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Did You Know Henry Thomas Secured “E.T.” Lead With This Shockingly Emotional Audition?

A two-photo collage. The first shows actor Henry Thomas as a kid, crying. The second photo shows Thomas as Elliott in "E.T." and, in it, E.T. is holding his finger up to the little boy's head.

Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” was released over 40 years ago, but the love fans have for this classic film hasn’t changed a bit. With a heartwarming story of friendship that features a cast of talented actors, it’s no wonder people still hold it with such high regard. Still, many folks don’t realize the magical moment that led to Henry Thomas being chosen to play Elliott.

In an interview, Casting Director Marci Liroff explained that, after finding most of the actors to play all of Elliott’s friends, they struggled to find their lead. When they did find an actor they liked, they decided to test how the children got along with each other. To do this, they had them play a game of Dungeon’s & Dragons, a role playing game that was sure to show how they communicated and worked together.

Casting Director Marci Liroff sits on a couch and talks in an interview.

In the end, the child they thought might play Elliott was a bit too bossy for the others, so it was back to square one. That’s when Jack Fisk, another director, introduced Spielberg to Thomas. To test out his acting skills, they had Thomas improvise a scene where a NASA worker was coming to take E.T. away.

Within moments of Thomas’ performance, he was able to express such genuine sadness over the possibility of losing his alien friend that he began to cry.

Henry Thomas as Elliott in "E.T." stares stoically out of a window in the distance with E.T. by his side doing the same. The shadows from the blinds can be seen on their faces with bits of light shining through.

“He had us all crying behind the camera,” Liroff recalled.

In that moment, it became clear to Spielberg that they had found their Elliott. In fact, the second the audition was over, he gave this talented kid the life-changing news he was hoping to hear.

Watch Thomas’ breathtaking audition in the video below.

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here!

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