ET's face was modeled after poet Carl Sandburg and Albert Einstein.
At the auditions, Henry Thomas thought about the day his dog died to express sadness. Director Steven Spielberg cried, and hired him on the spot.
Harrison Ford played the school principal, but his only scene was cut as Spielberg considered his presence would be too distracting. Ford's wife Melissa Mathison wrote the screenplay.
In the Halloween scene, a child dressed as Yoda from Star Wars: Episode V (1980) walks by and catches E.T.'s eye. A snatch of composer John Williams' Yoda theme is heard.
Reese's outbid M&M's for product placement. There is a rumor that M&M's were used initially, but the company asked for them to be removed, suspecting that the film would flop.
The extraterrestrial's plant collection includes a triffid (from The Day of the Triffids (1962)).
ET's voice was performed by Pat Walsh, with help from Debra Winger.
ET's communicator actually worked, and was constructed by Henry Feinberg, an expert in science and technology interpretation for the public.
Young co-stars Drew Barrymore and Erika Eleniak later posed nude for Playboy Magazine.
When E.T. watches John Ford's The Quiet Man (1952) on the family TV, composer John Williams quotes a few lush bars from the Victor Young score as John Wayne embraces Maureen 'OHara.
Steven Spielberg personally screened his film at the White House for Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
When the film was released on video in the U.S., the cassette was made from green plastic as a measure to confound video pirates.
When it was test-screened at the Cannes Film Festival as an unofficial entry, it brought the house down, receiving a standing ovation that had eluded most of the official entries.
Biblical similarities include:
- E.T. descends from the heavens to earth.
- Elliott's mom is single and her name is Mary.
- E.T.'s glowing heart as in The Sacred Heart portraits of Jesus.
- E.T.'s overnight vigil in 'prayer'.
- E.T.'s power to heal.