There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale

( 23 )

Overview

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most successful film franchises in cinematic history. Breaking box office records worldwide, capturing numerous Academy Awards, the trilogy is a breathtaking cinematic achievement and beloved by fans everywhere.

For Sean Astin, the call from his agent about the role of Samwise Gamgee couldn't have come at a better time. His career was at a low point and choice roles were hard to come by. But his 18-month ...
See more details below
This Hardcover is Not Available through BN.com
Note: This is a bargain book and quantities are limited. Bargain books are new but may have slight markings from the publisher and/or stickers showing their discounted price. More about bargain books
Sending request ...

Overview

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most successful film franchises in cinematic history. Breaking box office records worldwide, capturing numerous Academy Awards, the trilogy is a breathtaking cinematic achievement and beloved by fans everywhere.

For Sean Astin, the call from his agent about the role of Samwise Gamgee couldn't have come at a better time. His career was at a low point and choice roles were hard to come by. But his 18-month experience in New Zealand with director Peter Jackson and the cast and crew of The Lord of the Rings films would be more than simply a dream-come-true--it would prove to be the challenge of a lifetime.

Though much has been written about the making of the films, the real story of what took place on the set, the harrowing ordeals of the actors and the unspoken controversy and backstage dealings have never been told. More than a companion guide to the Rings films, There and Back Again is filled with stories from the set and of the actors involved that have never before been revealed--an eye-opening look at the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the making of one of the most ambitious films of all time.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
"There and Back Again" was J.R.R. Tolkien's alternate title for The Hobbit. Actor Sean Astin can claim some right to borrow the title: He played Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. On a more personal level, the title suggests Astin's journey from a troubled Hollywood childhood as the son of Patty Duke to the thwarted promise of his acting career to the role that changed his life and his triumphant return to America after the film's unprecedented success. As an added bonues, he offers a participant's up-close view of the making of Peter Jackson's epic films.
Publishers Weekly
At 33, Astin is young to write his life story, and he tries to portray himself as a major star, thus exaggerating his actual status. However, the book succeeds as a brutally frank, hard-hitting portrait of the film business. Astin shoots from the hip, frequently offending people with his contentious viewpoints. He admires his supportive mother, Oscar winner Patty Duke, while chastising her for writing a book about her manic depression and exposing intimate details. He portrays Warren Beatty, who cast him in the controversial Bulworth, as someone "who knows he's a megalomaniac and sees nothing wrong with that." A self-described "artist-industrialist," Astin describes his producing and directing activities, which led to a 1991 Oscar nomination for his short film, Kangaroo Court. After wowing critics in Rudy, Astin landed the choice role of Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings, and he recalls making the blockbuster film with intensity and color. Some incidents are enlightening, such as his difficulty getting fitted for prosthetic devices for LOTR. Others pack emotional freight, particularly the tale of his father John Astin's efforts to land the role of Gandalf in LOTR and being passed over in favor of Ian McKellen. Astin comes across as a complex personality-courageous, impulsive, loving, abrasive-and these contradictory qualities make him an arresting centerpiece for a Hollywood story. (Oct. 12) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
"There," of course, is Middle-earth Astin played the hobbit Sam, Frodo's loyal, heroic partner in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. Yes, this is a candid memoir about the three films but even more about the actor. Astin first provides background about himself and his career, narrative buildup that characterizes the man himself: hyper self-aware, voluble, ambitious yet humble, family-loving, and interested in everything cinematic. So when we arrive on the set, we empathize with Astin's self-doubts while cheering him on (and Sam, too). Middle-earth was beautiful, dangerous, and exhausting, but the "creatures" cast and crew were all interesting and talented. One touching story involves Astin's making his own short film on the side, starring a crew member and two body doubles, plus Peter Jackson in a cameo. What was "there" like? A five-year period of psychoanalysis, says Astin. Highly recommended for film and general collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/04.] Martha Cornog, Philadelphia Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Praise for There and Back Again:

"The Rings chapters will appeal to hobbit hounds."

—Entertainment Weekly

"Austin's prose carries an unusual but authentic innocence."

—USA Today

"A candid memoir about the three films but even more about the actor . . .when we arrive on the set, we empathize with Astin's self-doubts while cheering him on (and Sam, too) . . .Highly recommended."

