Henry Thomas Talks Turning Action Hero In ‘Crawlspace’ And His Career Renaissance
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“I liked it when I read the script because I thought, ‘Oh, this is sort of Home Alone and Die Hard in a basement somewhere,’” explained Crawlspace lead actor Henry Thomas and he isn’t wrong.

He plays a plumber, Robert, who witnesses a murder in a remote cabin. The killers search the property for a stash of hidden money while Robert is trapped in a crawlspace and quickly realizes he’s in a fight for survival. Crawlspace, which hits all the right beats for an action-thriller and has some solid one-liners, is available now on Digital.

I caught up with Thomas to talk about his first action movie role, how they made the most of a small budget with big ideas, and the Henry Thomas renaissance audiences have been enjoying in the last few years.

Simon Thompson: An action hero role is something new for you. Have you ever been offered one before?

Henry Thomas: No, never. When I was younger, there were a couple of things that came up, but I was arcing towards independent film and smaller roles then. Crawlspace was a departure from my usual fare, and I had a lot of fun with the one-liners and the zingers.

Thompson: It gave me particular delight to see you deliver those. How many did you contribute yourself, and how many were scripted?

Thomas: Oh, I think they were all written. I think the biggest thing I could do was try to deliver it as straight-faced as possible. That was my contribution.

Thompson: When you’re an actor, and you get to deliver that kind of dialogue, is there a particular enjoyment that comes from that compared to more traditional strong scripting?

Thomas: Yes, of course, because you’re thinking of it in terms of how the audience is hopefully going to receive it. Hopefully, it doesn’t go over like a wet sandwich. Hopefully, you have them at that point, and they’re rooting for you or laughing. The fun thing about this film is that it is a true summer movie in a nostalgic sense. I liked it when I read the script because I thought, ‘Oh, this is sort of Home Alone and Die Hard in a basement somewhere. This could be really good with the right people.’ We got a great cast, and L. Gustavo Cooper, the director, is a young guy who was enthusiastic and ambitious about making this film. It was a fun experience, and Paramount was great and really behind it. I think we all did a great job for a small-budget action film that we shot last summer.

Thompson: Your character is a plumber. There aren’t many action movies where the hero is a plumber. Did that surprise you?

Thomas: I liked that because my father worked as sort of a plumber for years. That was his official position at this company, this microchip manufacturing plant, so he was like this hi-tech plumber. I thought it’s great to give the working man his due, and when is the last time that plumbers got this kind of recognition?

Thompson: Many of these stunts you don’t do yourself, and you’ve been in the industry for many years. Have you kept the same stunt double over that time?

Thomas: I’ve worked with the same stunt double a few times over the years, but this guy was named Cody and was fantastic. He doubled me for many of the fight scenes, especially in the third act, because that was pretty brutal. Despite having a stunt double, you still just end up getting raked over the coals just by the nature of the production. To simulate the dirt and everything under the house and avoid asphyxiating dust clouds, they use these chunks of old tires that were ground up for the flooring. By the end of the shoot, it looked like somebody had fired a shotgun full of rubber pellets at me. I was covered in bruises all over my body, and it was from rolling around on those tires.

Thompson: You spend a lot of this movie under the floor of a house, but what was the reality of that?

Thomas: It was built on a stage. There was a physical location of the cabin and a crawlspace under there I could go in and out of. They recreated both on a sound stage where most of the movie was shot. The crawlspace was on a different set than the cabin, so I would be there off-camera on the cabin set when I was meant to be under the house, and then Bradley Stryker, the bad guy, would be there and off camera when I was in what was meant to be the crawlspace.

Thompson: This year is the 40th anniversary of E.T., and over the last ten years, there has been a significant Henry Thomas renaissance where people have got on board and given you some substantial roles. Do you look at your career differently now from when you started?

Thomas: Yes, I do. I look at it a lot differently. When I was younger, the industry was very different. It was less about the quantity of work and more about the quality of work. You would only do a film, no TV, and anything that was kind of a step down from your previous job, please don’t do it. It was career poison. Now, the game has changed so much. There are no boundaries. There still is an elitism in Hollywood, and there always will be, but that has subsided substantially in the sense that I can be a film actor and a TV actor and still have the same respect that you know, a film actor who doesn’t do TV would have. I’ve approached my career differently because now I’m not a commodity of youth. Now I’m this actor who can be reliable for certain roles because we’ve seen him in these roles all the time. It’s definitely a different path; it’s more opportunistic and less precious, I would say.

Thompson: I mention E.T. because of the anniversary, and it was recently screened and celebrated at the TCM Film Festival in Los Angeles. However, one movie of yours that I think a lot of people don’t talk about much but they should is Suicide Kings.

Thomas: Yeah, but it has a huge cult following. For a very small independent film that we shot for almost nothing in Los Angeles, something like 25 years ago, so many people approach me and say that Suicide Kings is one of their favorite films. It’s amazing. Did you see E.T. at the Chinese Theatre?

Thompson: I did. It was a shame you weren’t able to be there.

Thomas: I know. I really wanted to make it, but I was in the middle of filming The Fall of the House of Usher. The director Mike Flanagan has been almost single-handedly responsible for the so-called Henry Thomas renaissance you talked about.

Crawlspace is available on Digital.

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