4/14/2015

Source: Rex Features Moviestore Collection
E.T. the Extraterrestrial is an iconic creature in science fiction, an achievement not only in movie-making but also in special effects. The effort to breathe life into the beloved alien required a lot of work behind the scenes, possibly more than you ever knew. We all know Steven Spielberg directed and wrote the movie, and you may know Carlo Rambaldi designed the animatronics. But here are five unsung heroes who collectively had a role in bringing the iconic alien to life.

Matthew DeMeritt (Body)
DeMeritt was born without legs. As a result, he's always walked on his hands. His ability came in handy when he was twelve years old, and they needed little people to wear the rubber suit of E.T. He mainly performed in the drunk scenes where E.T. needed to fall over or walk awkwardly. Yes, they had a performer whose sole purpose was to fall on his face. But the suit was padded, so it was okay. He never acted again, but looks back fondly on his work.

Pat Bilon (Body)
Michael Patrick Bilon, known as "Little Pat," was a little person actor who had performed in Under the Rainbow. He was only two feet ten inches tall, one of the smallest adult actors at the time. Pat performed the majority of the body work in the movie in a costume that weighed almost as much as he did. He even put on the costume again for a performance of E.T. at the Hollywood Bowl. Sadly, he died in 1983.

Tamara De Treaux (Body)
Tamara was another little person who worked on E.T. She was part of a singing group called the Medflies when Spielberg spotted her in a performance. He asked her to audition, and she won the part. While originally hired as an understudy, she ended up taking over briefly for Bilon when he hurt his back. She walked up the ramp into the spaceship in the final scene. She later performed in Ghoulies and Rockula. She died at 31.

Pat Welsh (Voice)
Pat Welsh was an old woman with an incredibly gravelly voice. She smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. At sixty-seven, she was also the voice of E.T. Ben Burtt, the sound designer for E.T., was in a camera store when he heard her talking to someone. Her raspy voice seemed perfect for the alien. She later worked for George Lucas when she did the voice of Boushh in Return of the Jedi. All that phlegm made her a star. She died at 79 in 1995.

Caprice Roth (Hands)
Roth is a professional mime who donned a pair of rubber hands to perform as E.T. When E.T. reached out for Reese's Pieces or made his finger glow, that was Roth. She crouched or  lay on her back, working the hands on screen. Reportedly, she drank too much coffee on the first day, and her hand trembled. Spielberg liked it, and asked her to keep shaking her hands while performing the alien. Since E.T., she has been a director, producer, teacher, and mask-maker.

What did you think of E.T.? Which do you think had the hardest job?

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5 comments:

Pat Dilloway said...

It took a lot of work to bring him to life. Nowadays they'd just have Andy Serkis wear a motion capture suit to do it since he seems to be the guy to do all that. Anyway, can't imagine that old lady smoking two packs a day lived a lot longer than that. Or maybe she did; some people are lucky like that.

DAVID WALSTON said...

Great post! Never knew any of this. Now when I watch ROTJ I will close my eyes and listen for ET.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I didn't know so many performed the body. You don't say, but I'm assuming Welsh is dead as well.

Nigel Mitchell said...

Sorry, updated the post. Yeah, she's dead.

Nigel Mitchell said...

Surprisingly, she lived until 79

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