E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL
Creating And Building E.T.
Casting humans is one matter... but finding the exact right design for a fantastical alien
- and the technology to build it in the early l 980s - was quite another. Spielberg and former assistant Kathleen Kennedy - now promoted to full producer status - began making the
rounds of the top special effects designers to achieve the near impossible. They had
already worked hard on conceptualizing ET. with noted production illustrator Ed
"It was tough finding a good look for E.T., because I
wanted him to be special," noted Spielberg. I didn't want him to look like aliens from other
movies. I wanted him to look so anatomically different that the audience would never be able to think that there was a person in a suit with a zipper up the back. I started with these principles
when I first began working with Ed Verreaux.
One enormous challenge was that Spielberg wanted E.T. to be only three feet tall with a telescopic neck and short, stubby feet. This eliminated the possibility of
inhabiting an ET. suit. Among the designers approached by Spielberg was Carlo
Rambaldi, the talented Italian who had designed the long-limbed alien who
communicates with Francoi s Truffaut's scientist at the emotional climax of Close Encounters
of the Third Kind (dubbed "Puck" by the director).
"We gave Carlo about six sketches that Ed Verreaux had already done," Spielberg noted. "and I
really loved the initial designs that he came tip with for E.T."
"The thing that I really remember very specifically working with Steven on
E.T.'s design," recalled Verreaux, "was going into his office and seeing all of these books that he was using as reference. Steven would point
out a particular picture and note details of their eyes, mouths and other features. . and
nearly all of them were very, very old people. In fact, Spielberg was
particularly influenced by
photographs of Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg in their later
years. I loved their eyes," said Spielberg, "and I asked Carlo if we could make
E.T.'s eyes as frivolous, wizened and sad as theirs."
Spielberg and Rainbaldi began to assemble a "police composite" of what
E.T.'s face should look like. They went through magazines and cut out baby
pictures, gluing Einstein, Hemingway and Sandburg's eyes to the photographs. Part of the inspiration also came from the
eyes of Rambaldi's Himalayan cat, as well as an early painting by the Italian called
Women of Delta, a tribute to women in a remote part of his country. Their heads, long necks and whole tipper bodies
would influence E.T.'s head and neck.
In early January 1981 - six months before filming was scheduled to commence - Rambaldi made a full sized
clay model of E.T.'s head and surprised
Spielberg with it, to delighted response. The filmmaker did a screen test for the
clay figure with a video camera, and discovered that lighting could further enhance the little alien's effectiveness.
For the effort of creating the complete E.T., Rambaldi was joined by a myriad team of special effects artists and technicians, and fabricating the alien began in March 1981. Spielberg and Kennedy continued to
provide Rambaldi with very detailed notes, such as the requests that E.T.'s lips be moist and
fleshy, like human mouths, but that their texture be different from the rest of his skin and appear
very wet and gooey, and that the area in each corner of E.T.'s eyes be moist, just like human
Special artistic consultant Craig Reardon was summoned to paint E.T., and also to create his unique
heartlight, joined in that specific effort by Robert Short. Spielberg described the heartlight as looking like the glow juice generated
by the tail of a firefly. Re
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