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There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale

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The fascinating memoir of a Hollywood life and an inside look at a life-changing role and the groundbreaking Lord of the Rings films that captured the imagination of movie fans everywhere.

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most successful film franchises in cinematic history. Winner of a record eleven Academy Awards--a clean sweep--and breaking box office records worldwide, the trilogy is a breathtaking cinematic achievement and beloved by fans everywhere.

For Sean Astin, a Hollywood child (his mother is Patty Duke and stepfather is John Astin) who made his feature film debut at 13 in the 1980s classic The Goonies and played the title role in Rudy, 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 od 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.

There and Back An Actor's Tale is the complete memoir of Sean Astin, from his early days in Hollywood to the role that changed his life. Though much has been written about the making of the films, including the techniques and artistry employed to bring Tolkien's vision of life and the various relationships between castmembers, 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.

Sean's experience and candid account of his time filming in New Zealand is unparalleled. More than a companion guide to the Ring films, There and Back Again filled with stories from the set and of the actors involved that have never been revealed before and is an eye-opening look from a Hollywood veteran at the blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of one of the most ambitious films of all time.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published October 14, 2003

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About the author

Sean Astin

13 books21 followers
Sean Astin (born Sean Patrick Duke) is an American film actor, director, and producer better known for his film roles as Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, the title character of Rudy, and Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In 2004, Astin released There and Back Again, a memoir (co-written with Joe Layden) of his film career with emphasis on his experiences with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The title is derived from the subtitle of The Hobbit, by Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 231 reviews
Profile Image for Historical Fiction.
920 reviews590 followers
April 2, 2016
I was less than half way through There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale when I decided the book was a wall-banger. There are a hundred ways to phrase why I felt this way, but I find Sean Astin said it best towards the bottom of page 180. "I have this little self-pity mechanism I can click into, I don't know why or how it developed, except that maybe sometime in my life I used it once or twice and it was effective, so I kept it in my repertoire..."

I can’t say that I like or dislike Sean Astin. I’ve never met him, but I can say his book doesn’t portray him in a positive light. He comes off as whiny and overly critical of 80% of the people he has worked with. He takes pride in only a few of his characters (something I found offensive as a fan of some of the pictures he considers subpar). The entire book presents a man with an ego the size of the Notre Dame football stadium, an actor who is never satisfied with the treatment he receives from the industry and a person who takes himself far too seriously. Somehow I doubt this is the depiction the author wanted to share with the world and I'm willing to bet the book will turn the opinions of many of his fans.

Lots of reviewers state they would recommend this book to fans Lord of the Rings, but I'd personally be hesitant to do even that. As a fan, I can honestly say nothing Astin noted about the film was new to me. Every anecdote can be found in the extras on the extended edition DVDs so Astin's biography offered little if any insight to Jackson's epic.

Overall, the book left a bad taste in my mouth. Not something that will remain in my library and not a title I'd propose to other readers.
Profile Image for Aileen.
22 reviews11 followers
July 27, 2010
So far so good. He's a little rambling, a little whiny, but it's still a book I'll finish.


Update 7/27/10

Oh Sean. Really? You couldn't get an editor? None of your friends would sit you down and say "If you publish this hot mess, you're going to make everyone you've ever worked with, as well as yourself, look bad." ??

As other reviewers have noted, the author spends much of his time snarking and whinging, and the rest of his time backpedaling and self-depreciating. "Oh woe is me, I am not the star. But there are so many more talented actors in the cast, including Ian McKellan (who I thought was cold and who stole my makeup artist. waah) and Viggo Mortenson (who wouldn't talk politics with me- the bastard!) and Jonathan Rhys-Davies (who got tired of my constant Indiana Jones imitations- what cheek!) that I know even though I should have gotten the Oscar, I am safe in the knowledge that my artistic soul has not been tainted. Except by Encino Man, which was such a suckwad movie that I dare not discuss it past these 34 pages."

I like Sean Astin. I liked the book, too. But he REALLY needed someone to point some things out to him beforehand.
Profile Image for Debs.
798 reviews12 followers
February 4, 2010
Sean Astin needs to dump that rather extensive chip off his shoulder before it drowns him in the pool of his own shallowness.
Profile Image for Sarah Jacquie.
80 reviews32 followers
January 24, 2013
Okay, I love Tolkien and the LOTR movies, but I probably never would have read this if it weren't for the reviews I saw beforehand. Yes, I read this because I knew it was bad and had to see for myself.

It was pretty bad, I admit. So bad, I would stop my mum or boyfriend and read out loud a passage and we'd laugh. Astin is very egocentric, yet self deprecating at the same time - a very bizarre, confusing, and unappealing mix.

