With that famous red hoodie, you probably recognize Henry Thomas as the world-famous boy named Elliot from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. You may wonder why he has disappeared from the Hollywood scene, as it seemed that E.T. propelled him to stardom.
Thomas found himself famous, with fans recognizing him left and right. And while the public thinks being world renowned is nothing short of incredible, Thomas shares with us that his experience as a recognizable child star was actually anything but.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Henry Thomas first impressed Spielberg when he auditioned for the role of Elliott, crying during the audition by reminiscing about his poor chihuahua Orso who had been killed by his neighbor's dog.
“When they told me I had the part and I’d be working for Steven Spielberg it was a dream come true because I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
After the hit that was E.T., a film that made about $792 million at the box office, Henry decided to return back to his hometown in Texas.
A Target for Bullies
Thomas describes how he grew up in a rather poor, rural area with parents that weren't into the showbiz culture.
“I was an easy target. Everybody tried to flush my head down the toilet. Perhaps it was jealousy, perhaps it was just kids being kids. They were like, ‘what the f*** are you doing back here? Who do you think you are?’.”
When it came to impressing girls, Thomas felt that it was more of a double-edged sword. The girls appeared to be more fascinated by Thomas' role rather than who he is as a person.
The 11-Year-Old Hermit
For the first six months following the release of E.T., Thomas found himself getting recognized by children and parents alike. He felt incredibly overwhelmed, as he found he couldn't walk in public without getting bombarded by people.
“I was like a circus freak. But the only time I had to deal with it was when I left the house. So I stopped leaving the house. I became an 11-year-old hermit.”
Since Henry Thomas was a naturally shy kid, he found it easier to stay locked away at home, away from the public eye.
He Isn't Rolling in Cash
A popular misconception is that E.T. made Thomas incredibly rich, but that is definitely not the case. Thomas was only ten years old and was more or less paid minimum wage.
“Universal and Spielberg did really well. The minions had to go back to work. I do get residual cheques, though, which is great. And I got it better than E.T... he’s off in a box somewhere!”
Child Star Gone Good
Henry Thomas moved to New York at the age of 17, but purposely avoided the party scene.
“I never wanted to conform to that stereotype of the child star gone bad. I never wanted to give anyone the satisfaction of getting that picture of me robbing a liquor store.”
Henry appeared in successful films such as Legends of the Fall and Gangs of New York, but has also acted in roles in lower profile production.
Henry Thomas Now
Thomas is now married with three children, living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He plays in a band called Farspeaker.
Thomas didn't keep in touch with his E.T. costars, though he does see Drew Barrymore every once in a while. He is, however, still involved with Robert MacNaughton, the actor who played his older brother, and is even attending his wedding.
Henry Thomas also tells the story of how he attended a BBQ recently while a drunken attendee followed him around all night, trying to get him to touch his finger.
“I can guarantee almost every day I get someone going, ‘Hey, you’re the guy from E.T.’, usually followed by, ‘What are you doing now?’ And not a day has gone by when someone hasn’t shouted ‘E.T. phone home’ at me.”
I can only imagine just how bothered I would get if I were to constantly hear the lines from a movie I did as a kid were consistently screamed at me. I would personally go insane.
I'm impressed that Henry Thomas has been able to stay afloat and keep a smart head on his shoulders after he was ricocheted into fame with his role in E.T. the Extraterrestrial.
I also appreciate the honesty when he shares his insight into the world of Hollywood and notoriety. It's incredibly eye-opening to see how we may think something so desirable as fame and glory might actually be more of a burden than anything else.