There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale by Sean Astin
Sean Astin brings a short but impressive outline of experience to the table; nearly everyone knows him, and I’ll prove it. If you recognize any of the following, you know Sean Astin:
“Goonies never say die”
“Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!”
“Samwise the Brave”
I can’t say I am well-versed on the former two, but beset you would be to find an individual so learned in the latter as I. Oh, they exist, of course. Only rarer do they become.
Hence, imagine my excitement to read Astin’s tale of becoming Sam Gamgee. Any deeper look into the making of The Lord of the Rings has my full attention.
Regrettably, however, I know more about Astin than I hoped to know about the movies, as I have once again been duped by cover and title. Though there are a few insider nuggets, the vacillation of Sean’s emotional war makes up the preponderance of his manuscript.
“I don’t like this. But, then again, I should like this. I also dislike how this was handled, but I shouldn’t dislike that. I can live. Elijah Wood is a little different. We are lifelong friends.”
There couldn’t be elation without the following valley, and there was no lowland without a quick recoup back to normalcy. In other words… it was boring.
The Lord of the Rings was the hardest thing Astin ever did, but it was also the greatest, and it seems like this statement could have been summed up in a pamphlet. While it appeals to my nature to observe a Hollywood Man as an ordinary person, I found myself yearning for a colossal narrative of extraordinaire.
The reason, I’ve noted, is that Sean wrote his book too early after the making of the movies. The Return of the King was released in theaters in December of 2003; Astin’s book was released in 2004.
Let it simmer, brother. Let it simmer.
Another grievance lies in the fact that I have publicly defended Astin’s abysmal, mutually agreed upon salary for these movies. OK, I know I was twenty years late. What’s it to ya? Only later in the book did I find that bonuses from these movies have the man set up for life, but he didn’t give me the numbers.
Yea, he’ll give us the weak salary numbers but not the sweet honey that he obviously deserved.
“Pay the man, Peter Jackson!” you may recall me exclaiming. I’m now the foolish loudspeaker. Talk first. Listen later. Maybe.
Suffice it to say that I did not love the book like I wanted, but Astin allows me one insight into arguably the greatest scene in the entire trilogy. If you’ve made it this far through this post, I have to believe you’ve seen the movie. Recall on the slopes of Mount Doom, Frodo losing all will to carry on before Sam concludes his monologue with:
“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”
Astin elevates to the highest of pedestals the genius that is the stoic and non-hysterical Peter Jackson, and fills us in that the filming of this scene brought Jackson to tears, a feat that caused Astin and Wood to silently exclaim Victory!
If Astin captured anything in his text, it can be summed up in a single sentence on the very last page:
“I owe everything to The Lord of the Rings — and to Peter Jackon.”
We all do, my friend. We all do.