Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

Let me say something about the purpose of There and Back Again. Forests have been felled and more ink spilled about "The Lord of the Rings" than for almost any other film franchise in recent memory. I have talked extensively about how positive my experience in New Zealand was, about the family bonds that were created, and the love and passion and dedication that everyone involved brought to their work. My intent here is absolutely not to disavow any of that sentiment; rather, I want to amplify and explore some of the other kinds of emotions and dynamics that I felt. Furthermore, I want to explain how a lot of my early experiences as a professional actor informed my thinking and attitudes during much of the filming. So ...

To get an idea of how my career has advanced and sometimes stalled we should really go back to 1989. Shortly after graduating from high school, I traveled to England to work on a World War II ensemble film called Memphis Belle. It was a good role in a major Hollywood movie, starring a handful of talented young actors, among them Eric Stolz and Matthew Modine, and it figured to help me regain some of the momentum I'd achieved a few years earlier, when I'd starred in The Goonies. I was serious about my life and career, although admittedly lacking focus and direction. I wanted to go to college, but I also wanted to be a movie star and a filmmaker.

It was an exciting time in my life. I was eighteen years old, had just graduated from high school, and was traveling at my own expense to take part in a Warner Bros. movie. The producer, David Putnam, was one of my heroes. I greatly admired his films and had followed his career as an executive; in short, I wanted to emulate him in some way. I'll never forget the day that he gathered the American actors together at the Atheneum Hotel in London and told us about his belief in the power of cinema. His words confirmed a lifetime of instincts and crystallized my imagination. We were about to embark on a filmmaking experience of real significance. The story dealt with an important moment 'in American and world history, and we all wanted to get it right. I loved the idea that I was becoming a global citizen and that I was likely to travel all over the world experiencing new cultures and meeting people completely different from myself. I sensed that I was destined to become a star and that my dream of becoming a filmmaker was about to come true. It had been a long time since The Goonies, but now it seemed as though my career was ready to take off, and I would be able to accomplish the loftiest of my goals. How? I really had no idea.

One day near the end of principal photography on Memphis Belle I took a walk in the garden at Pinewood Studios with the Academy Award winning cinematographer David Watkins. This in some way was a rite of passage. David was one of the most revered and gifted cinematographers in the business, having worked on, among other films, Catch 22 and Out of Africa (for which he won an Oscar). He was a legend in the cinematography world, not only because of his artistry, but also because of his personality, which was at once generous and biting. David didn't suffer fools gladly, nor did he fall at the feet of Hollywood's gentry. Warren Beatty told me that David once said to Barbra Streisand, when they first began working together, "We're going to have to do something about that!" while pointing rather dramatically at her nose.

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