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‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’ Cast: See Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore & More Then and Now

How did E.T. get his iconic voice? Who went on to be Zac Efron’s TV dad? And who has two A-list celebrity godparents?

With an imagination as fertile as Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s, it should come as no surprise that the inspiration for the director’s inspiration for the ET cast was an imaginary friend from Spielberg’s own childhood, used to help him deal with his parents’ divorce.

That’s one reason why the classic 1982 movie continues to resonate with movie fans more than 40 years after its release, too: it’s a personal, thoughtful portrayal of a lonely young boy’s serendipitous meeting with an out of this world new friend.

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Wonder whatever happened to all those young people — and a few adults — who helped steer the storyline after their life-changing adventure with that wrinkly, adorable little alien? Read on to learn more about the ET cast and see how much they’ve changed in 40+ years!

Henry Thomas as Elliott: The ET cast

Henry Thomas; cast of ET
1982/2023Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty //

Texas-born Henry Thomas began his career playing Sissy Spacek’s son in the 1981 drama film Raggedy Man, but it was the following year, as Elliott in the ET cast that he became a true child superstar.

Sweet Elliott was a lonely boy whose father had just left the family to be with another woman, and whose teen brother wanted independence more than he wanted to include Elliott in his plans. So when Elliott met an accidentally abandoned E.T., the little boy and the little alien became best buds. Thomas won a Golden Globe Award for his unforgettable, heart-tugging performance.

More than 40 years later, Thomas has had a steady career as an adult actor, known for roles in movies Legends of the FallAll the Pretty Horses and Gangs of New York to the TV movie Indictment: The McMartin Trial (for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination).

More recently, his resume has been even hotter, with the 52-year-old starring in TV series like The Haunting of Hill House and The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix and the Netflix miniseries The Fall of the House of Usher.

Henry Thomas in "The Fall of the House of Usher"
Henry Thomas and Kyliegh Curran in “The Fall of the House of Usher”

And though he was overwhelmed with his sudden global fame right after E.T.’s release, the 52-year-old actor has embraced the movie that solidified his acting career. In 2019, for a U.K. commercial for Xfinity and Sky UK, he played an adult Elliott who, along with his family, gets a visit from E.T. at the holidays.

And in 2022, to mark the 40th anniversary of the movie, Thomas reunited with co-stars Robert MacNaughton and Dee Wallace on the talk show hosted by their other co-star: Drew Barrymore and The Drew Barrymore Show.

Drew Barrymore as Gertie 

Drew Barrymore; cast of ET
1982/2024LGI Stock / Contributor / Getty // Raymond Hall / Contributor / Getty

Far more precocious than the average five-year-old, Gertie also couldn’t have been cuter, smarter or more endearing than she was in Barrymore’s portrayal of Elliott’s little sister, in her breakout role.

Though the launch of what has been overwhelming a successful career for Drew Barrymore (a member of the famous Barrymore acting family), E.T. also led her to suffer a dramatic childhood that include use of alcohol and drugs and a stint in rehab by the time she was 13.

She was also institutionalized in a mental hospital for more than a year and attempted suicide at 14. In her first memoir, Little Girl Lost, she described this chaotic time of her life, and how she recovered and forged a new life for herself after becoming emancipated at age 15.

While working regularly throughout her childhood, Barrymore began a period of her career with 1996’s Scream that has included critical acclaim and industry awards. The romantic comedy The Wedding Singer, which paired her with friend and collaborator Adam Sandler in 1998, was a beloved hit that is oft-repeated on cable TV.

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Drew Barrymore; cast of ET
Drew Barrymore in “Never Been Kissed” (1999)

The 1999 romantic comedy Never Been Kissed, in which she co-starred with Michael Vartan, is another fan favorite, as is the series of big-screen Charlie’s Angels movies she has starred in with Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz. She has also hosted Saturday Night Live six times, and since 2020 has hosted the syndicated daytime talk show The Drew Barrymore Show.

She was also a producer various movies, her Netflix comedy series Santa Clarita Diet and her talk show, and her awards recognition includes six Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe win, and a Vanguard Award from GLAAD. Barrymore, whose godparents are Steven Spielberg, Sophia Loren, and Anna Strasberg (yes, she has two godmothers) is herself the godmother of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain. Barrymore has two daughters, Olive, 10, and Frankie, 9, with ex-husband Will Kopelman. 

Robert MacNaughton as Michael: The ET cast

Robert MacNaughton; cast of ET
1983/2022 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty // Bobby Bank / Contributor / Getty

Robert MacNaughton’s career focus has always been on theater, but he earned well-deserved accolades for his breakout movie role as oldest sibling Michael in E.T. It was a nuanced performance, with Michael playing a typical teen, teasing his little sibs regularly, but then springing into action for Elliott when he needs him to help the family’s new alien friend return back home to his own folks, even as the government is hot on his trail.