I think this picture pretty much sums up how Sean Astin seems himself and how he believes others see him as well:

There are many things I could repeat that others have said before me, but I don't need to - they do a brilliant enough job. This really is a sad book - an excuse to ride on the coat tails of a movie franchise and cash in by writing about a spoiled brat actor's woes (aka first world problems champagne and caviar style) which really are stupid.

There is very little about the movies that you can't find in other books, websites, DVD extras, etc.

There are 3 tidbits that I had to laugh really hard at and I thought summed up Sean Astin and this stupid book, something I haven't seen anyone else point out yet so here are my contributions:


1. Astin hadn't read the books prior to filming (that's fine, a lot of the cast and fans didn't either - most notably Elijah Wood) but when he got the part, he supposedly immediately stopped at a book store. He applauds himself as being a graduate in "one of the hardest fine arts majors" (???) and admits to never, ever, have hearing of Tolkien. That's okay too.

So, he selects a book because he prefers the art over another book. Then starts to wonder if the people on the movie will use the art he decidedly likes better and proceeds to worry about it. You know, because a guy who is a die hard fan and worked his butt off to be directing a $270,000,000 trilogy of movies is probably not going to be as resourceful or research this overlooked detail of multiple artistic renditions.

But it gets worse. He continues to read maybe 150 pages of the book, and then (in his own words) "cheats" by watching the animated version of the story (which is outdated for one, and a cartoon). Armed with this knowledge, Sean starts to actually panic and wonder if he should have signed on for that measly $250,000 (A fee he is very upset with. Many, including myself, would have done it for free.)

2. Sean's mum, Patty Duke, is the President of the Screen Actor's Guild. Besides the somewhat cute dreams of his one day following his mum's footsteps, he also wants to be president of the USA (this book would make cannon fodder for the other side). That's fine, except when he realizes that he will be making a movie in New Zealand for a New Zealand director... the Screen Actor's Guild will not cover the movie. Duh, right? However, this occurs to him later on and he starts to feel nervous and wondering if he should have done it for this reason, and if he can amend it somehow. WTF.

3. Okay, this one might be me and that's fine. Sean Astin had the gall (whether it's true or not) to whine and whine about how he had so many titles under his belt and is basically a refined, grade A actor. That is a matter of opinion. I thought it was offensive when he began to compare himself to Elijah Wood, who he admittedly is envious of. What pissed me off, was he started saying that Elijah was basically an unknown compared to himself before the series. To be honest I watched Lord of the Rings and someone had to tell me "Did you know that is the guy from The Goonies?" And sure enough I wasn't sure - and I didn't know his name. I knew who Elijah Wood was and followed his movies (we're nearly the same age) from The Good Son when I was a kid to LOTR.


The book follows what pretty much everyone else has said below, and a fine drinking game could be created by the following repetitions:

- So and so didn't like him. Why didn't they like him?!
- Trash talking anybody and everybody he worked with.
- His integrity.
- His abilities in acting.
- His abilities in directing (?!)
- How he is undervalued.
- How much he relates to us little people (aka, he gets blue collared types and stresses this ad nauseum.)

He says something completely retarded, and then admits it's retarded, as if he has the clarity to say "Yea, I know I was dumb and so...." and then go on to say something more retarded without realizing that maybe he should have left that bit out.

This book was a laugh, and I got it for 75 cents. I don't know what he's like as a person, but this book paints him as a jerk.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
1,214 reviews105 followers
April 20, 2013
You know, for an actor who started in childhood with The Goonies, had famous Hollywood parents, and spent two years in New Zealand filming a legendary movie trilogy, Sean Astin's memoir is remarkably boring. I think I was really expecting this book to be more anecdotes and less self-flagellation at how selfish and short-sighted he has been at various points in his life. The navel gazing gets old. Fast.

This is the book of someone who feels that he has acted badly and wants very much for people to think well of him now. So it's a mix of telling us (without showing us) how amazingly wonderful a bunch of people he's worked with are and telling us (again, without really showing us) that he feels bad that he acted kinda spoiled, but it was just because he wants so badly to be a Serious Filmmaker. The insecurity kind of drips off the page.

Given that there's a writer credited directly with helping churn out this thing, I shudder to think what Astin would have turned in on his own. (Or perhaps Layden took a dislike to him and hung him out to dry? It's really not the most complimentary of books.)

Most importantly, Sean Astin wants you to know that while he's an actor, what he really wants to do is direct. Sigh.
Profile Image for Heather.
32 reviews3 followers
October 2, 2012
Oh, I wanted to love this book! Sean Astin was my very first Hollywood crush when he was in The Goonies. I just thought he was the most adorable, well rounded, down to earth kid. He had a fantastic mom (Patty Duke, who I adore), and I plastered my walls with his posters. Then, this book came out and I was sorely disappointed to read what basically amounted to a spoiled rant about his co-stars lack of professionalism, complaints about not getting treated fairly on set, the list goes on and on. It just felt like it was a book about sour grapes. He made disparaging comments about just about everyone in this book.

