A hobbit simply walked onto the stage of Ballroom C in the Raleigh Convention Center. Waiting fans arrayed like a legion of orcs shook the room with a deafening ovation.
“Wow,” was all Sean Astin could say at the enthusiasm of his fans. The actor, most famous for his roles in “The Goonies” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, recorded the fans’ reaction to send to his daughters at home.
“They know what I do when I go away from home, but, you know, they’ll see that and be like, ‘Wait, what were you doing?” Astin said.
The emcee, Entertainment Journalist Aaron Sagers, asked him, “Do they know that you’re cool?”
“They know that I’m cool sometimes,” Astin replied with a grin.
Before getting the Q&A session started, Astin paid tribute to the late Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld novels, who recently passed away.
“Terry was 66 when he passed,” Astin said. “He had a long battle with Alzheimer’s. . . .He had one of the most brilliant minds in the history of Earth. . . .Before Wikipedia, you had Terry Pratchettpedia.” He went on to describe Pratchett’s fluency in languages, including Middle English, as well as his prolific writing career that produced about 50 books.
Astin read for the audience the prologue to Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic. The audience listened, riveted, as Astin brought the late author’s writing to life with perfect pitch and intonation.
“[It is] one of the things I love to do at conventions,” he explained. He played the role of Twoflower in a film adaptation of The Colour of Magic, a role that came to him after meeting Pratchett at a book store signing in Aukland, NZ during the filming of Hallmark’s “Hercules” mini-series. Astin hadn’t heard of Pratchett’s work, but fellow actor Paul Telfer was a fan.
“He was kind of a relaxed guy, Paul was, and he was real giddy like a little kid [when he learned Pratchett was coming to town]. He was trying to explain to me what the Discworld series was and who this author was and what it meant to him.”
For Paul, it meant a great deal—he grew up reading Pratchett’s books with his family in Scotland. Astin went with Telfer to the book signing and stood in line for about an hour and fifteen minutes to see Pratchett until “somebody whispered to him that there was a hobbit in front of him.” Astin added that “[Pratchett] looked up and in his professorial, impish way, he jumped up to shake hands and I did what Americans do and I leaned forward for an embrace. Many Brits are not so comfortable with the embrace idea, but he received it as well as he could.”
Later, Astin was requested to play the role of Twoflower. “My wife came in with the phone in her hand and she had this look on her face. She said, ‘They want you to play Twoflower.’ I couldn’t believe it! I told her, ‘No. Don’t mess with me. Really?”
During the panel Q&A session, one nine-year-old girl named Mason asked him, “What did it feel like being in ‘The Lord of the Rings?’” After a moment of thought, Astin replied,
“Hard. I had to wear sticky, gluey, feet every day! We’d be going to work at four in the morning and stand on a box while they put cold, wet, sticky glue on our feet and jabbed us with pointy sticks! [My] feet had cuts and scrapes and bruises every day, and at the end of the day they’d pour alcohol on it to try to get the glue off. . . .It was torture! It’s an outrage! I had to carry Sam’s backpack, and they made me fat because dumb old Tolkien wrote, ‘He’s a stupid, fat hobbit.’ Oh, if Tolkien would have said, ‘In the garden. . .he’s actually got quite a nice physique, and of all the hobbits, his was the must human-like!’ [That would have made a] much better two years in New Zealand!”
He enjoyed fighting orcs. “I got to bop them on the head with my pots and pans,” he said. He also fondly remembered kissing Rosie Cotton. He called the performance “one of the most important and challenging” of his career, and had he known what “The Lord of the Rings” was before agreeing to play the role of Samwise, he would have been “terrified.” He also revealed that the scene in “The Two Towers” when Haldir explains to Legolas that he has come to honor the old Alliance of Elves and Men never fails to bring tears to Astin.
In addition, Astin revealed during Q&A that he has run about 9 marathons so far (and had run a race in Raleigh that morning) with a 10 run coming up in Boston to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. The role that has meant the most to him was in “Rudy,” which he described as being like his life story. “God sent me that role to play,” he stated. On rumors of a Goonies sequel, he said, “I’ve heard speculation of a Goonies reunion film since 1986” but added that “Whether in my lifetime or beyond, it is an absolute certainty that they will do a Goonies sequel for the sole reason that everybody wants one.” He also told about a prank he and the cast played on “The Goonies” director, Richard “Dick” Donner. “It was a lot to direct seven kids who all talked at the same, time,” Astin said.
“It was like herding cats or something, and he would always [say], ‘I can’t wait to get away from you gosh-darn kids and get back to my beach house in Maui and blah, blah, blah.’ And Jeff [Cohen] showed up and said, ‘Hey! I’m coming to see you in Maui!’ And Dick just thought that was hilarious. And somebody got to Steven [Spielberg] and then Steven said, ‘OK, Top Secret Mission: We’re going to send all of the Goonies and their parents to Maui. Somebody’s going to get Dick out of the house and we’re gonna come in and trash the place when he comes home.’ There were like flotillas coming out of the water onto the beach. That was pretty great.”
Astin gave his best response to a 15-year-old who asked him if he had any advice based on his experiences and challenges for those pursuing careers in film and theatre. “You really have to work hard. . . .To get good at it, you have to have so much passion,” Astin said. Passion as an actor is not the only kind of passion he advised.
“Be passionate about other people’s work. So watch movies—old movies, new movies, TV shows. Fall in love. . . .There is no reason that you couldn’t spend every day for the rest of your life watching incredible movies and television shows and reading wonderful books. . . .Tonight if you get a great book, tonight you watch some great show, be disciplined about it and get passionate about it and study it. . . .Go see plays, go see musicals.”
He encouraged him to “attack the world with your passion for consuming greatness. . . .Soak it up, every second! Never be bored, never be discouraged!” He also stated,
“People respond to passion. And particularly if you interact with somebody whose work you know, you could say ‘I saw that movie that nobody else saw that you made in 1972 and it changed my life because of what it said about falling in love,’ or whatever. You think that director’s going to be any more inclined to hire you than a guy who’s so nervous that he really wants to get the job?”
Sean Astin certainly displayed a great deal of passion at the Raleigh WizardWorld Con. He was a passionate fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, he was passionate about his causes and his movies, but he was also clearly passionate about his fans. Listening to him speak, one cannot help but be passionate right along with him.