—Library Journal

"A brutally frank, hard-hitting portrait of the film business. Astin shoots from the hip . . .He recalls making the blockbuster film with intensity and color. Some incidents are enlightening, such as his difficulty getting fitted for prosthetic devices for LOTR. Others pack emotional freight, particularly the tale of his father John Astin's efforts to land the role of Gandalf in LOTR and being passed over in favor of Ian McKellen. Astin comes across as a complex personality—courageous, impulsive, loving, abrasive—and these contradictory qualities make him an arresting centerpiece for a Hollywoof story."

—Publishers Weekly

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641724541
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 7.88 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Astin has appeared in over thiry films including The Goonies, Bulworth, Toy Soldiers, Courage Under Fire, 50 First Dates and the title role in Rudy. He starred as the hobbit Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy and was nominated for an Academy Award for his short film Kangaroo Court. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Joe Layden is an award-winning journalist and author of numerous books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller The Rock Says. He lives in upstate New York.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

I sensed from the very beginning that The Lord of the Rings had the potential to be something extraordinary. Not merely extraordinary in the way that, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark was extraordinary-as pure, cinematic adventure, a thrill ride of the highest order but as something even more. I'm talking about epic filmmaking not seen since the clays of David Lean or John Ford. I knew that the director, Peter Jackson, was a man of prodigious talent and vision, an artist capable of creating a film that might one day be mentioned in the same breath as Lean's desert classic Lawrence of Arabia. The Lord of the Rings, I thought-I hoped could be like that: Oscar caliber art on par with the best films ever made.

How did I know this? Well, sometimes you just get a gut feeling. It's as simple as that. As a journeyman actor I've survived by seeing an opportunity pop up on the radar screen, guessing kind of intuitively what the odds are of success, and then determining whether I want to be part of that project. Sometimes, for practical, real world reasons, I've made decisions knowing full well what the cycle would be, and that my association with a given film might even have a minor negative impact on my image or marketability. As in any field, you calculate the odds and make a choice, and then you live with it. You can only wait so long for Martin Scorcese to call; sometimes you have to take the best available offer. I've done any number of low budget movies in which my participation was based primarily on the following logic:

All right, it's a week out of my life or six weeks out of my life, the money is pretty good, and I don't have to audition. Let me take a look at the script. Does my character have a banana sticking out of his ass? No? No banana? Well, then, how bad can it be? It's a third tier knockoff of a Die Hard movie, but the morality is reasonably intact; the violence is kind of sophomoric, but not gratuitous, and for the most part everyone keeps their clothes on. Most important of all, is f0anybody in the business ever going to see it? Not likely. Okay ... where do I sign?

Ah, but old movies never really die, do they? Not anymore. Thanks to video and DVD, the Internet, and late night cable television, they live on forever, seeping inevitably into the public consciousness whether they deserve to or not. Case in point: a cold winter day on the south island of New Zealand, back in 1999. One of many days on the set of The Lord of the Kings when things weren't going quite as planned. The kind of day where the scene called for filming six hundred horses on the top of a windswept deer park, so the crew was furiously washing away snow with fire hoses to make it look like it wasn't wintertime resulting, of course, in a veritable sea of mud. In New Zealand we traveled almost everywhere in four wheel drive vehicles, so thick and persistent was the slop. At times it felt like what I have read about soldiers fighting in the trenches in World War I. We couldn't go anywhere without getting muck splattered all over us. On our shoes, our clothes...our capes. (We were hobbits, remember?) No hyperbole or disrespect intended, but there were times when it almost felt as though we were part of a military operation. It was that rugged, that spartan, that precise. Mountainside locations looked almost like battlefields, dotted with tents and armies of workers. The general, of course, was Peter Jackson.

Well, on this one particular morning I saw Peter sitting in his tent with a bemused look on his face. Now, protocol on movie sets often dictates that directors, even those as approachable and thoughtful as Peter, be given space in the morning hours it's a time for preparation, not long conversations. But, as I approached, planning to offer no more than a cheery "Good morning:' Peter began to nod ever so slightly. With his unruly hair, stout frame, and generally disheveled appearance, Peter has often been described as "hobbit like:' and certainly the impish grin coming to his face now supported that notion.

"Sean:' he said dryly. "Guess what I saw last night?"

"What?"

"Icebreaker."

Ob, boy ...

