[Interview] Henry Thomas for CRAWLSPACE
Courtesy Paramount Home Entertainment

Known for playing Elliott, a 10-year-old child who befriends an alien in Steven Spielberg’s award-winning and iconic film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, actor Henry Thomas has since grown from child star to accomplished actor with roles in such films as Gangs of New York. In recent years, he’s had a multi-project collaboration with auteur filmmaker Mike Flanagan in such projects as Gerald’s Game, Doctor Sleep, “The Haunting of Hill House,” and more. In his most recent film, CRAWLSPACE, Thomas plays a blue-collar worker who finds himself in a dangerous situation that could cost him his life.

In CRAWLSPACE, after witnessing a brutal murder in a remote cabin, plumber Robert (Henry Thomas) hides in a cramped crawlspace while the killers scour the property for a hidden fortune. As the killers draw nearer, Robert must decide if the crawlspace will be his tomb… or the battleground in his fight survival. He’s trapped… terrified… and in more danger than he could possibly imagine.

For the Digital release of CRAWLSPACE, Shannon chatted with actor Henry Thomas where they discussed everything from what he enjoyed about playing Robert, working with Mike Flanagan, and how they went about shooting inside the crawlspace.

Hi Henry! Thank you so much for speaking with me today! To kick things off, what did you enjoy most about playing the character of Robert?

Henry Thomas: Well, it was a lot of fun for me to be sort of an action hero, sort of like a John McClane (Die Hard)/Kevin McCallister (Home Alone). That was great fun. It was also nice to play a working-class hero and a guy who’s just trying to get back to his family.

Courtesy Paramount Home Entertainment

I was first introduced to L. Gustavo Cooper’s work through his terrifying short film, Amy. How did you guys connect and how was your experience working with him on this project? 

Henry Thomas: It was great! I met Gus previously, socially, in LA. He was a friend of a friend and he hit me up with this script and said, I’m directing it and I want you to be in it. And I said great, I’ll read it. And I thought this could be really fun. It’s basically a three-hander in a cabin on a stage somewhere. But it was a lot of fun to do this and to work with Bradley Stryker and C. Ernst Harth, who played the villains, as well as Jennifer Robertson, and Olivia Taylor Dudley who played my wife in the film. We put together a great cast, I think, and it was fun, ya know?

Most of the film is about you inside this crawl space. How was that constructed? Did they build a crawl space specifically for this film or were you working inside an existing one? 

Henry Thomas: There was a physical set with a crawl space but we only used it for exteriors and brief interiors. The bulk of the shooting was done on stage. They built a set that was the crawl space with low clearance so you would have to bend over to walk through unless you were a child. After about 4 weeks that got really, really old [Laughs]. It’s fine if you were in a real crawl space by yourself, but you’re in a simulated crawl space and there’s like 25 people crawling around with headlamps resetting things [Laughs].

That’s the thing about making movies that nobody thinks about. You might do 2-4 pages a day and it might take half a day to get one page sometimes and a page can only be about a minute and a half of film. So you do things repetitively a lot and consequently, you get beaten up in the process. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’m rolling around and jumping into walls and getting thrown around and man, I’ve felt this movie for a good couple of weeks afterward [Laughs].

Your character is mostly alone during the film. How was that experience?

Henry Thomas: The great thing was that the other actors would come in if they had dialogue so that I wasn’t reacting to nothing. For a lot of the stuff, like the “MacGyver”-inspired sequences, there was a lot of stage direction going on. You got to keep the audience compelled even though there’s not a lot of compelling stuff going on in a tiny three-foot space. I’m glad we pulled it off. [Laughs]

In your career, you’ve played an array of different characters ranging from good, hero types to more villainous roles such as your performance in Mike Flanagan’s Gerald’s Game. Is there one type of character you like to play over the other? Do you like being the hero or the villain?

Henry Thomas: It depends on the story really. Like there are some characters that really stand out in a story and are compelling and fun, or characters that don’t stand out but possibly could with the right twist. So it really depends on what serves the story best when it comes to how interested I am in the character. Mike Flanagan does a funny thing with me where he always kind of like does the old bait and switch with me. He’ll go, well, I have a couple of characters you could play in this piece and we’ve seen you do this one before but this one is really interesting but I understand if you don’t want to do it. And then I’m like, well, what makes it so scary? What is it? Is it challenging? Then I want to find out more. [Laughs]

CRAWLSPACE is now out on Digital.

Shannon McGrew
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