clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

YouTube Gold: Henry Thomas’s Audition For E.T.

The kid absolutely kills it

Directing ET
1982: American film director and producer Steven Spielberg directs American actor Henry Thomas on the set of his film, ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’. Spielberg and Thomas stand behind a door marked Nurses Office.
Photo by Universal Studios/Getty Images

E.T., one of Steven Spielberg’s first massive hits, came out in 1982. It was just his seventh film. His first, Duel, was a movie about a young guy in a cheap car who was being bullied on the road by a sociopathic, never-seen driver. It made a solid impression.

After that, he did Jaws in 1975, which was huge, Close Encounters Of the Third Kind in 1977, the underrated comedy 1941 in 1979 and the enormous hit Raiders Of The Lost Ark in 1981 before doing ET the following year.

It must be terribly difficult to find young children who can act convincingly and naturally, but they had high hopes for Henry Thomas, who already had one movie under his belt when he auditioned, Raggedy Man.

This clip is phenomenal. The kid is told what he is going to do, then they start feeding him lines, and he just turns on the emotion. Years later, Casting Director Marcy Liroff said he immediately had everyone in the room in tears. Spielberg was so blown away that he told the guy who was feeding Thomas lines to tell him he could keep ET.

And after that he said, “okay, kid, you got the job!” The rest, of course, is history.

Spielberg went on to produce many legendary films including the rest of the 1980’s Indiana Jones trilogy, The Color Purple, Empire Of The Sun, Schindler’s List, Amistad and Saving Private Ryan, among others. Thomas has had an interesting career and you may have seen him in some films and not recognized him like Legends Of The Fall, All The Pretty Horses and Gangs Of New York.

E.T. Trivia: Spielberg wanted to used M&M’s in the famous scene where candy lured E.T. in but was rebuffed. Reese’s Pieces was a new candy and after that movie, sales skyrocketed.