Henry Thomas reminisces about ‘E.T.’ as the movie turns 40

By Marianne Garvey, CNN

As ET the Extra-Terrestrial celebrates its 40th anniversary, Henry Thomas, who starred in the film as Elliott, reflects on the film and the fame that came with it.

Thomas spoke to CNN this week as an updated 4K Ultra HD version of the film was released. It includes 45 minutes of new bonus material from the Steven Spielberg-directed classic.

At first, Thomas said, he didn’t understand the little alien who lived in Elliott’s house.

“I remember really liking ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ as a kid,” recalls Thomas. “I was given a script and I read it and I thought there is no such thing as laser combat? There are no spaceships or battles or fights?”

“But it works. It kind of works,” he said.

Until he actually saw ET on set, Thomas said he thought “this guy with a finger who can heal you” was a stupid concept. That changed when production started, the actor said, because Spielberg made everything so believable.

“He was able to talk to you and make you feel like you were an equal and didn’t feel like you were being talked down to, which is important when you’re a kid,” Thomas said. “Especially as a kid in an adult world, in an adult job.”

Though Thomas hasn’t seen “ET” in 20 years (he said he can’t see himself on screen), he understands why the film endures.

“It speaks to our universal human compassion,” he said. “And we all have. We all have the breadwinner within us, right? So I think that speaks for it. It brings us back to being young.”

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Thomas said he’s still recognized as the boy from “ET,” but he doesn’t mind. It was harder when he was a kid, a shock to the system when strangers all over the world started saying hello.

“Suddenly I wasn’t anonymous anymore. As a boy, it was a strange feeling,” Thomas recalls. “There was a book called ‘Never Talk to Strangers,’ and it was about not talking to strangers, not talking to strangers you don’t know, and if your parents or family don’t know them, Don don’t talk to them and then everyone will talk to me.”

After getting over the initial shock of fame, he learned it was wonderful to be associated with “ET” and the film’s director.

“I imagine if it was a bad film that was universally reviled, we wouldn’t be talking about it now 40 years later,” Thomas said. “But also people, when they recognize me, associate me with this great character, this kind of cool, rebellious boy, and that’s a great thing.”

In addition to never-before-seen footage of the film, other bonus features in the new release include a film review, 40 Years of ET the Extra-Terrestrial, along with TCM Classic Film Festival: An Evening With Steven Spielberg. There are also cast interviews and of the crew and a conversation with the composer John Williams about the famous film music. (TCM and CNN are both part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

Thomas said he realized how special “ET” was.

“It’s a rare and unique thing to be a part of, and I appreciate it so much more now knowing how rare it is to be successful in this industry,” he said. “Most films come and go in a few years and nobody remembers them. This one got stuck.”

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The CNN Wire
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