Catching Up With…Dee Wallace From ‘E.T.’
Photo: Getty Images
The actress talks spiritual healing, book writing and the 1980s classic, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.
The first thing you notice about Dee Wallace is her laugh: it’s genuine, it’s infectious, it’s loud. And why not? The actress-author-healer has a lot to smile about these days.
The 68-year-old has recently kept busy making the rounds on morning talk shows to promote her BuppaLaPaloo plush bear, an idea that sprung from the realization that kids need bonding objects to heal and succeed in the world—especially ones that voice 10 empowering statements that nurtures and instills self-love and respect.
The impetus behind the best-selling talking bear? Working closely as a spiritual adviser with clients who, more often than not, lacked that same powerful encouragement from the adults in their lives while growing up. “I would work these with adults—and their inner child—and I woke up one night and realized I had to do something to get to those who are children now so that their brain can form and so that they don’t have to wait until they are 30, 40, 50 or 60 before they realize they have to retrain their brain about loving who they are,” she explains. “And what better way to do that then through a toy?”
It’s fitting that the woman who famously portrayed young Elliott’s doting single mom, Mary, in 1982’s classic, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, would concoct a toy that encourages mental health and self-love in children.
“I realized that the one core thing that challenged everybody was learning how to love themselves—because we’re often taught not to,” she says. “We’re taught that it’s egotistical.”
That idea of love and acceptance also happens to be one of the overriding themes of a certain iconic blockbuster.
E.T., about a lonely preteen (played by Henry Thomas) who befriends a lovable alien stranded on Earth, garnered rave reviews upon its initial release, smashed box office records that year and earned nine Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. It also catapulted Wallace into the limelight and remains the film project nearest and dearest to her heart. “I saw it as a movie that had an incredible message of love that I felt was going to help the world,” she says.
Although Wallace still regularly works in film and television—including a recurring role on General Hospital and appearances on hit shows like The Office and Supernatural—the majority of her energy is spent running her successful website and working as a spiritual healer.
The self-described clairaudient (“It means I can hear. It’s not like how I’m hearing you talk to me, but I hear a nudge or energy shift [in the universe] with certain words”) has been in tune with her spiritual side since childhood, but even moreso after the sudden death of her first husband, actor Christopher Stone, in 1995.
Wallace recalls the moment she learned of Stone’s passing from a heart attack. “I dropped down to my knees and said, ‘I don’t want to be this way and I don’t want to be pissed off and I don’t want to be a victim. I want a way that we can heal ourselves.’ And, within seconds, I was getting very clear [clairaudient] messages.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Much like E.T. and his innate power to literally mend a physical wound or broken heart with a gentle tap from the tip of his index finger, Wallace dedicates herself to easing the minds of her devoted clients, many of whom have suffered loss at an early age. “To share from your heart is to say to the world: ‘I trust you and I know I am safe and secure here,'” she says.
We recently caught up with Dee Wallace to talk about spiritual healing, book writing and her favourite memory from the E.T. set.
LAURA GRANDE: When you first got the script for E.T. did you have any idea it’d become such a classic?
DEE WALLACE: “You never know if a movie is going to be big because there are so many things that go into it—the timing, the audience reception and the marketing. But I didn’t think it would just be ‘another alien movie.’ I didn’t really look at it as an alien movie, to begin with. I saw it as a movie that had an incredible message of love that I felt was going to help the world. And I was pretty accurate about that, wasn’t I? It was another The Wizard of Oz. When you read [screenwriter] Melissa Mathison’s script you just knew automatically that there was something special and magical about this story.”
LG: What was your fondest memory from your time on the set?
DW: “Probably on Halloween when [director] Steven [Spielberg] dressed exactly how E.T. was dressed for the Halloween scene—in the dress and the hat and the whole thing. He came in and directed all day like that.” (laughs)
LG: The film continues to bring in a new set of fans with each new decade. What’s your most memorable fan encounter?
DW: “This woman came up to me teary-eyed and said, ‘Mrs. Wallace I want you to know that you’re part of a miracle in my life. My son is autistic and was 10 years old and I’d never heard him say a word. And I took him to see the re-release of E.T. and on the way home he started saying every line that E.T. said.’ That, for me, was a miracle in my life. There are so many stories about how that movie changed lives and changed perceptions. I had a young man come up and tell me that his mother and father had gotten divorced and they lived in a very small town and he felt ostracized, but then E.T. came out and that gave everyone permission to say, ‘Oh, Mikey’s OK. His family is just like the family in that movie.’ It’s crazy how our work can, and does, affect peoples’ lives.”
LG: You’re also something of a 1970s-era ‘scream queen’ with a large cult horror fan following. Which of your horror films would have scared you the most as an audience member?
(laughs) “Oh, geez! I’m such a wuss when it comes to horror movies. I’m the perfect audience, the perfect screamer. Gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever, in 40 years, been asked that question! Probably the one that would have freaked me out the most was [1977’s] The Hills Have Eyes. But, that being said, I’m such an incredible dog lover that [1983’s] Cujo would have been really powerful for me. If I hadn’t known there were 13 different dogs and that they were all trained to go after toys…(laughs). When you know the inside story it becomes a little more palatable.”
LG: Were you in any way intimidated by the claustrophobic shoot for Cujo?
DW: “Well, no, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hate that car. (laughs) A lot of times we actually used cars that were cut away [on the sides] so that we could get all those interesting angles that [director] Jan de Bont and his team created. It was a fine science to create that feeling of claustrophobia and still have enough room to do all these innovative angles so it didn’t get redundant.”
