Hey folks, Harry here... The following is a fantastic report on Sean Astin's appearance down at Texas A&M earlier today. This is exactly what I expected from Sean's appearance. He really is one of the nicest guys on the planet. And that part where he answered the little girl's question, what's better, is how Sean can talk to anyone and make them feel not only special, but like a little kid again, but then shift modes and be as serious as they come. Wish I could have made it, but I was hosting the Saturday Morning Kid's Club screening of EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS - and teaching kids proper about Flying Saucer and U.F.O. hysteria of the 1950's and the 3 greatest Flying Saucer films from the 1950's. What a great fun event! Here's what was going on at the same time in College Station...
Hey Harry and the gang, Ted Smith here and I just got back from the great Sean Astin tribute here in College Station at the Texas Film Festival. The event started at noon today, lasted about two hours, and attracted a crowd of probably 150 - 200, maybe more. All in all, really quite an amazing experience.
First off, let me just say that Sean Astin is quite possibly one of the most courteous, funniest, and down-to-earth people, not even actors, but people I've ever had the opportunity of listening to. Everything he had to say was of interest and he seems like a very caring, very smart, very politically intellectual individual. Just an all around great guy.
The setting was in a somewhat small theater, very personal, and the format was pretty standard. It started out with an "actors studio" type setting with two student "hosts" in the Texas A&M Film Society sitting on either side of Sean, on stage, asking him the typical questions they had obviously rehearsed to ask him. Even though the two hosts were kind of nervous, Sean seemed like one of the most comfortable, relaxed, and happiest guys in the world. This guy's enthusiasm was great. I can't compliment his attitude enough. Sean would talk for a bit, then they would show him and the audience a clip from one of his classic films. Scenes from "The Goonies," "Memphis Bell," "Encino Man," "Rudy," and of course "The Fellowship of the Ring" were all shown, with Sean commenting and giving us behind-the-scenes type stories between each clip. Sean also talked about growing up in the film and TV industry (his mother is Patty Duke), his first role in an after-school special about child abuse (in a funny story where Sean's mother actually played his abusive mother in the special), and even talked about the post 9-11 film industry and how proud he is to be a part of Lord of the Rings, which he believes is one of the most relevant films inadvertently dealing with our condition and how we should deal with the post 9-11 era. Most interesting was Sean's insight into how his three most popular characters - Mikey, Rudy, and Sam - have become almost milestone, somewhat iconic characters to certain generations. He said it was a great honor to be a part of those films and was almost in awe that he was actually having a tribute today because of those characters. You could tell he is extremely great full and truly thank full for his place in cinema history.
Then Sean presented, or rather didn't present his short film, "The Long And The Short Of It." One of the hosts asked if Sean would like to say a few words before they showed it, but he humbly replied with a smile, "Nah, just show the thing." Since the screen was to the left and behind Sean and the hosts, to get a better viewing angle, Sean got out of his seat and sat Indian-style a ways in front of the screen on the stage, just like a little kid. I was in the front row and there was Mikey, not even 15 feet away from me, sitting Indian-style on the ground, looking up at the screen. It was classic. Anyway, I won't go into detail about the film since most everyone has either seen it or heard about it, but needless to say it was a great little piece of work and the audience really seemed to love it, laughing at all the right moments and very enthusiastic, almost to Sean's surprise. After the screening he talked about all the behind-the-scenes work involved in getting his short made. The most interesting things he noted was that he shot the entire thing in six hours during a three-week reshoot period for LOTR in New Zealand. And he actually used one of the actual physical HD Digital cameras that Lucas used to shoot "Attack of the Clones." Sean said that the guys from Lucas Film were on set for a few days of those reshoots, attempting to show Peter Jackson the quality of the cameras. He said they would set up a digital camera next to the film camera PJ was using for a shot, then compare the images side by side. Anyway, Sean asked the Lucas Film guys if they could stay an extra day so he could use one of the HD cameras to shoot his short. Needless to say, they were more than happy to.
