C. Thomas Howell Biography

Screenwriter, Actor, Producer, Director (1966–)
C. Thomas Howell is best known for his acting roles in hit 1980s films E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (directed by Steven Spielberg), The Outsiders (1983) and The Hitcher (1986).


C. Thomas Howell was born on December 7, 1966 in Van Nuys, California. He was first cast at age 11 in the TV film It Happened One Christmas (1977), followed by a breakout role in Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), in which Howell played Tyler—one of Elliott's friends who helped E.T. evade authorities.

Child Star

Born on December 7, 1966 in Van Nuys, California, C. Thomas Howell is one of four children to parents Chris and Candice Howell. His siblings include a brother, John, and sisters Stacy and Candi.

Howell was first cast in a film at the age of 11. He had a small part in the TV film It Happened One Christmas (1977), followed by  a breakout role in Steven Spielberg's science-fiction film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Howell played Tyler—one of Elliott's friends who helped E.T. evade authorities—and as the film achieved critical acclaim and enormous profits, Howell received widespread media attention.

Acting and Directing

Howell went on to land parts in several hit films in the 1980s. He starred alongside Patrick Swayze in three separate films of the decade: The Outsiders (1983); Grandview, U.S.A. (1984); and Red Dawn (1984). For his role as in The Outsiders—directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on the novel by S. E. Hinton—Howell received the Young Artist Award. The film is known for its all-star cast, including Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise, Diane Lane and Patrick Swayze, all of whom were up-and-coming actors at the time.

Howell went on to perform in 1984's Red Dawn; and the 1986 films The Hitcher and Soul Man. Soul Man, in which Howell plays a young student who poses as a black man in hopes of receiving a scholarship to Harvard Uninversity, was not well-received by audiences or critics, and was labeled as racially insensitive by many critics.

The 1990s saw Howell in a string of films, including starring roles in 1990's Side Out, 1993's Gettysburg and 1996's Baby Face Nelson. In the 2000s, he played lead roles in a series of horror flicks, including Asylum Days (2001) and Hoboken Hollow (2006). He also returned to play character Jim Halsey in the sequel to The Hitcher, The Hitcher II: I've Been Waiting, in 2003.

In recent years, Howell has broadened his skills, taking on various acting, producing, writing and directing roles. He reunited with Francis Ford Coppola, and has been working with him behind the set on several projects. He has also dabbled in reality TV, winning the title "Greatest Celebrity Magician" on the game show Celebracadabra in 2008. Despite his new career moves, Howell is slated to get back to his roots as a film actor in the summer of 2012; he was cast as Ray in director Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).

Personal Life

While filming Soul Man in 1986, Howell met his future wife, actress Rae Dawn Chong. The couple married in 1989, and divorced nearly one year later. In 1992, Howell married Sylvie Anderson. The couple had a daughter, Isabelle, one year later, followed by sons Dashiell and Liam, born in 1997 and 2001, respectively. Howell lives with his family in Stevenson Ranch, California.

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