Its star, 10-year-old Henry Thomas, captured the world’s heart in the role of Elliott, a sweet-faced, fearless young boy who formed an unlikely friendship with an alien.
But all these years later, what is the actor up to?
How Henry Thomas landed the role of a lifetime.
Henry Thomas was born in 1971, in San Antonio, Texas.
He landed his debut role, playing Harry in the Raggedy Man, in 1981 before winning the role of a lifetime in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
Surprisingly, Thomas was not originally cast as Elliott. After they began filming the movie, the original boy picked for the role began playing up on set and they had to let him go.
Thomas flew out from Texas to audition and it was without question that he was the perfect fit. Speaking to Esquire in 2012, Thomas said his performance that day made everyone – including Spielberg – cry.
“I read a scene from some early version of the script, and then I was asked to do an improvisation,” he said. “I think the gist of the improv was, ‘You found someone, and they’re going to take them away from you, and it’s your friend, and you really don’t want your friend to go away.’ So I started crying, and really going for it I guess.”
WATCH: Henry Thomas audition for the role of Elliott in E.T. Post continues below.
In 1982, Spielberg told Premiere magazine, “The improvisation was so heartfelt and honest that I gave him the part right there.
“I was blown away by this nine-year-old. Then I came to realise he’s an adult actor, not a nine-year-old. He’s a very controlled, methodical performer who measures what he does and feels what he does and yet broadcasts it in a totally subtle way.”
Henry Thomas’ life after the E.T.
It is no surprise that after the film premiered, Henry Thomas instantly became a star.
However, as he was only ten years old at the time, that much fame at such an early age proved to be overwhelming.
“It was the second film I had ever done. I got the part through a weird alignment of coincidences, and luck. Suddenly my phone was ringing and everybody wanted me in their film,” he told Esquire. “It was kind of a roller-coaster ride for a few years there.”