E.T. calls his co-stars home

Calgary-based actress joins party 20 years after cameo

Erika Eleniak's favourite alien phoned so she's packing her bags to head off to his big party in planet Hollywood.

When she was 12, Eleniak filmed a cameo in Steven Spielberg's E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, playing the little girl who kisses Elliott (Henry Thomas) during an experiment in their science lab class.

Tomorrow at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Eleniak will join dozens of other cast members to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the classic science-fiction movie. "I never got to meet or see E.T. It was a very closed, very secretive set. I did all my work in four days," recalls Eleniak. That means she was just as amazed and thrilled as everyone else when she attended the Hollywood premiere a year later. "I only knew that the movie was about a boy and an alien. I only got the pages I was in and we were all told it was called A Boy's Life. "It was a huge thrill to see myself up there on the big screen because it was my first movie, but once my scene was over, I was completely transfixed by the story itself."

Eleniak still remembers the day she met with Spielberg. "His casting people had seen me at an actors' workshop production. He just talked to me, asked how tall I was and then asked if I'd like to be in his movie. "It all happened at that one meeting." She never met Spielberg again, but a year after the film opened and became an immediate box-office sensation, she received a letter from the director. "It was a short thank-you note accompanied by a bonus cheque."

Eleniak concedes E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial probably helped launch her career. "Work begets work and the better the movie, the better the opportunities and movies don't come much better than E.T. It was certainly a great movie to have on my resume." That resume includes such films as the 1988 remake of The Blob, the film version of The Beverly Hillbillies and two seasons of Baywatch.

Two years ago, Eleniak came to Calgary to film the thriller Snowbound, fell in love with the mountains and a local film technician. "I applied for and received dual citizenship and took up residence in my new adopted city," says Eleniak, who has filmed three movies in L.A. since relocating. "That's the irony of this business. You never seem to get work in your own city, but Calgary is a great place to return to once you've wrapped a movie."