Interview with Sean Astin: actor, director, producer, and writer

By Alicia Mayle,

Sean Astin, who is best known for his role as Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, is not only an actor but also a producer, a director, an author, and an avid runner. He’s a man of many trades.

Astin began his acting career in 1981, playing Brian Reynolds in Please don’t hit me, Mom. In 1985 he played Mikey in Goonies alongside Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman and Martha Plimpton. In 2001, he starred as Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s friend and guide, in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and continued acting in that series.

In 1994, Astin produced and directed a film called Kangaroo Court, and also wrote a book with Joe Layden called There and Back Again: An Actors Tale about his experience as an actor in Hollywood.

He has also worked alongside his daughter, Ali, in Ribbit, Astin starring as Ribbit, and his daughter voices the princess, and hosts his own political radio show.

TheCelebrityCafe.com interviewed Astin on his upcoming schedule, working with his daughter, the release of his new movie Mom’s Night Out, and his personal thoughts.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: You have a few movies in post and pre-production, how are you feeling about your schedule? (Overwhelmed, happy)

Sean Astin: I’ve got so many [errands] in the fire that’s not related to the movies coming out that I do feel like my hair is on fire. But I just said to Terry [his rep] just hold my hand and babysit me so I don’t miss anything. You know, I’m committed to doing what we gotta do so we’ll take as much on.

TCC: You recently filmed Ribbit with your daughter, how was that?

SA: Oh my gosh, are you kidding me! It was great. It was really fun. Probably the coolest thing about it, besides from just the joy of seeing her start and do it, was watching her…just confidence. There’s a moment of discovery of what the voice of the character is and when the direction she arrived at, she just understood it exactly and was very protective of it. Just watching her professionalism was fun.

TCC: Did you two have late night practice sessions?

SA: Not in a formal way. She laid down an audition and I helped her with it. I try to help her. She knows what she wants and who she is. She’s a top student and passionate actress. I’m basically along for the ride. I want to write a movie for her, write a Broadway musical for her. Do everything for her.

TCC: You recently filmed Mom’s Night Out, do you have any special plans for the release?

SA: I know we’re doing a lot of press right up to it, kind of traditional before a movie. Because the subject matter is what it is, and it’s coming out kind of makes it feel like a gesture. We’re all really proud of the fact that we get to send out this fun love letter to parents.

TCC: In a press conference on the set of Mom’s Night Out, you said that your Christian faith “takes a long time to unpack,” could you tell me more about what you meant?

SA: It’s just that I’m not fully comfortable talking about myself alone. I’m not confident enough with that.

(Thinking that he didn’t want to answer the question, I was ready to move on. He stopped me and said…)

No.no. I’m saying it so that you understand what I meant. When I start talking about it (his faith), I start making allowances for doubters and skeptics or people who might be turned off. I have an old habit of trying to be all things to all people and that’s why I say it takes a long time to unpack. In order to work through that, well you can even tell in this answer. (laughs) But at the same time, I feel more comfortable. Mom’s Night Out is sponsored largely by Christian filmmakers and so I guess I’ve been invited by people to share more and I have no problem. I don’t feel private about things. I feel that it’s a challenge to communicate it in a short time frame and if you ask a specific question, I try to give a specific answer. I remember answering the questions like that and I was mindful of the setting. We were shooting after that. I consider myself a Christian and I’m comfortable talking about my faith. Like all of us, we have a journey. If you’re strong enough in your faith, you know that the answer will never be right and it’s always right at the same time.

TCC: You talked previously about how you thought that it was good that The Lord of the Rings came out right after 9/11 because it gave people a world to escape to that dealt with good and evil, do you still believe in this?

SA: I feel like instead of going to a Tolkien, where they would escape into a fantasy world that deals with these concepts and ideal, really what we should be doing is going into history classes.

Something so shocking and tragic and horrifying and new about that moment as 9/11, so incomprehensible to people that fantasy seemed like the easiest fix at the moment. But right now, what’s happening with Russia, the Ukraine, and Crimea, it’s been unfolding for a long long time. It’s just a cold war. The whole kind of geopolitics it’s…I don’t know if it’s treated well by fantasy genre. It’s probably better suited to disaster movies, where you have to save the world in a minute. Except the point of mythology and legend is that you can always visit wherever you are. If you’re sitting somewhere in Crimea and dealing with a whole bunch of Russian troops or other troops wearing Russian clothes, you can turn on the Lord of the Rings and feel pretty good about the fact that other people in history and myth have experienced what you have experienced.

TCC: Do you miss filming The Lord of the Rings?

SA: It’s almost because of The Hobbit, it’s almost like we’re still filming. What it’s like when you’re working on a movie, there’s a bunch of stuff you’re in, but there’s a lot more you’re not in. You meet up with actors who flew into town and left and you didn’t even see them. It’s almost like the filming has continued but only its scenes from The Hobbit that we’re not in. It’s still alive. The release is alive and people’s stories are alive so I don’t miss some of the harder elements of it and yes, the people that I got to know and love, I yearn to visit with them again.

TCC: Do you have a favorite memory from filming that tops all the rest?

SA: I travel all over the world and I do thousands of interviews and I go to [comic] cons. The mountains in Queenstown, New Zealand, they’re called The Remarkables and all you have to do is fly into Queenstown, even on the plane coming in, or sitting at a café looking at them. You can’t believe how incredible because they are so tall and steep and so close. Usually a mountain has to be far away and if you’re half up or three quarters of a way up..it’s gradual. This is like you’re looking at a wall and they are incredible. When I think of New Zealand, I think of the natural elements.

TCC: You’re going to the Louisville Comic Con, are you excited?

SA: I must say that I’m disappointed because I was hoping that I’d been in good enough shape to run in the marathon that finishes where the convention center is. I couldn’t make it more than 10 miles today. I kept looking forward to it. I’m thrilled to go the convention and I’m thrilled for all that, but I will look outside when I see those runners going by. I looked at it. I planned for it. I had scheduled it. I just couldn’t get it done.

TCC: You’re an actor, a director, and a producer, as well as a writer with your Biography; can we expect a book of poetry to come out soon?

SA: New York Bestseller 2003. Been there done that.

TCC: Can we expect another book soon?

SA: I actually have one in mind that I’m ready..that I’m ready to start. It’s a conjunction with my political radio show. It’s about citizenship and what we can all do to make ourselves slightly better.



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