LG: You’ve encountered aliens, werewolves, ghosts, rabid dogs—all of which required incredibly physical and emotional performances. What was the most grueling film set you’ve ever worked on?
DW: “Oh, Cujo for sure! (laughs) For sure! They treated me for exhaustion for three weeks after filming was completed. I’m still on adrenal supplements because of it. Every single scene was fight or flight. It was incredibly intense.”
LG: I want to switch gears a bit and talk about your work as a spiritual healer. How did that all start for you—were you always a spiritual person?
DW: “I have always been a spiritual person. But I was raised in a somewhat religious household. I was raised Methodist and my brother was actually a Methodist minister for awhile—but he also made his money to pay his way through college by shooting pictures for Playboy. And that kind of sums my family up. (laughs) We were very grounded. We were certainly not part of the religious right, but we were God-centred and love-centred. That’s what I was taught and that’s what I keep teaching through my spiritual practice.”
LG: You talk a lot about ‘conscious creation.’ What is your definition of that?
DW: “My definition is creating consciously—and most of us are not. We are often not aware of even a fifth of the thoughts that go through our minds daily and we’re certainly not aware of the sense memories that are built in from genetics and occurences in our lives. Our bodies react before our brain even registers what is going on around us. It’s kept us alive for years: If you think of fight or flight, we’d stop and go, ‘OK, there’s a tiger and that tiger is coming towards me. Maybe I should run.’ Our bodies would go into immediate reaction—which is great if you’re trying to save yourself from a tiger. But it’s not so great when you live your life daily trying to save yourself from everything. And we wonder why our blood pressure is up and heart disease is up. It’s because the strain of living in ‘fight or flight mode’ out of fear of Korean missiles or climate change that we’re not consciously creating and directing ourselves around how we want ourselves to handle these things. [As a result], you will definitely be created through the fear of the collective consciousness. Why? Because you’re not conscious enough to do anything else.”
LG: How did acting become a spiritual journey for you?
DW: “Oh, wow. Well, when I found [my acting mentor] Charles Conrad and began channeling characters. It was amazing to me, when you work this way, you literally cannot be untruthful in a performance. It just gives you the heebie-jeebies when you try to manipulate what the characters truthfulness is all about. And that is really a spiritual revelation.”
LG: You’ve written multiple books on conscious creation and spiritual healing, including a memoir, Bright Light. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
DW: “Not the technical part. (laughs) Technical stuff is my least favourite part of anything. I was there in the moment, living in the moment. And I think, in anything that I create, it’s that moment where my heart is open and I’m totally one with the creation, whether it’s writing my weekly eblast, writing my book, doing a private session or bringing a [movie role] to life, it’s that being one with the energy. It’s freedom. It’s the best, most incredible freedom you can ever feel. You don’t go into self-doubt or universal doubt. You just know because you move into that place where you’re one with everything. It’s better than sex!” (laughs)
LG: Tell us about your BuppaLaPaloo plush bear. Where did this idea come from?
DW: “I’d gotten into studying brain science. I’m really fascinated by how the brain and spiritual world work and coincide together. I was musing one night over all the thousands of people who I’ve worked with, from acting students to healing clients, and I realized that the one core thing that challenged everybody was learning how to love themselves—because we’re often taught not to. We’re taught that it’s egotistical. And yet, that’s the source of all creation. I would work with these adults—and their inner child—and I woke up one night and realized I had to do something to get to those who are children now so that their brain can form and so that they don’t have to wait until they are 30, 40, 50 or 60 before they realize they have to retrain their brain about loving who they are. And what better way to do that then through a toy? And one thing I’ve learned from working with psychologists is that kids need a bonding object. We all learn through repetition and the biggest changes in our lives come when something is paired with an emotional experience or memory. That emotion can be positive or it can be negative. So, I built a bear that’s a bonding object, that is fun and kids can experience love with and it includes 10 really empowering statements that we encourage kids to say back to the bear. This helps build up the brain so they have within them—by the time they’re 7,8 or 9—the freedom to say ‘I love my body’ and ‘I’m going to be great in this world’ and ‘I am so loved.’ I hope they can pull up that memory instead of trying to make themselves find it somewhere else.” [Ed. Note: Find more info on the BuppaLaPaloo Bear here]
LG: And you’ve talked a lot about the limiting messages we often receive as children and you often quote something your mom told you as a kid: ‘You can do anything you want to do, but just do it in Kansas where you’re safe.’
DW: “It’s an example of the statements we’ve all gotten: ‘The world isn’t safe, so don’t go out there’ or ‘Hold everything close’ or ‘If you’re afraid, shut your heart down instead of opening it’ or ‘Don’t be too proud of yourself or believe in yourself because the world won’t like you and it’s better if you just play small.’ We’ve been given all of that, all those messages, by somebody—a parent, a teacher or the church. These are limiting statements that come from fear and were meant through love and concern but limit us in our power. The world happens, stuff happens and you have to handle it.”
LG: You’re an author, actress, life coach and healer. What is your proudest achievement?
DW: “Having my daughter, Gabrielle. They told me I would never have my daughter; that I would never get pregnant. But I said, ‘Well, God and I have a different plan.’ It took me six years [to get pregnant], but she’s here and she’s beautiful. She’s 28 now and also an actress. For me, she is an example of my work personified. I believed, I knew, and I didn’t give my power away to people who said, ‘You can’t.’ I was patient, and I allowed the universe to work with me and here she is.”