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INT: Sean Astin

Dec. 16, 2003by: JoBlo

Its been a long time since THE GOONIES. The 1985 film, directed by Richard Donner, propelled Sean Astin and fellow child actor Corey Feldman into the realm of Tiger Beat superstardom.Almost 20 years later, Feldman has been relegated to slumming it with Vince Neil and Emmanuel Lewis on "The Surreal Life", while Astin has defied the odds with his acclaimed performance as Sam in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not bad for a guy whose first feature film credit was PLEASE DON'T HIT ME, MOM.

This Wednesday, well be seeing Sean reprise the role of Sam one last time in the trilogys finale, THE RETURN OF THE KING. Check out what he had to say to us last week...

SEAN ASTIN

What was it like shooting a film for 18 months when you had so many intense, emotional scenes?

It was more of a marathon for me than wind sprints. The hard part was keeping your mental acuity and your focus over such a long time, over five years, essentially. There was over a year and a half of principal photography, but then we went back in it for the first pickups, then back into for the second pickups and then back into it for the third pickups. So we were sort of picking up the emotional threads and then reconciling them with everything that happened, in terms of how the movies have been received, and all the publicity, all the tours, the way people talk about the characters, and all of these things.

I think the way that Peter designed the process afforded him the space and time to mine the resources of every aspect of the film, including the emotional reserves of the actors. So, 10, 15, 20, 30 takes, it didn't matter. Film was the cheapest commodity on the project. I always used to think of emotion or crying in a movie as this sort of crossbar that was set, and the crossbar is truth or emotional honesty or something like that, or the depth of emotional discovery. And your job, based on the story and the character and the work of the filmmakers is to get over that bar, wherever it was set. The filmmakers and the actors set it higher than they'd done before.

But Peter kind of took the bar and snapped it over his leg. And we got into the business of peeling away at the onion, peeling away layers and layers and layers. You had lots of time to see the emotional moment that you were going to experience coming towards you. They were setting up the lights. We'd rehearse. We'd talk about it. You'd know it was on the schedule. But then Peter was a little unceremonious about the way he would start. He'd just get about the business of doing it: "You'll walk in here and then you'll go there. Then you burst into tears here and you break and cry here."

If you got there and you had any emotional baggage or artifice about how you were approaching the work it would take a lot of energy to sustain it over the 18 months. So, eventually that all went away and you now you're just kind of laid bare. We'd do a take and if it wasn't there we weren't going anywhere. (We had) all this great talent, hard work and energy was going into the creation of the sets and the props and the costumes and the swords. I've never talked about this before, but you'd see people putting together polystyrene rocks. People would be painting them and putting rocks around. If you got there early you could see them pouring a dump truck full of actual shale that they'd pulled off of the topography, that matched this particular set.

You look at all this work that's going into it and it's all being done to service this emotional moment. So what are you going to do, dishonor or disrespect or disavow all the man hours and labor that have gone into creating the environment?They'd lynch you, or they'd be disappointed in you, which would be worse. So you didn't want to be the weak link. And the other thing was the emotional diminishing returns. You'd get to a place where you'd done so much that you'd get this feeling that "God, if I don't really go to the depths of the soul on this one we're going to have to do it again, and I just don't have enough energy. "So you went as deep as you could. And then, at certain points when you've rubbed that sensitive thing just raw and bloody and you think, "That's it. I'm numb now." You'd go again and again and again. And you'd realize that you're stronger and there's more in you than you could ever possibly imagine. And only 20 percent of it is left in the movie. It's powerful, but there's another five hours of footage, of scenes that we all love.

They say ROTK is the front runner for the Best Picture Oscar.

The united brotherhood of They. Oh, God. You know what? People will have an emotional response. This is the thing now in film culture and in entertainment culture. I hope that the talk about it doesn't interrupt people's experience with it. That's a fear I have. The way that it's supposed to work, the ideal version that's in my mind is that people forget about the business of plying their craft or their trade or their technique, and if it touches people and people are moved by it, then they acknowledge that in some way. I'm an Academy voter. My dad is an Academy voter. Every years the Academy publishes books of all the eligible films, and maybe the most disciplined Academy voters really study the book carefully. But that's just a book with the titles of the films. Who's really going to watch all the films? How do you hear about things?