MacNaughton, now 57, followed up E.T. by starring in I Am the Cheese, the 1983 movie adaptation of author Robert Comer’s young adult classic about a teen on a journey to unlock some shocking family secrets (future Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon played his girlfriend in the movie).

On the stage, MacNaughton has performed in Henry V with Kevin Kline at the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, and performed with many repertory companies, as well as guest starring on TV shows like NewhartAmen, and Vietnam War Story.

After retiring from acting for more than a decade (and working for the U.S. Postal Service), he returned to acting to star in 2015’s horror flick Frankenstein vs. The Mummy.

MacNaughton also has an extra special connection to E.T.: his movie little sis, Barrymore, set him up on a blind date with actress Bianca Hunter, who eventually became his wife!

Dee Wallace as Mary 

Dee Wallace; cast of ET
1986/2024 Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty // Cara Robbins / Contributor / Getty

High school drama teacher-turned-actress Dee Wallace was best known for starring roles in horror movies like The Stepford WivesThe Hills Have Eyes, and The Howling before signing on to play one of the few adults with a significant role in E.T., where her newly single mom was still heartbroken over the fact that her husband left her and her three kids to run off to Mexico with another woman.

Wallace, now 75, has worked continuously is movies and television for nearly 50 years. Highlights of her post-E.T. resume include movies CujoThe FrightenersHalloween, and The Munsters, and on television: HotelSimon & SimonThe Twilight ZoneMurder, She WroteL.A. LawJAGTouched by an AngelAlly McBealFelicityCold CaseCrossing JordanBones and more.

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Peter Coyote as Keys: The ET cast

Peter Coyote
1983/2023 Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection / Contributor / Getty // Gary Gershoff / Contributor / Getty

The veteran actor, Peter Coyote, known for his narration as well as his movie and TV acting roles, played Keys, a government worker trying to capture E.T., but someone who had some empathy for Elliott and his friendship with the titular otherworldly being.

Coyote’s performances after E.T. include Jagged EdgeUnforgettablePatch AdamsRandom HeartsErin BrockovichDeadwoodNCIS, and Blue Bloods.

His many narration projects include the PBS miniseries The Pacific Century and Ken Burns’ miniseries The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, both of which earned him Emmy Awards. 

Erika Eleniak as Pretty Girl

Erika Eleniak
1989/2019 Entertainment // Presley Ann / Stringer / Getty

Erika Eleniak made her acting debut as the girl who Elliott got up the courage to kiss in his science classroom after he called on his fellow students to free the frogs they were supposed to dissect.

Eleniak went in to star in the movies The BlobUnder Siege, and a big-screen adaptation of the TV comedy The Beverly Hillbillies. The Canadian actress also became a Playboy Playmate, model, played lifeguard Shauni on Baywatch, and guest-starred on Silver SpoonsCharles in ChargeFull HouseCSI: Miami, and Desperate Housewives.  

C. Thomas Howell as Tyler, K.C. Martel as Greg, and Sean Frye as Steve: The ET cast

Group of boys looking away
C Thomas Howell, Sean Frye, KC Martel, Robert MacNaughton in “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” (1982) Archive Photos / Stringer / Getty

All three teen stars of the 1980s, these three actors played Michael’s friends, and were typical teens who enjoyed teasing Elliott as if he were their own sibling. But also just like Michael, they were there for Elliott and his family when the authorities were chasing after E.T. when he was just trying to reunite with his alien brethren.

Sean Frye, a half-brother of Punky Brewster star Soleil Moon Frye, starred with Val Kilmer in the 1985 comedy movie Real Genius, and with Molly Ringwald in the 1988 romantic comedy film For Keeps? as his last major film roles.

K.C. Martel’s best-known role after E.T. was playing Mike Seaver’s (Kirk Cameron) friend Eddie on the ABC comedy Growing Pains, as well as guest spots on series like Silver SpoonsHighway to HeavenSt. Elsewhere, and One Day at a Time.

He retired from acting soon after, and earned a master’s degree to work as a family and marriage therapist. He then pivoted again to his current profession, as a financial advisor in Los Angeles. 

C. Thomas Howell’s best-known roles were still ahead of him after E.T. (which was his film debut). In 1983 he was cast as Ponyboy in The Outsiders, immediately following up being directed by Spielberg with being directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Among the highlights of the rest of his prolific resume: the movies Red DawnThe Amazing Spider-Man, and the upcoming biography Reagan, as well as television series MoonlightingThe Outer LimitsSummerland (in which he played Zac Efron’s father), SouthlandSEAL TeamAnimal KingdomRay DonovanThe PunisherThe BlacklistBlue BloodsSons of Anarchy, and The Walking Dead.

Pat Welsh as The Voice of E.T.

The radio soap actress had been hired by George Lucas to provide the voice of bounty hunter Boushh in Return of the Jedi. Her trademark raspy voice, formed by her two-packs-a-day cigarette habit, was deemed perfect for providing the voice of E.T.

Though her voicework as E.T. was uncredited, it is her most famous Hollywood work. Welsh died of pneumonia at age 79 in 1995.

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