The Embarrassing Raiders Of The Lost Ark Audition That Led To An E.T. Role

Most people (okay, those who care about film trivia) are likely aware by now that Tom Selleck and his mustache came precariously close to playing Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" before Harrison Ford locked down the role. What they might not know, however, is that Peter Coyote nearly donned Indy's famous fedora himself before working on another vintage 1980s Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster.

As the story goes (via Mental Floss), Coyote β€” who was a political theater performer and countercultural activist in the years before he started acting in film and TV in the early '80s β€” auditioned to play Henry Jones Jr. in a May 1980 casting session for "Raiders of the Lost Ark," with Spielberg and George Lucas (who produced the movie and co-wrote its story) looking on. Coyote even brought his own fedora in the hopes of impressing the duo, who themselves were hot off their respective success helming "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and "Star Wars."

Suffice it to say, things didn't work out the way Coyote intended. Before he could even get his lines out, he tripped over the wiring of the lights set up in the audition room, in the process ruining any shot he had at convincing Spielberg and Lucas that he could embody Indy's innate confidence. Still, even if things had gone according to Coyote's plan, it's hard to imagine him winning the role over Ford (who effortlessly embodies Indy's mix of toughness, charm, and wry sense of humor).

"I'm Glad He Met You First."

Coyote's over-eagerness to impress Lucas and Spielberg may've contributed to him losing out on the role of Indiana Jones, but there was something about his awkwardness that caught the latter filmmaker's eye. As a result, when it came time to cast the small yet pivotal role of Keys in 1982's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," Spielberg hired Coyote for the part. And as much as Coyote stayed away from tentpoles after that, it doesn't require a leap in logic to argue that he's continued to reap the benefits of co-starring in one of the most beloved sci-fi movies of all time over the (almost) 40 years since then.

It's hard to disagree with Spielberg's thinking, either. Coyote's "E.T." character is an enigma for much of the film's runtime, with nothing but the keys hanging from his belt to distinguish him from the other nameless U.S. government agents tracking E.T. before his face is finally revealed in the third act. The actor only had a few minutes of time on-screen after that to show that Keys is far more caring towards E.T. and awe-struck by his existence than the movie had suggested up until that point. Fortunately, he nailed it, particularly in the scene where Keys tells Elliott how glad he is that E.T. met him first β€”an emotionally charged line that says so much with so few words thanks to Coyote's delivery.