There were a few different E.T.s seen in the movie. Shots that featured the extraterrestrial moving around usually called for a full-size costume, which was worn by one of two dwarfs hired for the movie or, for certain scenes, by Matthew De Meritt, an athletic 12-year-old boy born without legs.
Most times, the filmmakers shot an animatronic figure controlled by a team of talented puppeteers — as many as nine at a time — who had to coordinate their moves by looking at a small TV monitor. “E.T. was like any other actor,” recalled Robert MacNaughton in a 2006 interview with Entertainment Weekly. “If you said something differently on another take, it would react differently. That’s how skilled the people working it were.” Many of those scenes also featured the work of Caprice Roth, a professional mime who, while crouching or lying on her back, served as E.T.’s hands and arms, giving them a fluid and delicate grace.(MORE: Read about the midget Spielberg used to control Jaws)