"Ok kid, you got the job."
Smile for a Saturday
Many of our Smile for a Saturday features are of performances on stage and screen. They acknowledge the fruitions of the crafts of acting, singing, dancing, and other forms of performing arts. But what we too often witness is the end of a journey, after the auditions, the stagings, the rehearsals, the rewritings, and rethinking.
Well this week we travel upstream in the creative process with one of the most iconic movies in Hollywood history. The film is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which came out (and we’re double checking our notes here) nearly 40 years ago! We suspect most of you know the story, of a little boy, Elliott, who befriends an alien. The adult characters are all secondary to the storyline, so director Stephen Spielberg needed to cast children who could command the screen. And he found one in Henry Thomas as Elliott (and a precocious Drew Barrymore as Elliott’s sister Gertie).
What is it like to try out for such a role? We came across the audition tape of Henry Thomas and we watched in awe - with a broad smile across the face (and maybe a misty eye of nostalgia). It turns out that Thomas was improvising for the audition. Astounding. We hope you enjoy.
For those who may be interested in the story behind the audition, you can listen to the recollections of the casting director, Marci Liroff, here (including how another boy was originally set for the lead role):