"E.T.: The Extraterrestrial" is appearing in Blu-ray form for the first time on October 9, and in anticipation of 1982's most cute and cuddly alien returning to Earth, we talked to certified "E.T." superfan Nicholas Gjoka about his favorite childhood (and adult) obsession.
Gjorka has one of the most impressive collections of "E.T." memorabilia in the known universe, and told us about some of the best, and oddest, pieces in his possession, as well as some of his other passions… including racing bikes! Very apropos.
Take us back to "E.T." ground zero: Tell us about the first time you saw the film when you were 4 years old.
My mom has been telling me that she took me when I was four years old. I have yet to find ticket stubs or remember anything. I remember opening this one specific talking E.T. toy that I got from my grandfather when I was four. It's one of the reasons I have such a strong connection with the movie.
How many times do you think you've seen it since?
I don't even know anymore. There are times I'll watch it a couple times a week, then once a week, then go a couple weeks without watching it. Whenever it's on TV, even if I'm tuning in from the middle, I'll always watch it. It's just a classic movie. I've seen it a million times but I never, ever get tired of it. I can't wait to actually get it on Blu-ray because there's all these extra features I've never seen, and I can put it on my iPod Touch.
What is the pride and joy of your collection?
One of the most valuable things to me would be the talking E.T. doll just because it has sentimental value. Then if you're talking other things, I have original sketches of the spaceship. I have a piece of E.T.'s actual foot that they used to make Halloween costumes. A couple props. I'm really into displays and costumes and storyboards.
What are some of the strangest pieces you have?
A lot of people think E.T.'s foot is strange, but it kinda makes sense to me. They put E.T.'s image on everything back then, because the movie was huge. Some of the weirdest things might be an E.T. motorized toothbrush. An E.T. light-up finger that you put on your finger. There's a lot of bootleg stuff that's not official. There's some weird looking E.T.'s out there.
Wasn't there a really notorious "E.T." video game that was so bad and sold so poorly that they buried piles of them in landfills?
I've heard that rumor, I don't know if it's true. There is a mediocre game for Atari. I still love it because it's "E.T.," but it's difficult to play after awhile.
With all the flea markets and yard sales you've been to, there must be one or two items that have a long, tortured, "Indiana Jones"-style story behind acquiring them?
That would be the "E.T." Big Wheel bike for little kids. I've only seen two before in my life. One was at this higher-end collectible toy store in New York. I skipped buying it, then I went back a week later and it was gone. I saw another one for sale and it was too much money. I was then contacted by a collector from the early '80s and he had this huge collection. We made a deal and that was among the 300 pieces he sent me. Now it's one of my favorite pieces!
Have you had a chance to meet or interact with any of the cast and crew of the film?
I met the mom, Dee Wallace Stone, at a horror convention and I spoke to her a little bit about "E.T." I told her how I pass on info from her website to my "E.T." website (ILoveET.com) about her. She was awesome, really sweet.
Were you as filled with joy as we were when we saw Steven Spielberg had put the guns back in the end scene instead of the dumb walkie-talkies?
Yes I am, and I'm so stoked that the Blu-ray is the 1982 release and not the 2002 release. I love the part where E.T., instead of hopping at the beginning of the movie, which they did for the 2002 release, they just slid him through the woods along on a track. I love all the little things they couldn't do back then. I love that kind of stuff, the guns especially.
Are you happy Spielberg put his foot down and said "NO SEQUEL"?
Yes. Yes I am. You can't mess with perfection. There was a children's book written back in '85 called "The Green Planet," and part of the "E.T." ride was based on it, but if they went in that direction, it wouldn't match up. The first movie was shot very dark, but "The Green Planet" was bright and kind of poppy. I'm glad there's no sequel.
Do you collect anything else?
"E.T."'s at the top. I collected original "Star Wars" stuff when I was younger, and bicycles, 'cause I race bicycles. Five or six years ago, I decided to focus on "E.T." and got rid of the other stuff. "E.T." is my main thing, besides family and that kind of stuff first.
Where are you at now in your own life? You're soon to be a husband and a father, right?
Yes. I work as a set decorator for movies and TV. Right now, I'm working on "The Hunger Games," and I just finished up a movie called "The Devil's Knot" about The West Memphis Three. Before that, I worked on a show called "Single Ladies" for VH1.
How old is your son gonna be when you show him "E.T." for the first time?
We were watching it the other day, and as soon as Elliot and E.T. took off on the bikes, he started kicking. I'm not just making that up for the interview! He sorta watched it already, I guess. One year old, six months old, I'm gonna watch it as early as possible. He probably won't pay attention or know what's going on, but he'll hear the sounds and everything. Yeah. (laughs)