'E.T.': Friends and filmmakers go home

Henry Thomas was 10 years old when he played Elliott in Steven Spielberg's classic "E.T."

Story highlights

  • Steven Spielberg's "E.T." is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year
  • It remains the fourth most-successful movie of all time in the U.S.
  • The 30th anniversary DVD/Blu-ray includes an interview with Spielberg
  • Henry Thomas: I just realized 10 years ago, "Wow! This "E.T." thing isn't going away."
It's hard to believe it's been 30 years since E.T. and Elliott took a ride across the moon.
As Henry Thomas, who played Elliott in the movie "E.T.," said, "ironically enough, even with today's technology and knowledge of movie magic, people still ask me how they made the bike fly. They used a blue screen and rear projection. It's an old trick."
Steven Spielberg's "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" was the biggest blockbuster of 1982, winning four Academy Awards. It remains the fourth most-successful movie of all time in the U.S.
"E.T." even surpassed "Star Wars" as the highest-grossing film of all time and wasn't beat until another Spielberg film came along: 1993's "Jurassic Park."
One of the reasons "E.T." remains timeless is because it wasn't supposed to be an effects-heavy film. Memorable visuals, like the bicycle scene, were seamlessly woven in. Spielberg didn't want audiences "ooohing" and "aaahing" over special effects. He simply wanted it to look like he'd shot a perfect night moon, because he did just that. That was the real moon. The visual effects team spent several nights charting the moon and scouting locations for the perfect spot in the forest at the perfect time.
Thomas, who was 10 years old when he made "E.T.," said he'll never forget the distinct smell of the Culver City soundstage.
"Soundstages have a very particular smell," he explained, "and to this day whenever I have that, it takes me back to those days, because those are pretty much the first memories I have of working on a set."
Thomas, now 41, described the smell as "a combination of new lumber, cigarette smoke and fog machines. They used a lot of atmospheric fog."
He also recalled eating Reese's Pieces by the fistful. In the film, Elliott lures E.T. into his house by leaving a trail of the candy.
"I made myself sick from eating them because we always had those 2-pound bags lying around," Thomas said. "They were set dressing in Elliott's room, so in between takes, I was constantly eating those things. In fact, when I saw Steven -- we did an interview together earlier this year -- and when