As “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” celebrates its 40th anniversary, Henry Thomas, who starred as Elliott in the film, is reflecting on the movie and the fame that came with it.
Thomas spoke to CNN this week as an updated 4K Ultra HD version of the movie was released. It includes 45 minutes of new bonus footage of the Steven Spielberg directed classic.
Initially, Thomas said, he didn’t understand the little alien who came to live in Elliott’s house.
“I remember as a kid, you know, I was really into ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones,’ Thomas recalled. “I was given a script and I read it and I thought, there’s no laser fighting? There’s no starships, or battles, or fights?”
“But it works. It works somehow,” he said.
Until he actually saw E.T. on set, Thomas said he thought “this guy with a finger that can heal you” was a silly 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 a peer and not feel as though you were being talked down to, which is important when you’re a kid,” Thomas said. “Especially when you’re a kid in an adult world, in an adult job.”
Although Thomas hasn’t watched “E.T.” in 20 years (he said he can’t watch himself on screen), he understands why the movie has endured.
“It speaks to our universal human compassion,” he said. “And we all have that. We all have the nurturer inside of us, right? So I think it speaks to that. It brings us back to being young.”
Thomas said he still gets recognized as the boy from “E.T.” but doesn’t mind. It was harder when he was a kid, a shock to the system when strangers across the world started saying hello.
“Suddenly, I wasn’t anonymous anymore. And that was a strange feeling as a boy,” Thomas recalled. “There was a book called ‘Never Talk to Strangers,’ and it was all about don’t talk to strangers, don’t talk to strange people that you don’t know, and unless your parents or your family know them, don’t talk to them, and then everybody’s talking to me.”
After he got over the initial shock of fame, he learned that “E.T.” and the film’s director, have been wonderful to be associated with.
“I imagine if it were 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, they associate me with this great character, this kind of cool, rebellious young boy, and that’s a great thing.”
In addition to the never-before-seen footage of the movie, other bonus features in the new release include a look back on the movie, “40 Years of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” along with “TCM Classic Film Festival: An Evening With Steven Spielberg.” There are also interviews from the cast and crew and a talk with composer John Williams about the movie’s famous score. (TCM and CNN are both part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)
Thomas said he recognizes how special “E.T.” is.
“It is a rare and unique thing to be a part of, and I appreciate it so much more now because I know how rare it is to have a success in this industry,” he said. “Most films come and go in a couple of years and nobody remembers them. This one stuck around.”