A lot of people enter a long-term relationship and realize that there’s some baggage that comes with the agreement. Whether it’s a secret quirk, an unresolved familial issue or any variety of antisocial personality traits, it’s likely that your future partner will have some sort of skeleton in their closet. When I married my wife seven years ago, I quickly learned that I’d always come second place to a small brown man she holds dearly in her heart.
No, not Gandhi; Sara is deeply and very seriously in love with the little dude at the centre of Steven Spielberg’s heart-rending early-80s divorce epic E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. “I think he’s so cute, and totally harmless,” she says sincerely, sitting in the only corner of our apartment not covered in movie paraphernalia. “He’s everyone’s friend. If he came down, whether he met Elliott or me or Donald Trump or anyone, he’d be the same to them all. He’s not out to hurt anyone. To be honest, he’s just a botanist.”
In June of 1982, four months after Sara was born, E.T. was released in theatres and quickly enchanted audiences worldwide with its unique viewpoint as an intimate family portrait disguised as a maximalist sci-fi adventure.
In other words, Sara and E.T. are both 30 years old. “He’s been a big part of my life,” she says. “People have told me that I haven’t really aged, and they get super surprised when they find out that I’m 30. In the same way, the movie can’t age. It doesn’t matter what decade you watch it in. It’ll always be just as heartfelt and awesome.”
Perhaps we need a real adult to intervene in our lives, but much of our disposable income is spent on the dumbest things (I’d like to imagine our apartment as something not unlike Tom Hanks’ place in Big). For Sara, that means amassing an enormous collection of E.T. merchandise, from action figures and teddy bears to jewelry, magazines and fan club paraphernalia. While there are countless others out there, I can say with a heavy degree of confidence (sprinkled with some concern) that she’s the most fanatic E.T. collector in Calgary.
“I also think I’m not a good collector, because good collectors keep stuff in mint condition,” she argues. “I’m the opposite. I like to open things and play with things. Usually they get a little bit bent and wrecked.... I think life is more fun when you collect things, and I don’t think you ever grow out of it. I can’t see myself ever stopping and I have a long way to go before I get everything that was made.”
Just how deep is her love for the li’l guy? In 2002, for the 20th anniversary celebration of E.T., she saved up two months’ wages to purchase a four-foot tall, life-size doll. “I remember everyone in the Toys 'R' Us parking lot was gawking at my sister and I when we carried it to the car. I think she was kind of embarrassed.”
In 10 years, that fanaticism hasn’t quelled. In fact, thanks to eBay, the cartoony creatures are multiplying in our apartment like Gremlins. I can still remember driving her to Midnapore so that her parents’ church friend could sew up the perfect E.T. Halloween costume from a complicated pattern she bought online, or the time more recently when she got the Amblin Entertainment logo tattooed on her foot.
Then, earlier this year, we heard that Universal would be issuing the film on Blu-ray for the first time. Spreading it out between our credit card and poor, poor chequing account, we did what any responsible adult would do and bought an LCD TV and Blu-ray player that same week. Then the release finally arrived — along with a nice-looking repress of the behind-the-scenes book ET: The Extra-Terrestrial: From Concept to Classic — and the film looks incredible. Sure, Sara’s seen all of the extra features except one, but it’s a doozy called The E.T. Journals, featuring an hour of uncut backstage footage shot on the set of the original film. Steven Spielberg has never looked so hip!
Still, not all of the recent E.T. merchandising gets the Sara stamp of approval. “No offence to the person who made the new E.T. iPhone game, but use some quality control. We all know about the E.T. Atari game embarrassment. Didn’t they learn from that? Don’t just try to get anyone off the street to make your game. I tried to play it and I found it a little bit insulting as an E.T. fan. Yeah, you did your research and found out that he’s a botanist, but don’t make a game where you just make a garden and have healing touches. I ran out of healing touches in the first five minutes!”
Yeah, I don’t have a clue what the hell she’s talking about either.