What the cast of E.T. looks like today

Even more than 30 years after its 1982 release, Steven Spielberg's classic E.T. captures the imagination of new fans around the world—and remains one of the most beloved films of all time. E.T. became a science fiction blockbuster, but the real secret to the movie's success lies with the humans on the screen, not the animatronic alien. Spielberg related E.T.'s tale through the lens of childhood—offering audiences a unique perspective not usually seen in films.

To make his vision a success, Spielberg needed an extremely gifted group of young actors. Elliott and the other children are the heart and soul of the movie, and E.T.'s legacy would rest squarely on their shoulders. Luckily, he managed to catch lightning in a bottle with his casting choices, and through their skillful performances, Spielberg explored his movie's deeper themes: innocence, wonder, tolerance, loss, camaraderie, and unconditional love. Let's take a look back at the talented cast who helped make E.T. such a success, and find out what they're up to today.

Henry Thomas - Elliott

Henry Thomas' role as Elliott in E.T. launched him to stardom practically overnight. While still a child actor, Thomas starred in a number of other movies, including the 1984 adventure film Cloak and Dagger with Dabney Coleman. Thomas made a successful transition to adult roles in the early 1990s, and has appeared in dozens of films and television shows since then—including Fire in the Sky, Legends of the Fall, Gangs of New York, and Without a Trace. You may have spotted Thomas in the 2010 romantic drama Dear John with Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, or in his role as T.J. Karsten in the ABC drama series Betrayal.   

In addition to his acting talents, Thomas is also a musician. One of his songs was used for the soundtrack of 1997's Niagara, Niagara (in which he also appeared), and he wrote and performed four original songs in the road movie Honey Baby. Most recently, Thomas appeared in Netflix's 2017 adaptation of Gerald's Game, and in a recurring role on the FX comedy-drama Better Things. In 2018, Thomas will return to Netflix and star in their new horror series, The Haunting of Hill House.  

Robert MacNaughton - Michael

During the first half of E.T., eldest sibling Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and his three buddies frequently tease Michael's little brother Elliott. But after Elliott brings home the mysterious alien, Michael's personality begins to change for the better; he sticks up for Elliot more often, and steps up into the void left by their father when he walked out on the family.   

In the years after E.T.'s release, MacNaughton only appeared in a handful of other film and television roles before he retired from acting in 1988. He later started a new career with the United States Postal Service—where he has worked for more than 15 years. At one point, MacNaughton's E.T. castmate Drew Barrymore set him up on a blind date with actress Bianca Hunter. MacNaughton and Hunter eventually became a couple, and they were married in 2012. He may love his job with the USPS, but MacNaughton hasn't completely hung up his acting shoes: when his wife landed a leading role in the 2015 mob drama Laugh Killer Laugh, the director of the film convinced MacNaughton to take a role in the movie too—his first in over 25 years.

Drew Barrymore - Gertie

Like many girls her age, Michael and Elliott's little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) enjoys playing pretend with her dolls and watching Sesame Street, but she isn't your typical five-year-old. Quick-witted and sarcastic, Gertie calls her mother "Mary" and can tell when her brothers are lying to each other. Gertie helps with chores around the house, and her mother even trusts her to stay home alone for short periods.

As a member of the famed Barrymore family of stage and screen actors, Drew Barrymore's successful Hollywood career isn't surprising. Before E.T., she had a few minor film and television parts, but Barrymore's performance as Gertie put her on the map, opening the door for starring roles in movies like Firestarter. By the end of the 1980s, Barrymore was one of Hollywood's most famous child actors,  and since then, she's starred in dozens of films, including Poison Ivy, The Wedding Singer, Boys on the Side, and the Charlie's Angels action franchise. In 2009, Barrymore directed the roller derby drama Whip It, and she's also executive produced a number of other movies and television shows. Most recently, Barrymore produced and starred opposite Timothy Olyphant in the Netflix dark comedy series Santa Clarita Diet.

K.C. Martel - Greg

Although all the older boys tease Elliott, Greg (K.C. Martel) seems to relish it the most. At one point, he trades insults with Elliott until the younger boy finally leaves in a huff. While he might be a little bit of a bully, you can't help but admire Greg's fashion sense—especially his puffy vest, mirrored aviator sunglasses, and huge stereo headphones.

After playing Greg in E.T., Martel continued to act throughout the '80s and into the early '90s, primarily in television roles. You may have spotted him in shows like One Day at a Time, The Best Times, or as Mike Seaver's close friend Eddie in the ABC sitcom Growing Pains. Martel played Eddie on Growing Pains from 1985 to 1992, and then retired from acting to get a Master's degree as a therapist, working in that capacity for many years before deciding to make yet another career change. These days, Martel works as a financial advisor in the Los Angeles area.

Sean Frye - Steve

Of Michael's three friends, Steve (Sean Frye) is the nicest to Elliott—but he refuses to believe E.T. exists until he finally sees the alien for himself. For Sean Frye, show business runs in the family. His half-sister is former Punky Brewster star Soleil Moon Frye, and their father was character actor Virgil Frye. While Sean's dad and half-sister made acting their profession, Sean only appeared in a handful of parts after E.T. His last credited role on IMDb was in the 1988 romantic comedy For Keeps?, but Frye also starred in a 2013 independent short documentary called Life's a Drag.    

