E.T. At 40: Actor Henry Thomas Reflects On The Spielberg Classic

About halfway through our interview, actor Henry Thomas pauses the conversation to share just how surreal he’s finding the press day.

Four decades ago, as a 10-year-old, Thomas auditioned for the lead role in a sweet film about the friendship between a boy and an alien, famously winning the filmmakers over with an improvised scene where thinking of his dead dog brought on convincing tears.

Although director Steven Spielberg had already found success with the likes of Jaws and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, his latest project was already being doubted by Hollywood, with studio Columbia Pictures famously turning it down.

Universal Pictures

No one, including Thomas, could have predicted what a sensation E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial would go on to become, with the actor telling us it feels strange that he’s still being interviewed about it many moons later:

“I never even thought about the success of the film whilst I was making it. That only started after it was in cinemas for about two weeks, with news stations reporting on massive lines at the box office – it was number one for what felt like forever!

“During those first couple of weeks, that’s when we knew we were onto something that was going to be a phenomenon, but I never dreamed that 40 years later I’d be doing interviews about it.”

In the latest edition of our free digital magazine The Lowdown, Thomas discussed the film’s enduring legacy, the many wild fan theories that have emerged in the 40 years since its release, and why Spielberg got banned from set.

Get your free copy of the magazine here.

Shop all things E.T. here including our exclusive 40th anniversary steelbook.

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Emily Murray

Emily Murray


Emily is a journalist and film critic who unashamedly cries at most movies having got too emotionally attached. When not at the cinema, she is at home cuddling her cat Holmes, whilst binge watching New Girl. She can be found on Twitter @emilyvmurray