Henry Thomas has had a steady, flourishing acting career in Hollywood for three-and-a-half decades. He’s had significant roles in Oscar-nominated films like Legends of the Fall and Gangs of New York for directors Edward Zwick and Martin Scorsese, respectively. He most recently headlined the horror sequel Ouija: Origin of Evil, playing a priest who advises a family haunted by malevolent spirits.
Yet, you get feeling that no matter what, the 45-year-old Texas native will always be best remembered for his breakout role at the tender age of 9, playing the precocious preteen Elliott in Steven Spielberg’s universally beloved family hit E.T. (1982). “You’re always remembered for something great, and a lot of people regard E.T. as a great film,” Thomas said in one of the all-time great understatements in Yahoo Movies history (watch above). “So they’ll never forget about me. And also [on the downside], they’ll never forget about me.”
Some other highlights from our chat with Thomas on E.T.:
He had a great audition trick. “I figured out that I could think of my childhood dog that had died, and I could bring myself to tears.” Thomas said about his teary audition for Spielberg that went viral when unearthed several years ago. “So I used that poor dead dog for several years until it just didn’t work anymore and I had to find something else.”
Drew Barrymore was a confident, 7-year-old pro. “The first thing Drew said to me was, ‘How many films have you been?‘” Thomas recalled about the pint-sized actress who played his younger sister Gertie and had begun acting at only 11-months-young. “And I said, ‘Just one.’ And she goes, ‘Oh, poor baby. I’ve been in five or six. That kind of summed up Drew right off the bat. She had Hollywood down.”
Here’s exactly when Thomas knew E.T. was something truly special: “When it was in theaters for two weeks, then I knew, ‘Wow, this is a sensation,'” he said. The film was on its way to earning over $350 million at the box office, and racking up 9 Oscar nominations. “I thought, ‘Wow, I can’t leave my house for a while.’ That was strange as a kid.”
Watch Thomas talk about ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil:’