Icebreaker was the rather benign result of one of those "business" decisions I just mentioned. Some two years earlier I had accepted what most people would consider to be a princely sum of money (sixty thousand dollars) for roughly two weeks of work. I had a good time making Icebreaker, which was filmed at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. While there, I dined at a couple of nice restaurants, discovered a lovely antique bookshop, and made a few good friends. Peter Beckwith, the producer, and David Giancola, the director, are genuinely nice men who treated me well. One of my costars was die incomparable Bruce Campbell, regarded as perhaps the king of B movie stars. If you've seen The Evil Dead or any of its sequels, you've seen Bruce. You know his work and h1i s ability to bring a certain campy grace to almost any project. I wasn't really familiar with Bruce's work at the time, but most of the people I worked with were, and they said things like, "Oh, man, you have no idea how cool it is to work with this guy." In truth, Bruce was pretty cool. And a total pro, I might add. I had fun working with him.

Everything about my experience in Vermont was pleasant, if ultimately forgettable. But let's be honest here: the movie is a piece of shit.(1) Sorry, Dave. Sorry, Peter. But you know it's a piece of shit, too. By that, I mean, it isn't socially edifying, and it doesn't aspire to be artistic or even particularly clever. It's just mindless, harmless entertainment. (Check out the movie's promotional poster, featuring yours truly with a pair of ski goggles perched on his forehead, a revolver in his hand, and a look on his face that fairly screams, "Mess with me, and I'll kick your ass!") But we all got along well and had a pleasant enough time, and while we were there we took our work as seriously as possible.

For me for all of us, really-it was a smart business decision to do Icebreaker. These guys figured out a formula: how to package and presell the movie, how to raise the money, how to film the thing, and how to have fun doing it. So more power to them. And, frankly, I needed the work and the cash that came with it. Little did I know that two years later I'd be on location in New Zealand, working on one of the most ambitious projects in the history of movies, a $270 million version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that I'd be standing face to-face with Peter Jackson, one of the rising stars of the business. Peter, it turns out, is not just a filmmaker, but a fan of films, all films, with a massive private collection that keeps his garage screening room humming day and night, and a penchant for channel surfing in the wee hours that makes it virtually impossible to hide anything from him.

Including Icebreakerh.

Copyright 2004 by Sean Astin

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

I sensed from the very beginning that The Lord of the Rings had the potential to be something extraordinary. Not merely extraordinary in the way that, say, Raiders of the Lost Ark was extraordinary-as pure, cinematic adventure, a thrill ride of the highest order but as something even more. I'm talking about epic filmmaking not seen since the clays of David Lean or John Ford. I knew that the director, Peter Jackson, was a man of prodigious talent and vision, an artist capable of creating a film that might one day be mentioned in the same breath as Lean's desert classic Lawrence of Arabia. The Lord of the Rings, I thought-I hoped could be like that: Oscar caliber art on par with the best films ever made.

How did I know this? Well, sometimes you just get a gut feeling. It's as simple as that. As a journeyman actor I've survived by seeing an opportunity pop up on the radar screen, guessing kind of intuitively what the odds are of success, and then determining whether I want to be part of that project. Sometimes, for practical, real world reasons, I've made decisions knowing full well what the cycle would be, and that my association with a given film might even have a minor negative impact on my image or marketability. As in any field, you calculate the odds and make a choice, and then you live with it. You can only wait so long for Martin Scorcese to call; sometimes you have to take the best available offer. I've done any number of low budget movies in which my participation was based primarily on the following logic:

All right, it's a week out of my life or six weeks out of my life, the money is pretty good, and I don'thave to audition. Let me take a look at the script. Does my character have a banana sticking out of his ass? No? No banana? Well, then, how bad can it be? It's a third tier knockoff of a Die Hard movie, but the morality is reasonably intact; the violence is kind of sophomoric, but not gratuitous, and for the most part everyone keeps their clothes on. Most important of all, is anybody in the business ever going to see it? Not likely. Okay ... where do I sign?