After the death of two close friends, Frye chose a career path centered on social work. For over two decades, he worked with multiple non-profit organizations—including the Foothill AIDS Project, the East Valley Community Health Center, and the Access Services public transportation system. These days, Frye and his spouse Michael Alexander live a quiet life in the Los Angeles area, where they raise their son Logan.

C. Thomas Howell - Tyler

Along with Greg and Steve, Tyler (C. Thomas Howell) rounds out the trio of Michael's closest friends. Like the rest of the teenagers, Tyler enjoys teasing Elliot—but he learns early in the film to not use bad language around Mary. While E.T. may have been C. Thomas Howell's first real acting job, it certainly wouldn't be his last. In fact, Howell was the only one of the older boys to continue acting into adulthood, and since his film debut in 1982, he's appeared in more than 200 film and television roles.

You probably remember Howell as Ponyboy Curtis in The Outsiders, Lieutenant Chamberlain in Gettysburg, or Officer Dudek in the TNT crime drama Southland. Most recently, he appeared in several episodes of the Showtime series Ray Donovan, and he's been cast in an array of upcoming projects. In addition to his acting chops, Howell has also spent some time in the director's chair. He's directed at least seven movies thus far, including several "mockbuster" spoofs of classic science fiction films.  

Erika Eleniak - 'Pretty Girl'

Although she had only a few minutes of screen time in E.T., Erika Eleniak made a definite impression as the "Pretty Girl" in Elliott's class. Fans of the film will no doubt remember Eleniak from the hilarious scene when Elliott inspires his classmates to release the frogs they're about to dissect. As the amphibians make a break for it, Elliott impulsively grabs her character by the hand and pulls her in for a kiss—mirroring a scene from the John Wayne film E.T. is watching at home.

After making her debut in E.T., Eleniak went on to have a successful career as a model and an actress. She's appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, but you'll likely remember her best for her long-running role as Shauni McClain on the NBC drama series Baywatch. Eleniak also starred in the 1993 film adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies as Elly May. Most recently, Eleniak was tapped to play Marilyn Monroe in an upcoming film project. She also spends her time working with aspiring actors, volunteering for youth programs, continuing her own education, and raising her daughter Indyanna.

Dee Wallace - Mary

Because of the movie's focus on Elliott and the other children, Elliott's mother Mary (Dee Wallace) is one of only two significant adult characters in E.T. In fact, other than Mary, we don't even see another adult's face onscreen until the final 30 minutes of the film. After her husband leaves to go live with his girlfriend in Mexico, Mary struggles to deal with the situation and her new role as a single mother, and the pressure of providing for and raising her three children alone gets even worse after Elliott starts behaving strangely and acting out at school. While she's afraid of E.T. at first, Mary's heart softens toward the alien after she sees the incredible bond it shares with her son.

Over her four-decade Hollywood career, Dee Wallace has appeared in well over 200 films and television shows, and is an icon among horror fans for her performances in films like The Hills Have Eyes and The Howling. After playing Mary in E.T., Wallace starred in the 1983 horror film Cujo as a mom trying to protect her son from a rabid St. Bernard dog. From 1989 to 1992, she played a mother yet again as Dee McCullough in The New Lassie, and you might also remember her from Rob Zombie's 2007 remake of the horror classic Halloween. After a brief stint on General Hospital that earned her a Daytime Emmy nomination, Wallace will return to horror in early 2018 when she stars in Death House alongside several other legends of the genre.

Peter Coyote - 'Keys'

Along with Elliott's mother Mary, the only adult audiences get to know during E.T. is a government agent (Peter Coyote), who leads the team searching the area for any sign of E.T.'s whereabouts. Known as "Keys" among E.T. fans for the keychain he wears, Coyote's character finally meets Elliott and E.T. after the two become gravely ill. While many scientists put in such a position might be callous or even cruel, Keys is different. He tells Elliott about his own childhood dreams, and gives the boy a few moments alone to mourn after E.T. appears to die. After Elliott and E.T. escape, Keys rides with Mary and Gertie as they follow the children to the forest clearing. There, Keys is rewarded for his kindness by getting to witness E.T. saying goodbye to his friends and leaving on the spaceship that has returned for him.

The multi-talented Peter Coyote was still starting out as a film actor when he was cast as Keys, and he's been going strong ever since. You might also remember him from the 1985 courtroom drama film Jagged Edge with Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges or any of the well over 100 different roles he's played since E.T., including in Bitter Moon, Sphere, A Walk to Remember, The 4400, and Erin Brockovich. In addition to his acting career, Coyote is also a published author who has frequently contributed to Mother Jones magazine. Most recently, he starred in the 2017 miniseries The Disappearance, and is slated to appear in the movie The Etruscan Smile alongside Thora Birch and Rosanna Arquette.