dangerghost asked: What was it like touching the hand of E.T.?
For those that don’t know, he’s talking about this, which is tucked away at the bottom of my about page. (Click here if for some reason the pic above is not not showing up.) I was a children’s hand model for half a dozen years after I got back from Japan, during which I did commercials for not only toys, but in this case, a crossover promotion with Kraft that sent a couple of different E.T. toys out with Costco-sized packages of macaroni & cheese, as a tie-in with the anniversary rerelease of the movie in 2002.
It was one of the most expensive shoots I’ve ever worked on (the most expensive being these ones I did for the Star Wars Gold Series [i.e. The Re-release Before The Prequels Ruined Everything] for which I can only find the Spanish ads) and I can’t find the finished E.T./Kraft ads anywhere, but they had a huge green screen to recreate the flying bike shot, lookalike kids, and at great cost and under the tightest security, the actual animatronic arm used in the original film.
It really was as iconic as a hand modeling moment can be, and I remember they didn’t even want us taking photos with the animatronic E.T. arm when it wasn’t being used. We got to this shot when the kids had been sent home; hand model time always meant the crew could finally swear to their heart’s content, which would always be a relief during a long day on a toy commercial.
I think we did the set-ups with the original movie still as an overlapping slide so I could mimic it exactly, but once we started rolling, the monitors were live, which is what you see here. There’s an arm rest for me positioned just outside of the shot to minimize any shake, but this was a no coffee day for me (which meant I’d had to find other ways to stay awake during my down time on set when the kid actors were working, mostly sitting with the VTR guy and cracking jokes).
As with any precision shot where things need to line up perfectly, we shot in reverse, so I had to sit like this with my finger touching E.T.’s for most of the afternoon (which was fine, so long as it wasn’t lit up, because then it got hot really quickly). This meant I was the only person on set explicitly permitted to touch The Hand, and at one point, the wrangler (or whatever the technician operating it was called) made sure I knew I was just the 4th member in an incredibly exclusive club of people who had done so before me, a group consisting of Gertie, Elliott and Michael Jackson (who borrowed it for something he shot). The VTR operator was rad enough to grab this freeze frame on his little black & white fax paper printer and sneak it to me, and luckily I remembered to scan it before the image finally degraded. Talk about ephemera.
I do still have the toys they let us keep, though (this one and a “fingertip laser” I can’t seem to find mentioned anywhere online but which got me the job in a total Cinderella fashion, because my index finger was child-sized enough to fit it better than the other hand models auditioning). It was surreal, funny, and unlike a lot of the commercials I worked on during that period, it was something I knew I’d always remember.
And if I ever meet Drew Barrymore, I can be all “DUUUDE! Did you almost burn your finger on E.T.’s like I did? We have so much in common! Want to smoke a joint?”