By Shane Igoe
Special to Page 3
Rudy and D-Bob. Frodo and Samwise. Mikey and Sloth.
One might wonder why these down-and-out duos are so endearing to audiences all over the world. But to most, it is no secret that Sean Astin is a big reason. From coaching his kid's soccer team to just kicking it old school with Page 3, the "Lord of the Rings" star is truly a down-to-Middle Earth kind of guy.
We caught up with the globe-trotting actor (Astin was filming in New Zealand yet again) and discussed football, movies and his new book.
1. As a UCLA grad, what do you think of the current USC football powerhouse? Do the Bruins have a shot of taking down the No. 1 team?
Sean Astin: Well that's the great the thing about football, anything can happen on any given day. So you bet UCLA's got a shot. I love UCLA, they're my beloved Bruins, and I hope they spoil SC's National Championship bid. But to be honest, I'm just going to hope and trust that it's going to be a good game. Go Bruins!
Do you follow Notre Dame football? It looks like ND might face UCLA in the Insight Bowl ... do you think you could recite some lines of a Knute Rockne speech off the top of your head to help raise the spirits of the ND faithful?
Yeah, Ty got the ax, it's a shame. And yes, I remember the speeches ... and I could do them, but I'm just not so sure that I want to invoke them right now since they're playing against my alma mater. I've always said when I've gone around the country that I'm 51 percent Bruin, 49 percent Irish, and 100 percent anti-USC. That will be a great game, but it'll be very, very strange for me to watch. I mean I think what I'll do is just take my heart and my soul and I'll just sort of set it on the chair next to me, and then just try watch the game ... what they hey ...
"But I do know we're going to go inside, outside, inside and outside, we're going to get them on the run boys, once we get them on run, we're going to keep them on the run, at word go, go, go! And we're not going to stop until we get to that goal-line! Today is the day we're going to win, win, win what do you say men!"
2. Did you meet the real Rudy?
Dan "Rudy" Ruettiger, who the movie was based on, was there every day we were filming. He was an incredible source of inspiration as he became the cheerleader for our whole film team.
Did you do your own stunts?
I really wanted to do as much of it as they would let me do. One day we went to film in what we dubbed "the Mud Bowl" as we shot a bunch of scenes of Rudy getting just getting creamed on the practice field and during games, and we were filing during this rainy kind of day, and one of the doubles I had blew out his knee ... it was really gnarly. So he sort of deserves all the credit for putting his body on the line and I'm not too proud an actor to need to say, "Oh I did all my own stunts." Movies are a team effort, and creating characters is sometimes a team effort.
3. Your personal memoirs "There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale" just came out. Talk about how your life experience is intertwined with LOTR.
Well it was the better part of five years all told and for the rest of my life I'm going to be associated with the Lord of the Rings. So in a way it's taken over my life, and not necessarily in a bad way, as it's a beautiful thing to a part of something that's so beloved.
But with this book, I not only wanted to offer people the full complement of my memories and what I was thinking at the moment going through this experience, but it also helped me sort out things from a personal standpoint.
You see after I'd graduated from UCLA, where I had studied history and English, I actually applied to the Graduate School of Theater Film and Television, and I was not accepted. I was totally rejected, and I was so bummed ... it was sort of like life imitating art with Rudy and all.
I was really smarting from that when I got the job of "Lord of the Rings." So when I went down to New Zealand, I took with me a stack of fifty books ... as I was just trying to figure out, kind of like Forrest Gump, "What is my destiny, Mama?"
4. You just got back from shooting in New Zealand yet again. What were you working on down there this time around? What is New Zealand like as a location?
The project I just came back from doing is called "Hercules," and it's a Hallmark mini series. It's a somewhat darker interpretation of the classic Hercules myth and the guy who plays Hercules is a newcomer named Paul Telfer and I play Linus, a bard who bears witness to all of these mythological feats that he accomplishes. I joke with people that the sidekick business has been very good to me but the similarities don't end there as it was bizarre because a lot of the crew who was on "Lord of the Rings" worked on this as well. So it was really cool to be back.
New Zealand is as beautiful and breathtaking as it appears on film -- not only the incredible splendor of the sights but you breathe the cleanest air and you drink the freshest water in the world and the people are really, really good people. I would encourage everyone to take a trip down there to experience it at least once in their lives.
