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Tucson BMX rider remembers his role in E.T. as 40th anniversary approaches

A Tucson BMX rider played a big role in the 1982 box office hit E.T. As the 40th anniversary approaches, he reflects on how he became a stunt double on the film.
Posted at 2:29 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-26 07:55:01-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It was the box office smash it of 1982 -- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Four decades later, the movie is as popular as ever.

As E.T. approaches a major milestone, we discovered a Tucson connection to the film and all of those bike riding scenes.

"They said it's the anniversary, the 40th anniversary," Robert Cardoza said. "I kind of went whoa!"

That was Cardoza's reaction when Shoe Palace asked him to help celebrate the movie milestone with a new line of E.T. clothing.

While Cardoza didn't star in the movie he was instrumental in the famous bike riding scenes.

In the early 80's, Cardoza was a BMX racer who worked at a Southern California bike shop.

He delivered the Kuwahara bikes to the Universal set as filming was about to begin.

Robert Cardoza with E.T. bikes.

Then he gave the director some advice about his young actors and those BMX bikes.

"There's no way these kids are going to be able to do this stuff. It takes some skill," Cardoza said to E.T. Director Steven Spielberg. "I had no clue who he was."

To prove what kind of skill it would take, he grabbed his bike and used a loading dock ramp next Steven Spielberg's car.

"Over his car," explained Cardoza. "At that point, he was sold."

Cardoza, and a few other BMX riders, became the stunt doubles for the kid actors in the movie. Any scene with the boys riding bikes, it's the stunt doubles.

Cardoza played Greg, the one with the headphones. He says he made less than $500 for the stunt work.

Cordoza says he knew E.T. was going to be big when he and all the actors were given a private screening.

"Oh my God, this is a hit," Cardoza said.

And it was. E.T. surpassed Star Wars as the highest-grossing film of all-time.

"When it came out it exploded," recalled Cardoza. "The world exploded. The sport of BMX exploded. It was a turning point in the 80s."

Cardoza moved on from his work in Hollywood and developed into a world class BMX racer. He moved to Tucson seven years ago.

Earlier this year, he was contacted about taking part in an ad campaign for the Shoe Palace E.T. clothing line.

He learned then that someone found his actual bike from the movie. A bike he thought was long gone.

They were reunited for a photo shoot in California, and for a KGUN 9 interview at Tucson Mall.

"Soon as I looked at it, you knew it was real," Cardoza said.

Robert Cardoza reunited with his E.T. bike

A happy ending to a story about a man, his bike, and a blockbuster movie that's still as relevant today as it was in 1982.

"This movie is old but it's timeless," said Cardoza.

At age 60, Cardoza now lives in Catalina. He still races his bike.

He never got a credit in the movie, but his story is widely known around the BMX racing community.