Henry Thomas Talks That Proposed E.T. Sequel, And Why It Never Happened

Steven Spielberg is not precious about sequels. The famed director has participated in several – some starring Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), others starring dinosaurs – and has let other directors make Jaws sequels to his original masterpiece. Some of them might even be in consideration for the best Steven Spielberg movies, when fans sit around and discuss them. One of his stone-cold classics, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, never received a sequel after it dominated the culture in 1982. Movies that hit with the impact of E.T. usually got a sequel, though Spielberg was particularly protective of that property. But a sequel was discussed, and according to E.T. star Henry Thomas, advanced in conversations before they halted. 

Henry Thomas has maintained his connection to E.T. over the years, going so far as to reunite with his alien friend for a heartwarming Xfinity commercial back in 2019. Remember this one?

The actor made the press rounds recently on behalf of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial turning 40 years old (oh my god, I’m so old), and during our conversation, I brought up the story of the proposed E.T. sequel, titled Nocturnal Fears. This was an idea pitched by both Steven Spilberg and original E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison. I wanted to know how far along the project got, and if Thomas could remember being approached about it in the years following E.T. He told CinemaBlend:

There certainly was a lot of talk in the early days and throughout the ‘80s about there potentially being a sequel. But it was always shot down pretty early by Spielberg. I think that he just regards this as a classic, and a standalone film, and a feather in his cap in a lot of ways. So I think he’s reticent to touch it at all.

Nocturnal Fears would have differed from the original E.T. in that it would have found Henry Thomas’s character, Elliot, and a group of suburban children being kidnapped by a malevolent force and brought into space, in hopes that E.T. would come to his close friend’s rescue. The original E.T. film was so popular, mainstream audiences likely would have turned out to see anything that continued the story. But Steven Spielberg wisely understood that not all movies need sequels, and that he found the perfect ending to his story in the closing moments of E.T., so opening that box would not have been as satisfying as he probably could have imagined. Also, there were stories of an alternate ending to E.T. which sounds horrible. Basically, leave E.T. exactly as it is. It’s a masterpiece. 

If you are hungry for Steven Spielberg nostalgia, head to theaters now and see The Fabelmans, an autobiographical tale that opens up the director’s love of filmmaking, and the impact his parents’ divorce continues to have on him. And grab a copy of E.T. (opens in new tab) on DVD and Blu-ray to celebrate the movie’s 40th birthday.   

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.