Preternatural film freeze-frame: E.T. arrives (in 1982)

“He is afraid. He is alone. He is three million light years from home.”

Hard to believe he has been on Earth for nearly thirty years.

Elliott (Henry Thomas), who had such a special connection with the self-named E.T. has grown up. He’s become a film producer (Josh Petri) who unwittingly releases evil celluloid spirits while working making a film in Romania (Don’t Look Up) , a troubled genius who tries to bring about world peace with a volcanic eruption (The End of the Whole Mess episode of Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King),  a Man of God (The Last Sin Eater)  and even has another UFO encounter that doesn’t end as well as E.T. (Fire in the Sky). Obviously, saving the short flower-loving alien, had a profound effect on Elliot, since he is commonly the good-guy or at least and unintentional bad guy.

Little Gertie (Drew Barrymore) has become a beautiful young woman. Like any young girl who encounters the extraordinary early in life, she has tried living the Cinderella fairy tale (Ever After). She’s also taken a few wrong turns discovering pyrokinetic abilities (Firestarter) and hooking up with Harvey Dent (Batman Forever).

Sadly, the talented performer inside the lovable alien did not survive as long as E. T. has. Michael Patrick Bilon passed away in January 1983, some seven months after the iconic film was released on 11 June, 1982. At the time of his death, it was reported that the screen giant (who stood only 2 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 45 pounds) was in negotiations to appear in a sequel to E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial. The sequel was never made.

The E.T. costume weighed 40 pounds, nearly as much as Bilon himself. No wonder he missed his ride in the first sequence. How fast can anyone run wearing their own body weight?

E.T.‘s reach extends beyond those directly involved in the film.

A letter from scientists in 12 countries, including the U.S. and Russia (then the Soviet Union), France, India, Tasmania, Italy, Japan, Norway and (West) Germany, published in the 29 October, 1982 issue of Science called for renewing the global effort to listen for extraterrestrial radio signals.

“[W]e are unanimous in our conviction the only significant test of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is an experimental one,” the letter states. “We urge the organization of a coordinated, worldwide and systemic search for extraterrestrial intelligence.”

Decades later, we are still looking and listening. We are also making progress, particularly over the last 10 years, which astrophysicist describes as “a decade of explosive discovery.”

So what are the chances of discovery extraterrestrial life?

Many scientists agree that humanity will be within striking distance of detecting and imaging habitable planets orbiting nearby stars within the next decade. Peter Smith, the University of Arizona professor who led NASA’s Phoenix Mars Mission goes even further. He predicts we will discover life outside/beyond Earth in the next 10 years. Unfortunately, he’s talking about microscopic life, not aliens. Still, if one exists that increases the possibility that the other does as well.

“I think it’s coming, I really do, ” Smith said. “At some point, we’ll turn over a rock, and by gosh there it is.”