The star of E.T. the Extraterrestrial has spoken out about his experience with the film, as the family classic celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with a collector's edition re-release.


Henry Thomas played 10-year-old Elliott Taylor in Steven Spielberg's classic adventure, a young boy who stumbles upon a friendly alien one fateful summer in California.

The film launched the career of both himself and fellow child actor Drew Barrymore, both still working in Hollywood today, but Thomas admits that it was difficult to forge ahead when everyone could only see him as little Elliott.

"I did struggle to come to grips with that," he said. "What that meant, how people viewed me as being different or, you know, more fortunate than I really was, most of the time. It did take a long time.

"But I had time on my side because I was changing. I was getting older, physically changing. So I was always kind of separate from that character just because of time. I felt like I got past it as a young adult."

Thomas added: "When I showed up and I didn’t look like the kid from E.T. anymore, they still had to listen to me! It was a win-win situation."

The actor's later projects included epic western Legends of the Fall and Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, while more recently he's collaborated with horror maestro Mike Flanagan on The Haunting of Hill House, Bly Manor, Midnight Mass, The Midnight Club and The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep.

Henry Thomas plays Henry Wingrave
Henry Thomas as Henry Wingrave in The Haunting of Bly Manor. Netflix

On those gigs, Thomas said: "It’s been fun, and that’s ironic to me because I’m not a huge horror fan. I don’t gravitate towards those types of films or projects, but the director and showrunner Mike Flanagan has consistently hired me in his projects. Now suddenly I’m a horror icon!

More like this

"It’s been a lot of fun for me because Mike generally gives me parts that are sort of off the radar for me, so I’m able to make a character and do something interesting.

"[In other projects] I’m usually put in a supporting, sympathetic role, and you don’t really have much to do other than pull the audience’s heartstrings. It’s been fun working with Mike."

Additional reporting by Josh Winning.

E.T. The Extraterrestrial: 40th anniversary collector's edition
E.T. The Extraterrestrial: 40th anniversary collector's edition. Universal

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 40th Anniversary collector’s edition is available on 4K Ultra HD & Blu-ray from 28th November.

Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on.


The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times View From My Sofa podcast.