September 14th, 2010 10:05 EST
Judyth Piazza chats with Henry Thomas, Jr., The Last Sin Eater 2007 and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
A child star of early 1980s Hollywood, Henry Thomas had receded into occasional foreign films and TV-movies in his teens before returning as a character lead in the `90s. Thomas gained stardom in America`s most popular feature, "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982). As Elliot, he was the little alien`s earthly guide, protector, and friend in one of the most affecting juvenile performances in film history. Extremely effective as an audience surrogate, Thomas proved more than equal to the task of acting opposite a wondrous special effect.
A native of San Antonio, TX, Thomas knew he wanted to act from the age of five. At age eight, he persuaded his mother to take him to a local casting call. This lead to his debut at ten in "Raggedy Man" (1981), as Sissy Spacek`s son, and his TV debut in "The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid" (NBC, 1981), based on a Coke commercial. His first project after "E.T." was "Misunderstood" (1984), a powerful drama about the reconciliation between a newly widowed father (Gene Hackman) and his estranged young son. Thomas proved capable of meeting the emotional demands of the material. His follow-up, "Cloak and Dagger" (1984), a clever Hitchcockian thriller conveniently shot in San Antonio, would be his last Hollywood film for nearly a decade. Thomas starred in the likable Australian adventure "Frog Dreaming/The Quest" (1985) before taking four years off from acting.
Thomas returned to the screen in "Murder One" (1988), a Canadian feature about three young prison escapees who get involved with mass murder after stealing a car. He proved capable in period fare as the amorous young music teacher who gets manipulated in Milos Forman`s "Valmont" (1989). With a flair for playing lonely, introverted youths, Thomas was an apt and interesting choice to play the young Norman Bates in "Psycho IV: The Beginning" (Showtime, 1990). His other TV-movies have included "Curse of the Starving Class" (Showtime, 1995), as Raymond Buckey, one of the hapless defendants, in "Indictment: The McMartin Trial" (HBO, 1995) and "Riders of the Purple Sage" (TNT, 1996).
Thomas returned to US features in a supporting role in the rough-hewn UFO drama "Fire in the Sky" (1993). He had a more sizable role in the period drama "Legends of the Fall" (1994), as the idealistic younger brother of Aidan Quinn and Brad Pitt who has his mettle tested on the battlefields of WWI. In the comedy "Hijacking Hollywood" (1996), he played an over-zealous would-be filmmaker. Thomas made impressive turns in the indie features "Niagara, Niagara" (1997) and "The Suicide Kings" (1997), and the actor continued to nab character roles in both non-studio efforts--including the crime thriller "Fever" (1999), "The Quickie" (2001) and "Dead In the Water" (2001)--as well as more glossy projects--such as his role as Ishmael in the USA Network miniseries "Moby Dick" (1998), the dark Showtime comedy "The Happy Face Murders" (1999) and the Billy Bob Thornton-directed "All the Pretty Horses" (2000). In 2002 Thomas appeared as 1860s gang member Johnny Sirocco in director Martin Scorsese`s bloody period drama "Gangs of New York."
- Father: Henry Jackson Thomas.
- Mother: Carolyn Thomas.
- Blinn College, Brenham, Texas
- 1977 Decided he wanted to be an actor at age five (date approximate)
- 1980 At age eight, learned of a local audition held in San Antonio, Texas; asked his mother to take him (date approximate)
- 1981 Feature debut at age nine, "Raggedy Man", starring Sissy Spacek
- 1981 TV debut in the NBC comedy-drama special, "The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid", based on the award-winning Coca Cola commercial starring Pittsburgh Steelers football star "Mean" Joe Greene
- 1982 Gained international celebrity as the star of Steven Spielberg`s "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial", the champion US domestic grossing feature
- 1984 Received positive notices for his lead performance opposite Gene Hackman in "Misunderstood"
- 1984 Received top billing over Dabney Coleman in "Cloak and Dagger"; last American film credit for nine years
- 1988 Played a supporting role in Milos Foreman`s international co-production, "Valmont"
- 1990 Played the young Norman Bates in the made-for-cable sequel, "Psycho IV: The Beginning"
- 1993 Returned to Hollywood films with a supporting role in the UFO drama, "Fire in the Sky"
- 1994 Co-starred with Brad Pitt and Aidan Quinn in "Legends of the Fall"
- 1995 Earned praise for his turn as Ray Buckey, accused of child abuse, in the HBO docudrama "Indictment: The McMartin Trial"
- 1997 Starred opposite Robin Tunney in the independent film "Niagara, Niagara" (released in the USA in 1998)
- 1998 Appeared in the ensemble film "Suicide Kings" alongside Johnny Galecki, Jeremy Sisto and Christopher Walken
- 1998 Co-starred as Ishmael in USA Network`s remake of "Moby Dick"
- 2000 Teamed with Matt Damon for "All the Pretty Horses"
- 2002 Appeared as Johnny Sirocco in "Gangs of New York"
- Co-starred in "I Capture the Castle" (lensed 2001)
- Raised in Elmendorf, Texas