5. Talk about your triathlon experience. Are you going to do any more races in the future?
I can't say I am a true triathlete quite yet -- the races I was involved with, I was part of a relay team. Actually in the Malibu race I did, one of my team members was named Rudy. Rudy was just an incredible inspiration as he had lost both his legs. But he did the swim, and then I picked him up out of the water, and carried him up to the bike area, and then a buddy of mine did the bike leg, and I did the run. I also ran the L.A. marathon a few years back and I did it four hours and four minutes. And now that I've got one under my belt I'd like to try do one under four hours.
6. You also raced in the Long Beach Celebrity Grand Prix and finished 4th in 2004. Give us the inside track -- what are you plans to move up in 2005?
I actually finished 2nd when I did it 10 years earlier, and I was hoping that I could improve on my standing but it was raining while we were racing and I didn't have a lot of experience in conditions like that. I just wasn't that confident, my wife and kids were watching from the stands and I just thought, I cannot be too aggressive as I'll end up spinning out and getting hurt. As far as doing more if my family lets me anywhere near race cars, I'd love to do it again. As a person of short stature I think I'm actually pretty well suited for race cars, so it's something I'd like to do more of.
7. Switching gears, who has hairier feet: a Hobbit or Encino Man?
(Laughing) Well speaking from personal experience I would say Hobbits, because Pauly (Shore) and I together managed to clean that caveman up.
Who do you think would win in a fight? Sloth or Gollum?
Well Sloth was a lover not a fighter, he could have tamed Gollum I bet. Gollum might have tried to gouge his eyes out or something but Sloth would have said, "No Gollum, Baby" (in Sloth voice). He would have probably just ended up cradling him in his arms and Gollum would have ended up sedated on Sloths shoulder sucking on his pinky.
8. Which trilogy is better: "Star Wars" (Episodes IV-VI) or LOTR ?
I think I almost appreciate "Star Wars" more after having done "Lord of the Rings," and I was a huge "Star Wars" junky. I mean I grew up with all the "Star Wars" action figures and after watching those movies I would make my first super eight movies ... I'd get fire crackers and put them in Millennium Falcon toy ship, and then I'd build a separate little cockpit set and film my brother, like he was flying into everything else.
For me to choose "Lord of the Rings" over "Star Wars" would almost be like saying, my childhood wasn't that important to me. For me to choose "Star Wars" over "Lord of the Rings," it would be like picking "Star Wars" over my colleagues. The truth is that I really don't think "Star Wars" could exist without J.R.R. Tolkien's work. I think George Lucas owes a debt of gratitude to professor Tolkien. As much as I love them both, I'd say the edge goes to "Lord of the Rings," 'cause it's just where my heart is.
9. Tell us about "Things of Gravity" where you star as Coach Amal. Talk to us more about that project and would you ever consider coaching a sport.
Coach Amal is actually a high school debate coach. It's funny as I was recently asked to give a speech at the Oxford Union, which is a 181-year-old debating society, but even after that I still don't know anything about competitive debating. I also played a teacher in another movie called "Smile" so I think I'm well suited to that calling. I always said that if acting didn't work out for me, since I got my degree in history and literature, I would love to teach. It's something that's close to my heart as my father is a college professor.
My daughter just asked me if I would coach her soccer team next year and one of the head coaches of the team reminded me at practice yesterday that I had the coaching chops since I was one of the assistants for the first year. So I think I'd make a pretty good coach. I'm seriously trying to figure out how to adjust my schedule so I can be there for my kid and coach her team.
10. There are rumors of a another "Goonies" movie -- would you ever considering starring in it, maybe as the parent this time around?
Its funny when everybody walked on stage to accept the "Best Picture" Oscar last year, it was presented to Peter by Steven Spielberg. I found myself standing next to Mr. Spielberg and I just said, "Steven, do you realize how many people want to see a "Goonies" sequel? And he looked at me, as we were in front of the entire industry and millions of people watching on TV, and he goes, "Sean, you guys just made history, why we don't focus on that film first. OK."
He and everyone else who was involved with it knows how much people want to see another, and everywhere I go throughout our country and around the world, people approach me about the "Goonies." The movie represents a very nostalgic period. I have always said that I would love to act in a sequel. I think it would be really fun to reconnect to those actors, but the idea of being the parent or having like a new generation of "Goonies" is sort of a buzz kill for me. I still think of myself as Mikey in a selfish way. If there's going to be an another adventure, I would want it to be about us!
Shane Igoe is writer/producer. As an undergrad at Notre Dame, the author appeared alongside Sean Astin in "Rudy" as a barroom extra.