“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” first beamed its way into theaters in June 1982 — almost 40 years ago to the date.
Despite the massive success of the Steven Spielberg sci-fi flick, star Henry Thomas has long left the twinkly lights of Los Angeles and settled down at a farm in Oregon.
In honor of the film’s anniversary, the 50-year-old actor looked back on his time as a child star in the 1980s and his work with the Oscar-winning director.
Thomas told Yahoo! Entertainment that he met the “West Side Story” filmmaker, 75, after starring in the 1981 film, “Raggedy Man.”
“‘E.T.’ was a Universal [Studios] film, and ‘Raggedy Man’ was a Universal film,” Thomas, who played a kid named Elliott who befriends an alien, said. “So by getting the part for ‘Raggedy Man,’ I was on the radar for people who were working at Universal. And one of those people was Mr. Steven Spielberg.”
The “Haunting of Hill House” star recalled producers telling Spielberg at the time, “We understand you’re looking for a kid [for ‘E.T.’]. Well, look at this kid.’”
Thomas’ iconic audition tape (showing the then-9-year-old crying his eyes out) has gone viral in the decades following the film’s release.
“Honestly, I think I had the part before I went into the audition,” he said. “They created a scenario, and I did an improvisation and I got very emotional. And then at the end of the audition, you hear someone say: ‘OK kid, you got the job.’ That was Spielberg.”
“That’s the only time that I’ve ever gone into an audition and known that I had it before I left the room,” he added. “It kind of spoiled me because the first three auditions I ever went on, I got! Which was not something that I should have banked on happening for the rest of my career.”
Thomas has had steady work over the years, starring in 1994’s “Legends of the Fall,” 2002’s “Gangs of New York” and the 2018 TV miniseries “The Haunting of Hill House.”
“E.T.” became a huge success at the time, grossing over $350 million at the US box office, earning Thomas a Young Artist Award for best young motion picture actor and a BAFTA nom for most outstanding newcomer.
However, the “Doctor Sleep” actor said being famous destroys any sense of anonymity he had left. “Really, I couldn’t go anywhere,” he said.
The father of three then noted that he “became super-recognizable and people were excited to see me.”
“I was famous and that was strange because I had never considered that as part of the deal. That wasn’t why I got into it, and it was strange being treated differently overnight. It made me very suspicious of people in general,” Thomas said.
For the “E.T.” 40th anniversary, Spielberg reunited with some of the stars at the Turner Classic Movies Festival for a special screening on April 21. However, Thomas and fellow star Drew Barrymore were not in attendance at the event.
The “Lincoln” director reminisced about casting Barrymore, 47, and Thomas in his one-of-a-kind film. Spielberg said during the Los Angeles festival Thursday that Barrymore “stormed” into his office during the auditioning process and he cast her right there, according to USA Today.
Spielberg, who is a dad to seven children, said he wanted to keep his young cast safe during shooting.
“I was a parent on the film, and I was very protective of Henry and the rest of the cast,” the “Schindler’s List” filmmaker added. “And I started thinking that maybe this could be my life someday. This was the first time it ever occurred to me that I could ever be a dad.”
He joked: “‘E.T.’ worked very well for me.”