Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

Not exactly true, as it turned out. With the help and guidance of a doctor and nutritionist, I shed the weight. I subsisted on four hundred calories a day, mostly raw vegetables and chicken breast, and by the time shooting started I was carrying only 125 pounds on a five foot seven frame. (As a point of reference, my ideal walking around weight these days is about 165; for the role of Samwise Gamgee, I deliberately packed on another thirty to forty pounds, bringing me up to a nearly corpulent two hundred.) The benefits of this transformation were instantly evident on screen: I was gaunt, haggard, sickly. In other words, I looked like either a drug addict or someone who is terminally ill. Not quite Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, but definitely moving in that direction. The unwanted fallout of this rapid weight loss was that it wreaked havoc on my metabolism, a problem I still face to this day. But I have no regrets. "Where the Day Takes You" remains one of the greatest creative experiences I've known. It showed me what I could do as an actor, how it was possible to develop my craft through hard work and sacrifice and research. I've done some good movies, and I've done some bad movies. "Where the Day Takes You" is a good one. It belongs in the pantheon of really interesting films about drug abuse, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as "My Own Private Idaho" and "Drugstore Cowboy." I'm proud to have it on my resume. Thank goodness things worked out the way they did, and my initial thoughts about Mark turned out to be wrong. I regret that I underestimated him as an artist.

Oh, by the way. That hockey equipment? It's still in the bag. Never been used.

1. "Piece of sh--" is a phrase I use comfortably in everyday conversation. In this context it's meant to be both funny and descriptive, but not mean spirited. It does, however, reflect a certain point of view, which I can't deny.

2. Please forgive me for being pompous, and grant me a little fun. There's a very thin line between delusions of grandeur and extraordinary human achievement, if only in the early stages of planning. If I succeed wonderful! If I fail well, at least you all were gracious enough not to spoil my good time.

Used with permission from St. Martin's Press. Copyright 2004 by Sean Astin
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