Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

In "There and Back Again," Sean Astin, 33, talks about the side of Hollywood that most people never get to see. The young star of "The Lord of the Rings" also reflects on his childhood with his Oscar-winning mother Patty Duke.

Read chapter one of "There and Back Again."

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 anybody in the business ever going to see it? Not likely. Okay ... where do I sign?

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