How ‘E.T.’ Cured A Legendary Musician Of His Fear Of Movie Theaters


When E.T. premiered in 1982, it became an instant classic. Adults and children alike were charmed by the film—it’s a movie meant for laughing, crying, and gazing at in wonder. What fans of the film may not know is that it holds a special place in the heart of an extremely famous musician as well.

Brian Wilson Had An Intense Fear Of Movie Theaters

It’s no secret that the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson has struggled with his mental health over the years. The musician’s eccentric behavior and paranoid tendencies were public knowledge for years before his eventual diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. His ordeal went on to inspire the 2014 biopic Love & Mercy.

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In 1966, the first cracks in Wilson’s mental state really began to show. After going to the movie theaters to see the film Seconds, Wilson became paranoid that Phil Spector, a rival of Wilson’s in the music industry, had convinced producers to make the film just to scare him. Wilson arrived late, apparently just as a character said greeted the film’s Mr. Wilson by name, unsettling the musician.

“It was my whole life right there on the screen,” Wilson told a friend at the time. “What if it isn’t a coincidence? What if it’s real? You know there’s mind gangsters these days. There could be mind gangsters, couldn’t there? I mean look at Spector, he could be involved in it, couldn’t he? He’s going into films. How hard would it be for him to set up something like that?”

While the friend was able to talk him down, Wilson held onto his fear for years. He refused to enter movie theaters from that day on.

Brian Wilson Faces His Fear Of Movie Theaters

In Brian Wilson’s controversial 1991 biography, Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story, Wilson recounts finally facing his fears to see a movie in theaters. Sixteen years after Seconds, the group he was living with took Wilson to go see the Steven Spielberg film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

“I was glad I didn’t pass up the movie,” the biography reads. “Like the millions of people who saw E.T., I was sucked into the story within the first few minutes. By the time I glimpsed the lovable alien, I felt a certain kinship with him. He and I were both outsiders: We had trouble communicating, being understood. I tensed after realizing he’d been left behind, applauded when the kids adopted him.”

As a result of the captivating story, Wilson was able to put aside his fears.

“My heart had opened up wide and I cared about E.T., evidence of the improvement I’d made. More important, though, I was able to go to the movies, follow the story, and enjoy the film without the paralyzing fear I had usually experienced in movie theaters.”

It just goes to show that the beloved tale of an alien just trying to find his way back home truly touched people’s hearts—and even if it was only temporary relief from Wilson’s struggles, it seems to have had a powerful effect on his life.



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