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Casting The Humans
Steven Spielberg has often referred to the casting of E. T The Extra-Terrestrial as "summer camp," as so many important roles needed to be inhabited by children or teenagers. While E.T. was being created and constructed in March 1981, the casting process began simultaneously. First to be selected were Dee Wallace Stone as Mary, Elliott's lonely but loving mother, Robert MacNaughton as his older brother Michael, and a six-year-old blonde tyke with a big imagination (and mighty family name), Drew Barrymore, as playful younger sister Gertie.

"I had auditioned for a movie that Steven produced called Used Cars," recalled Wallace Stone, "and that turned out to be my audition for E. T. Steven is a master at casting. He watches people carefully and has a real talent for taking whatever their quality is and putting them in a role that's right for them.

"So Steven saw me playing hookers and call girls on television and cast me as Elliott's mom," Wallace Stone laughed.

Robert MacNaughton was 14-years-old when he auditioned for E. T and Spielberg was impressed with the young man' s professionalism and stage experience. "I was doing a play in New York and they had me come and read for another movie in Los Angeles," remembers MacNaughton. "I didn't get the part, but the casting director said, 'Well, I hear there's something going on over at Spielberg's office called A Boy's Life. I ended tip getting in on a late audition for the film, and I recall that it wasn't really an audition, because they wouldn't allow the script to be seen. It was more of an interview with Steven himself."

"I thought that Robert was just a really good actor," Spielberg stated. "He was the most professional of all the kids, and he was really an anchor because he had worked a lot and been in front of a lot of people. Robert was solid."

Spielberg first met with little Drew Barrymore for Poltergeist, and liked her immediately because she was "an adorable liar." Recalls Barrymore from the lofty perspective of adulthood, "When I auditioned for Poltergeist, Steven just said 'No, you're not right for this, but you may be right for another project I have so please come back in.' Which I did, several times. At first he just wanted to meet and get to know me, and I was so happy to have a grownup that would actually listen to me talk. He listened to my stories and loved them, and it made me feel so good and alive."

Added Spielberg, "I met a lot of potential Gerties, but when Drew came in, she had the part the minute she stepped into the room because she began to make up these stories that she was a punk rocker who was about to go on the road and do a 20-city tour with her band ... and Drew was six years old! She kept making up stories, and they got bigger and bigger and bigger and wilder and wilder, and she just blew me away, especially after she told me that she could help make my movie better! There was no second choice."

Another important addition to the cast was Peter Coyote as the scientist known as Keys. "The first time I met Steven," recalled the actor, "I was brought down by the casting agent Mike Fenton of Fenton & Feinberg, who had wanted me to meet for the Indiana Jones role in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Mike asked me if I could wear a hat, and I said that I wore hats all the time. So he gave me a fedora, said that the role was a swashbuckling adventurer, and I should just go in and meet Steven.

"So as I walked into the room, Coyote reminisced with a humorously pained grimace, "I tripped over a lamp stand."

"Had I made Raiders of Comedy," Spielberg continued with tongue firmly planted in cheek, "I would have east Peter Coyote to play Indiana Jones becau

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