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  • Cast the Expert: You know how the dialogue between the pilots and the air traffic controllers sounded so realistic? Spielberg used the controllers from Los Angeles ARTCC, gave them the scenario, and they played it as if it were real.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Used with the young actor playing Barry. For example to get good reactions in the kitchen scene, where you only see his face, off-camera they had a clown which Barry (Cary Guffy) smiled at. Then (same take) they brought in a man in a gorilla suit, which he looked at with a puzzled expression. Then the man in the gorilla suit took his mask off, revealing it to be a grown-up he knew. Cary smiled.
  • Executive Meddling: Lots of footage was edited around and cut in the original 1977 version. Justified as the studio was on the verge of bankruptcy and needed to ship this film before they went under.
  • Flip-Flop of God: Spielberg said in 2005, that he made that movie when he didn't have kids, and if he was making it today, he'd never have Neary leaving his family.
    • The younger Spielberg made authentic statements about
      • The plastic emptiness of nice suburban family life in the '70s
      • Mental Illness and what it can do to nice suburban people. Lots of men do in fact leave their families. One parent losing his or her mind is a common cause of divorce. In this case Neary's craziness is literally the result of alien mind control and his family wisely flees from him to avoid further exposure to his psychotic behavior.
      • And specifically, what has happened to thousands of people who believe, in all sincerity, that they truly are alien contactees. MUFON meetings are full of people who left/were left by their families because of an Experience.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Legendary French film director François Truffaut as scientist Claude Lacombe.
    • His assistant is none other than Russel Dalrymple, the executive from NBC.
    • Many viewers nowadays will immediately recognize Jillian as Ralphie's mom.
    • At the time of the movie's release, many watchers recognized Roy's wife as Roberta Lincoln and/or Inga.
    • And of course those into UFO lore spotted UFO researcher J. Allen Hynek among the landing site staff. (The one with the pipe.)
    • Larry, third guy who runs with Roy and Jillian, is the villain from Witness, unrecognizable with his shaggy hair and big 70's glasses.
    • There's also Lance Henriksen in a thankless bit part as Lacombe's minder, Robert.
    • In the later Director's Cut, we run into Carl Weathers as a National Guardsman politely informing Roy Neary that they don't take kindly to looters during the nerve gas crisis.
  • Throw It In: "I hate these potatoes and there's a dead fly in my potatoes."