'E.T.' at 30: Henry Thomas remembers leaving Steven Spielberg in tears

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By Randee Dawn

It's hard to believe that "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," that heartwarming 1982 movie about a stumpy alien with a love of Reese's Pieces who came to earth and phoned home, has turned 30. But it's almost as hard to believe that when Drew Barrymore (who co-starred with Henry Thomas as two of the siblings who help care for E.T.) made the film, she was young enough to believe the titular star was real.

"She was around 7, and the veil hadn't quite been lifted yet," Thomas told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie Tuesday. "So she was really worried about him all the time: 'Why doesn't he eat lunch with us?' ... Yeah, she was super cute.'"

Thomas himself was just 9 when he made the movie, but he already knew how to audition like a pro -- flatter your director, then reduce everyone to tears.

"You can find my audition on YouTube," he said, explaining that he was a big "Raiders of the Lost Ark" fan then (another film directed by Steven Spielberg), "And I came to the meeting (with Spielberg) with a bullwhip on my belt, and I just wanted to talk about Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones."

Instead, Thomas got an invite to read for the director, and he read both a scene and did a little improv. "It's the improv that got me the part," he recalled. "I finished my scene and they were in tears, and Steven says, 'Kid, you got the job.' I keep waiting for that to happen again."

Added Thomas, "It was the only part of my career that I knew I had before I left the audition room."

What do you remember about seeing "E.T." for the first time? Let us know on Facebook!

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