Academy Award.

The story goes that Spielberg respected Williams’ contribution to the extent that he tweaked the final edit of the film to fit the music, flipping the usual status quo for a film’s director and composer.

And now, footage from the film’s production has emerged, in which Spielberg can be seen standing next to a film projector while Williams sits at the piano, bashing out the famous themes.

You can watch the clip below, or in the film’s bonus material if you happen to have the Blu-ray edition of E.T. knocking around at home.

Read more: John Williams’s 10 best-ever movie soundtracks

It’s a fascinating insight into the process between director and composer, especially when it’s one as affectionate as this.

Spielberg always enjoyed being involved in the sound of his movies, and even played on the soundtrack for one of his best-known films.

Early in Jaws, a high school band is playing a John Sousa march during a street parade, and so John Williams needed to eke a rather off-kilter rendition from the film studio’s world-class orchestra.

Spielberg tentatively put his hand up and admitted he used to play clarinet in a high school band. And for that one number, he ended up joining the orchestra.

“He added just the right amateur quality to the piece,” Williams said. “A few measures still survive in the movie.”

Join us from Monday 7 February as we mark John Williams’s 90th birthday with a special John Williams Week, on Classic FM.