During the audience Q&A session following the screening, most of the questions were directed toward LOTR and Sean's thoughts on his favorite moments on set, how they made the Hobbits looks small, etc. Someone even asked him about all the helicopter traffic directing he did shown in the LOTR DVD. He laughed and joked that yes, he is indeed a control freak. But perhaps the most amazing thing about the Q&A session that I noticed was the way Sean answered one young girl's question. I don't even remember the question, but a young girl, maybe 10 or 12 years old, walked up to the microphone and asked a question and Sean answered the question as if that little girl was the only person in the entire audience. It's hard to explain, but he almost softened his voice and slightly hunched over and talked to this girl in a very fatherly way. Again it's hard to explain and it may sound a little cheesy, but it was just a little thing I noticed that he did to make that girl feel important. I guess it came from having a young daughter of his own. I just thought it was another nice gesture from Sean.
As far as any "news worthy" tidbits that came from the tribute, we got a couple things, but not much. In the Q&A session toward the end someone asked a little two-part question concerning "The Goonies" and a possible sequel. The first part had to do with whether or not a four-hour cut of the original Goonies exists or existed at one point (according to some rumor this kid had heard). Sean said he didn't know about a four-hour cut, but he said of course there were many scenes he knew of that didn't make the final cut - one having to do with a car chase where a car spins out of control and falls off the side of the road or hill or whatever and lands on top of a boat. He also said there was a scene where the whole gang goes to a grocery store right before their journey. Those two scenes were off the top of his head, but he assured us there was, indeed, a ton of cut footage. As for a "director's cut" or special edition DVD with all the extras, nothing was mentioned. Then Sean went on to answer the question about a possible Goonies sequel, but really didn't have much to say about it simply because he doesn't know much at this point. Sean mentioned that Spielberg approached him at the Golden Globes last year and said that he had a script in development that was near completion, but Sean didn't think that "Dick" Donner was interested in making a sequel - at least he didn't seem interested the last time he spoke with Donner, he said.
What really piqued my interest and what was probably the most important news of the tribute was Sean's "official" announcement that he is planning and has been developing a movie for the past two years about the Galveston storm of 1900. Supposedly (and I may be wrong), Sean picked this event today in front of this audience and many cameras at the festival to officially announce his intentions to direct this epic picture. To give a little history lesson for those who don't know … On September 8, 1900, a hurricane struck Galveston, Texas. Winds estimated at 140 mph swept over the island, leaving devastation in their wake. After the storm surge of 15.7 feet subsided, Galvestonians left their shelters to find 6,000 of the city's 37,000 residents dead and more than 3,600 buildings totally destroyed. The 1900 Storm is still considered to be the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. So yeah, a pretty big project for Mr. Astin. He mentioned that a woman he is friends with has thoroughly researched and written a screen play concerning the events of 1900 and he then announced that his company, Lava Entertainment, has just bought the rights to "Isaac's Storm," a recently-published non-fiction book covering the events of 1900, as well. Although Sean didn't directly say this, it was somewhat implied that the script and the book will be combined in some way for the movie (at least that's what I gathered). As for the actual plot of the film, all Sean said was that it dealt with the story two lovers, both fictional characters, set against the occurrence of the storm - he said somewhat in the vein of James Cameron's "Titanic." Sean seemed extremely enthusiastic about this project and you could tell that he desperately wants to get this picture made. What impressed me the most was his desire and expression to want to make this film as epic as possible - "… in the vein of an old John Ford movie." Overall, he's already sold me in film, as he did most of the audience - especially when he insisted that it be shot in Texas, which got a great reaction out of the crowd.
Eventually, toward the end of the tribute, Sean was presented with an award for the best short film or something to that effect. I was surprised at his reaction to this. He seemed genuinely moved by this award and even began to slightly tear up just before the audience Q&A session.
And finally, as time was becoming scarce, Sean answered one last question from the audience and then headed out. But before he left he made a promise to return in the near future - obviously referring to his desire to come back to Texas to film his Galveston Strom epic. As he began to exit the stage he turned to the audience and goes, "And you know how I am about promises …" Then, in quite possibly the most surreal moment of the entire event, Sean transformed into Samwise Gamgee, and in that familiar Hobbit accent, he left with … "I made a promise Mr. Frodo. A promise. Don't you leave him Samwise Gamgee. And I don't mean to." Everyone went absolutely crazy. And with that, Sean Astin smiled and was gone.
I hope this is all of some interest.