YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Michael Patrick Bilon, a 34-inch-tall actor who donned a costume almost as heavy as himself to bring the tiny space traveler in the movie 'E.T.' to life, died of complications from a blood infection.
Bilon, 35, who died Thursday at St. Elizabeth Hospital after being admitted Wednesday with the infection, was mourned by Steven Spielberg, the producer-director of 'E.T.'
'Pat Bilon was much more than just E.T.'s biggest helper,' Spielberg said. 'He was a good friend and we will miss him with all our hearts.'
Because of a bone impairment, Bilon grew to be only 2 feet 10 inches tall, but during his lifetime he also held jobs as a bouncer, an undercover agent and a grade-school basketball coach.
Two other actors shared the title role in Hollywood's biggest moneymaker to date, but Bilon filmed most of E.T.'s scenes.
During the filming, the 45-pound Bilon spent many hours inside the 40-pound, polyurethane 'E.T.' suit, an experience he likened to a steam bath.
Bilon was to have begun work on a sequel to the film.
It was not known if Spielberg or other movie personalities would attend the services planned for Saturday at the Kinnick Funeral Home and in St. Anne's Byzantine Church. About 200 people were expected to attend.
Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.
'I don't know who will be here, but I know the parents were calling Hollywood to find out,' a funeral home spokesman said.
Before entering movie work, Bilon, a 1972 graduate of Youngstown State University in speech and drama, worked as a bouncer in the Wedgewood bowling alley in Youngstown.
'It's fun until something happens,' said Bilon in an interview several years ago. 'Then I say leave and they leave.'
He also was an announcer for a weekly radio program and played the part of a space being from the planet Omni while touring the nation as part of various auto shows. Bilon also filmed promotions for local radio and television stations.
Later he got a job as a dispatcher with the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department and also took part in undercover assignments.
He said his was perfect for that job because 'I won't be noticed hiding behind a bush.'
Bilon was active in several organizations in the Mahoning Valley, and taught Sunday school.
Bilon's first contact with the film industry came in the movie 'Under The Rainbow.' He played the part of 'Little Pat' in the film, a part written especially for Bilon, who was the smallest person in the cast.
He was discovered for the part among 400 other dwarfs at a convention of Little People of America in 1979.
While filming 'Under the Rainbow,' Bilon was introduced to Spielberg by actor Billy Barty, another famous dwarf.
Bilon, who was born Aug. 29, 1947, is survived by his parents, Michael and Esther Bilon, and a foster brother, John.