Steven Spielberg’s 1982 sci-fi smash ET made alien invasions palatable to the under-tens, and launched the careers of a number of young actors.

One of them was to become a serious Hollywood player, another ended up in the centrefold of Playboy, and a third turned their back on the Hollywood life to become a postman.

The film was the biggest movie of its time – stealing the record for highest-grossing film of all time from Star Wars and hanging onto that title for over a decade.

The flying bikes scene and E.T’s glowing finger became part of popular culture.

The catchphrase “E.T Phone Home” is familiar to people who weren’t even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when the movie hit cinemas 40 years ago.

But what happened to the film’s young stars after E.T went home? Let’s take a look…

Henry Thomas

After his breakout success as E.T’s telepathically-linked best mate, Henry tried to remain grounded and focused on his education, only sporadically appearing in movies such as I capture the Castle and Gangs of New York.

Henry’s also an accomplished musician and combined his skills by appearing in The Last Ride, a film about country music’s original bad boy Hank Williams.

He’s currently working mainly in TV, with roles in The Haunting of Bly Manor and Stargirl, where he plays vintage superhero Dr. Mid-Nite.

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Drew Barrymore

As Gertie, Elliott’s pigtailed little sister, the seven-year-old granddaughter of acting legend John Barrymore stole every scene, especially the one where she dressed the wrinkly alien up in a blonde wig.

Winning a Young Artist Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in E.T set her on the path to becoming a true Hollywood heavyweight, not only appearing in countless movie but also becoming a producer – helping launch the hit Charlie’s Angels franchise.

She’s also appeared in dozens of TV shows, and has guested in both The Simpsons and Family Guy.

But it's been a difficult road. Barrymore revealed in her memoir Little Girl Lost that she struggled with drug dependency while she was still very young, and her three marriages have lasted less than six years between them.


Robert McNaughton

As Michael, older brother of ET’s best friend Elliot, Robert McNaughton was impressive enough to win the 1982 Young Artist Award for Best Young Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.

He made a few movies after E.T but mainly concentrated on stage work, marrying fellow actor Bianca Hunter in 2012.

In recent years, though he has turned his back on acting and is currently working as a postman in New Jersey.

Speaking about the huge success of co-star co-star Drew Barrymore.: "She's a star and I never saw myself as a star at all. I always saw myself as an actor who got lucky.”

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Erika Eleniak

As Elliott’s un-named love interest in E.T, Erika Eleniak was fairly forgettable. But she certainly left on the imagination of a while generation of young boys – and perhaps a few girls – as Shauni McClain in the original series of Baywatch.

And just seven years after breaking young hearts as Elliot’s dream girl, Eleniak became a Playboy playmate of the month.

She’s also popped up in Steven Segal’s Die Hard-inspired Under Siege, The Beverly Hillbillies and the 1980s remake of The Blob.

She wasn’t entirely happy on the set of E.T: “One thing that really stands out to me was that there was a little trauma because of that kiss,” she later told Fox News. “It was super frightening. I cried in my little trailer. Steven [Spielberg] came in and talked to me and my mom for 10 minutes.

C. Thomas Howell

The small role of Tyler in E.T was Christopher Thomas Howell’s first movie role, but since then he has gone on to countless successes – and one notable near-miss when he almost won the role of Marty McFly in Back to the Future.

As well as showing up in films as diverse as Red Dawn, The Hitcher, Gettysburg and The Amazing Spider-Man, Howell has also lent his voice to characters in animated superhero adventures Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay.

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