Childhood star Henry Thomas has come full circle. When he wasn’t becoming famous as Elliott in the 1982 classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and other films, he grew up quietly on a farm in South Texas. Nearly four decades later, he moved to a farm of his own, this time in Oregon with his third wife, Anna, 46, and three kids: Hazel, 14, Evelyn, 9, and Henry III, 8.
“That was always my goal. We have horses, and apples, and horse apples,” Henry, 46, exclusively tells Closer Weekly, laughing. He’s also achieved adult success with films like Legends of the Fall. “It’s hard when you’re remembered for an iconic role,” he says. “But I’m in an industry where in order to get a job, I have to go into a room and get either rejected or accepted. If you have a thin skin, you just won’t last very long.”
Henry in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
These days, Henry is keeping busy with a new Lifetime movie, Girl in the Bunker, and a Netflix series due in October, The Haunting of Hill House. In a new Q&A interview, the private star opens up to Closer about his childhood, marriage and why he’s “enjoyed being a parent more than anything else.”
How did you get into acting?
I hated piano lessons and found if I did plays, I didn’t have to take them! I was six when Star Wars came out, and it put a spark in my mind. I thought, wow, these things we imagine can sort of be a reality. I want to do that.
Any favorite memory of E.T.?
Probably when we had Halloween on set. A lot of the crew dressed up, and it felt like a family day. When you’re a kid in an adult work environment, it can be pretty serious. It’s nice to have lightness.
Do you keep in touch with the cast?
I’m pretty good friends with Robert MacNaughton, who played my older brother. He lives in Manhattan and I see him at least once a year. He was a mentor because I don’t have any siblings and he had done Shakespeare, so I would always ask him advice.
Steven Spielberg directs Henry on the set of E.T.
Any chance we’ll see a reboot?
I don’t think Steven Spielberg wants to touch it, and I know he won’t let anyone else. You don’t want to cheapen the original. As soon as we’re all dead, I’m sure they’ll revamp it.
You’ve talked about how success turned you into a bit of a hermit.
I didn’t know how to deal with the attention or fame. You kind of become a social outcast, because suddenly you’re in some other category, but don’t feel any different. I spent a lot of time worrying about how I was being accepted by other kids, so I reacted by keeping to myself, and I was already sort of an introvert. As I got older, I didn’t let it affect me like that at all.
How did you adapt?
I thought, if I don’t associate with film people and stay in my little town in Texas, I’ll be perceived as normal. Eventually you realize no one’s ever going to perceive you as the guy down the street, so you just have to be yourself.
And then you moved to LA.
I said, “I’m going to buy a house there and sell it in five years.” I was getting my career on track, and 20 years later I said, “Why am I still here? If I get a job, I’m always leaving town, so it’s like paying to live somewhere that I didn’t ever want to be.”
Henry and his parents in 1983.
You were married to Kelly Hill from 2000 to 2002 and Hazel’s mom, Marie Zielcke, from 2004 to 2007. What did those marriages teach you?
A lot. I suppose I should have spent more time thinking and less time acting. No, I just think I wasn’t grown up enough to be in those relationships. That was my fault, but it’s not to say that was the only thing at fault. But now I’ve been married to Anna for years.
What’s the best thing about being married to Anna?
We’ve known each other a long time. We were great friends, and I think the most valuable thing is that we’re a family, and that’s quite a good feeling to have when you’re relatively alone in the world.
How do you keep the spark alive?
You have to nurture it. If you don’t, it will die. There’s no handbook. There are certainly rules. You have ups and downs, but you always try to keep your eye on the prize, and you have to listen.
Henry and his wife, Anna.
Now you have kids Elliott’s age!
We have a great relationship. I have to go away a lot, and that’s always tough, but I’m also there a lot more than a lot of dads, so it’s a trade-off. I’m just happy that I can support them with this career. It hasn’t always been easy, but they have a pretty good life, I think.
What’s up next for you?
I’ve written a fantasy novel, it’s a trilogy so I’m working on the second book now. It’s about a group of people enslaved by another race. I’ll probably publish it in the next year.
Do you have any regrets?
I have tons, but I don’t put much currency in wondering where you went wrong. I think that’s quintessentially a waste of time. I’m more interested in making today count as much as I can.
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