So with The Lord of the Rings, because of its success, because of the precedent that's been set, it's out there that it's going to be looked at and analyzed and parsed and everything else. Each Academy voter will have to determine for themselves how much they want to be moved by the marketing of the film and by the different editors of magazines who choose to focus on things or the different shows that choose to focus on things. There's this kind of weird popular culture thing, who's in fashion. It's complicated. It's this big orgy. As someone who loves being a voting member of the Academy, my dad and I love talking about films, about what we like and why this should be honored versus that.

We enjoy that process. He goes to ball games with my brother and he and I talk about movies. I try to convince him what I think the best picture of the year is. And I try to learn from him. He's always coming up with these interesting, oblique, avante garde independent films and saying, "This ought to be recognized." And I'm like, "Dad, how did you find that?" He's so interesting with where he comes up with stuff. He's 73. When he dies there might be this void in my entire landscape. I'm a populist, mainstream guy, and I haven't honed the technique of looking for new and interesting things the way he has.

You were in New Zealand for pretty much the eighteen month shooting schedule. What was it like when a new actor would come on set?

Remember in PLATOON when Charlie Sheen gets off the helicopter at the beginning and all these war-weary guys are getting on the helicopter? It was kind of like that. It was a movie, not a war, but you see the new guy and you're excited for their fresh energy. And you mourn, when after a very short period of time, their energy gets sapped because the process is incredibly demanding on everybody who steps into it. It only takes 24 to 36 hours before you realize the weight of what is being done. And then after a week or two weeks or three weeks they've got that battle mode going and it's kind of disappointing that there's been another energy casualty.

Sam's journey starts with the dance with Rosie and it ends in a beautiful way.

The denouement with Rosie, the wedding, we did just a couple of months ago. I turned up and I didn't know we were doing it. And then I saw Sarah and I realized she must be doing something. Then I got the pages. There used to be a thing where you read a script beforehand. Peter and Fran's process was so organic and ever-changing that you stopped needing to know ahead of time what you were doing. You needed to know as you were doing it. It was kind of a zen exercise. So I got there and it was like, "Oh, tomorrow you'll be doing a marriage scene with Rosie Cotton." I just thought, OK, they want to pay that off." When I'm putting on the wardrobe it just felt appropriate.

Will Jeremiah be back?

No. To the best of my knowledge that is dead. My contract has lapsed. I'm free and clear of my obligation to do it. I think it's dead.

You were doing a sci-fi film. What's the latest on that?

Slipstream. It's done.

So what's next?

After December 17, when I finish the publicity on these films, my life is wide open. I have no idea what I'm going to do. There are so many projects that I've developed, but I'll have to focus and try to figure what to do and when and how. It's completely wide open. There are a number of projects where I've told the people that if they get the funding in place and I'm available or they want to work around my schedule, I'll be happy to do them. There are four or five that I'm "attached" to, whatever that means. They take my name and whoever else's and try to raise the money based on that and the script.

The LOTR films made Orlando Bloom a household name. Your career hasnt gotten the same boost. Any bitterness about that?

I'm happy for Orlando. It's kind of astonishing. It's frustrating. It's frustrating, especially because now just managing my body is harder. It's harder to stay in shape when you're traveling so much. You can't get in a good groove. I'm looking forward to pulling back from the press tour. I'm missing my kids. It's hard to keep focused. I've been working pretty much non-stop since last October. So I'm really looking forward to a couple of weeks just to clear my head and relax and try to eat good, healthy food and exercise regularly.

I got really skinny for Jeremiah and then I got hired for the Adam Sandler movie (50 FIRST DATES). He wanted me lifting weights all the time. I was pumping iron and I got injured a little bit doing that. So I sort of stopped and I had that transition from lifting weights to not. That actually worked for the pickups for the Lord of the Rings because right after the Adam Sandler movie I started to get a little bit heavier again. So it worked for that. But I'm ready for the Tilt-a-Whirl to stop and to try to rediscover my balance. And if I do that I think the other stuff will be fine eventually.

But the weight, you think, has been an issue?

There's no question.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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