Pat Bilon, (real name Michael Patrick Bilon) is an American actor best known for his lead role in the 1982 box office hit E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. At the height of 2’10” or 86 cm, Pat was one of the smallest adult dwarfs in the United States. Aside from acting, this little person has also been an active member of the Little People of America, a radio dispatcher, and a basketball coach for elementary students.
However, on January 27, 1983 – only a year after his blockbuster film – the young actor died at 35 due to complications from blood infecting pneumonia. Two days before his death, Pat was in Cleveland to tape the Dave Patterson Show. However, he traveled back home to Youngstown because he was feeling ill. The next day, he was rushed into a local hospital and placed in the intensive-care unit where he drew his last breath.
Pat was born on August 29, 1947, in Ohio. His parents were Esther and Michael Bilon. He had a foster brother, John, who is four years older than him.
Pat spent much of his childhood in his birthplace Youngstown, Ohio. He formally studied and finished an acting degree at Youngstown State University’s School of Speech and Drama. His Hollywood career started when he was spotted by producer Steve Rash and director Fred Bauer to cast in the slapstick comedy Under the Rainbow (1981). Among more than 400 auditionees, he successfully landed a minor role as a Hotel Rainbow guest. This small role gave Pat the chance to work with the nation’s brightest stars, including Chevy Chase, Carrie Fisher, Billy Barty, Eve Arden, and Adam Arkin.
As a child performer, Pat considered himself to be a “starving actor.” He appeared in various commercials and promotional events. His major break happened in the same year his first movie was released. Pat was selected to operate one of the mechanical creatures in the filming of the E.T. the Extra-terrestrial.
E.T. The Extra-terrestrial
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a sci-fi movie about a gentle alien that was stranded on Earth. The alien made friends with a Californian young boy, Elliott. Elliott named the alien E.T. and introduced him to his younger siblings. The children decided to keep E.T. as a secret. However, when E.T. became ill, the kids have no choice but to ask help resulting in a government situation endangering both Elliot and E.T.
Behind the Scenes
The movie used four mechanical aliens made of fiberglass, polyurethane, and foam rubber. Pat was the fourth alien that the film used to shoot a scene where he had to heave across the floor. In five months, the training required Pat to carry a 20 kg rubber costume that is almost the same weight as he is. The E.T. costume was said to be about $1.5 million. He likened the experience as though being in a steam bath. For most of the film, Pat played the role of the alien that required extensive movements. After the movie’s success, Pat made several nationwide tours and program guests.
E.T. was officially released on June 11, 1982, which became an overnight hit, surpassing Star Wars. For 11 years, the movie became the highest-grossing film of all time (at $792.9 million) until Jurassic Park; also, a movie by Spielberg surpassed it. For movie critics, E.T. is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. At its hype, the film received four Oscar awards.
It was re-released in 1985 and again in 2002 to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The original cast includes Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas.
Despite his physical condition, Pat held jobs as a bouncer, an undercover agent, and an announcer for a weekly radio program. Later, he applied as a dispatcher for the Mahoning County Sherrif’s Department and participated in its undercover assignments. For him, this is the perfect job as he will not be noticed hiding behind a bush.
Pat was also passionate about being an Ohioan. He served in a Ukrainian Radio Hour on F.M. station in his locality. He also established a Ukrainian gist shop and Petrush’s Ukrainian arts near their house.
Aside from it, the small guy was also active in St. Anne’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, where he taught Sunday school for children.
For two decades, Pat was a member of Little People of America. This organization supports dwarfs and their families to achieve justice in society. Here, he worked as a director of LPA District 5, which encompassed seven states.