Ah, but old movies never really die, do they? Not anymore. Thanks to video and DVD, the Internet, and late night cable television, they live on forever, seeping inevitably into the public consciousness whether they deserve to or not. Case in point: a cold winter day on the south island of New Zealand, back in 1999. One of many days on the set of The Lord of the Kings when things weren't going quite as planned. The kind of day where the scene called for filming six hundred horses on the top of a windswept deer park, so the crew was furiously washing away snow with fire hoses to make it look like it wasn't wintertime resulting, of course, in a veritable sea of mud. In New Zealand we traveled almost everywhere in four wheel drive vehicles, so thick and persistent was the slop. At times it felt like what I have read about soldiers fighting in the trenches in World War I. We couldn't go anywhere without getting muck splattered all over us. On our shoes, our clothes...our capes. (We were hobbits, remember?) No hyperbole or disrespect intended, but there were times when it almost felt as though we were part of a military operation. It was that rugged, that spartan, that precise. Mountainside locations looked almost like battlefields, dotted with tents and armies of workers. The general, of course, was Peter Jackson.

Well, on this one particular morning I saw Peter sitting in his tent with a bemused look on his face. Now, protocol on movie sets often dictates that directors, even those as approachable and thoughtful as Peter, be given space in the morning hours it's a time for preparation, not long conversations. But, as I approached, planning to offer no more than a cheery "Good morning:' Peter began to nod ever so slightly. With his unruly hair, stout frame, and generally disheveled appearance, Peter has often been described as "hobbit like:' and certainly the impish grin coming to his face now supported that notion.

"Sean:' he said dryly. "Guess what I saw last night?"

"What?"

"Icebreaker."

Ob, boy ...

Icebreaker was the rather benign result of one of those "business" decisions I just mentioned. Some two years earlier I had accepted what most people would consider to be a princely sum of money (sixty thousand dollars) for roughly two weeks of work. I had a good time making Icebreaker, which was filmed at Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. While there, I dined at a couple of nice restaurants, discovered a lovely antique bookshop, and made a few good friends. Peter Beckwith, the producer, and David Giancola, the director, are genuinely nice men who treated me well. One of my costars was die incomparable Bruce Campbell, regarded as perhaps the king of B movie stars. If you've seen The Evil Dead or any of its sequels, you've seen Bruce. You know his work and h1i s ability to bring a certain campy grace to almost any project. I wasn't really familiar with Bruce's work at the time, but most of the people I worked with were, and they said things like, "Oh, man, you have no idea how cool it is to work with this guy." In truth, Bruce was pretty cool. And a total pro, I might add. I had fun working with him.

Everything about my experience in Vermont was pleasant, if ultimately forgettable. But let's be honest here: the movie is a piece of shit.(1) Sorry, Dave. Sorry, Peter. But you know it's a piece of shit, too. By that, I mean, it isn't socially edifying, and it doesn't aspire to be artistic or even particularly clever. It's just mindless, harmless entertainment. (Check out the movie's promotional poster, featuring yours truly with a pair of ski goggles perched on his forehead, a revolver in his hand, and a look on his face that fairly screams, "Mess with me, and I'll kick your ass!") But we all got along well and had a pleasant enough time, and while we were there we took our work as seriously as possible.

For me for all of us, really-it was a smart business decision to do Icebreaker. These guys figured out a formula: how to package and presell the movie, how to raise the money, how to film the thing, and how to have fun doing it. So more power to them. And, frankly, I needed the work and the cash that came with it. Little did I know that two years later I'd be on location in New Zealand, working on one of the most ambitious projects in the history of movies, a $270 million version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that I'd be standing face to-face with Peter Jackson, one of the rising stars of the business. Peter, it turns out, is not just a filmmaker, but a fan of films, all films, with a massive private collection that keeps his garage screening room humming day and night, and a penchant for channel surfing in the wee hours that makes it virtually impossible to hide anything from him.

Including Icebreaker.


Copyright 2004 by Sean Astin
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 23 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(9)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(6)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2006

    Of All The Nerve

    When I first saw that Sean Astin had written a book, I thought it would be great for my son and I to read together. We are both fans of The Lord of the Rings and had grandiose ideas of reading how Astin's playing the part of Samwise Gamgee had affected his life. Boy, am I glad I previewed this before I let my 10 year old even touch it. Astin has truly let Lord of the Rings fans down by writing this book, and by using Tolkien's 'There and Back Again' as his title. If he was determined to use Tolkien's terminology, Astin's title should have been 'The Precious: A Whiny, Self-absorbed, Foul-mouthed Actor Goes On and On and On About Himself'. Needless to say, I was disgusted on every level.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)