Then, he came to Portland for a book signing and I was completly ecstatic because I was willing to overlook the bad attitude of the book in order to finally meet my very first Hollywood crush. He showed up late, with his family in tow and announced that his publisher had overbooked him and that he only had an hour, so we (the audience) could choose for him to do a reading, or a short Q&A with a signing, but that he didn't have time for both. What?! The audience chose the Q&A and signing, so I did meet him, get a hug (he did smell good) and my book autographed, but I was severely disappointed in how the culmination of my girlhood crush ended.

Still, I had to believe that he was better than that, so when it was announced that he was going to be part of an autograph session at the 20th anniversary Goonies event in Astoria, Oregon that I was at, I had high hopes for redemption. Those hopes were dashed, as they held up the autograph line for over an hour waiting for him to arrive and then when he finally made it into town, he went first to two press events, and then decided to skip town instead of showing up for the autograph session that had been held up just for him. Those of us in line were told that if we put our names and addresses down in a notebook at the session, we would all receive autographs by mail from him. That was over five years ago and my mailbox is still empty.

All this is personal stuff is to say that in the end, my first reaction to his book turned out to be spot on. He seems to be a spoiled brat with no concern for his fellow castmates, crew or fans. He comes off this way in the book and backs it up in person. The book is shallow and whiny and the only reason I kept it instead of trading it in at the used book store is that it's autographed to me personally, so they wouldn't take it.

Profile Image for Jessica.
21 reviews2 followers
December 7, 2015
By chapter 3 you really get a sense of who Sean Astin is: a pretentious man-child. The product of 2 critically acclaimed actors (mother is Patty Duke, step-father is John Astin) he clearly sees himself as an underdog in the Hollywood world. I'll always love 'Lord of the Rings' but lines like 'It was summer, so I could usually be found in our pool pondering business and creative issues.' will be the driving force of finishing this book. Really, its a wonder he can be in the pool and ponder at the same time. Sean, pat yourself on the back for your immense multitasking talent! This book is entertainment at its finest.


Once the book picked up at the actual filming process of 'The Lord of the Rings' it immediately got more interesting. And he immediately became more likable. As a huge fan of Elijah Wood I really enjoyed reading about their friendship and how it reflected the relationship of the characters they portrayed. Sadly, good feeling didn't last very long. He talks a lot about the other people involved (as expected) and seems very passive aggressive while retelling experiences with them (i.e someone said something brutally honest so he goes on to say that even though his feelings were hurt they're friends so it's okay). I think he expected these people to read the book and didn't want to hurt any feelings. The point of a memoir is to tell the truth ugly or not, but that's not the impression I got. The impression I got was in between the lines he's saying 'Love me!' 'Appreciate all of the hard work I put in for these films!' 'I deserved an Oscar nomination!'

The woe is me act resurfaces quite a bit whether he feels he isn't given enough creative freedom with the character of Samwise Gamgee or feeling left out of the fun. Frankly, every situation that he wants you to feel sorry for him about is his fault. The book is a big pity party that you don't want to join. And the end when he talks about his (excessive) media blunders while promoting the last film actually hurts to read. The heat rises in your face as you realize how unappreciative he is of the chance he got to be a part of this amazing franchise (and broadcasts it for the world to see). Overall, if you hate famous, rich, self-entitled people you will love this book. If you don't want to hear someone whine for 308 pages steer clear.
Profile Image for Lynn.
68 reviews1 follower
August 30, 2010
Unfortunately, this book suffers from the author's apparent needs to 1) come off as modest and self-effacing and 2) not offend or piss off anyone in the movie industry.

I was fascinated to read an insider's story about what it had been like to film my favorite movie trilogy of all times - Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. And who better to tell this tale than Samwise Gamgee himself, actor Sean Astin.

Rather than a narrative or collection of anecdotes about what filming such an epic film had been like, Astin meanders all over the place, introducing event and industry people who had little to do with the movies but in some way affected his life. Too, Astin spends inordinate amount of time confessing how he often felt jealous of other actors and directors or envious of their talents/breaks/successes/whathaveyou as some sort of explanation from what I can only imagine had been some douchey behaviour on his part.

Whenever Astin came remotely close to criticizing a fellow actor or director, he was quick to clarify that his first impression had been wrong or that he was in some way at fault for his feelings or that, really, despite behaving like a jerk, that person really was quite a great guy/girl. It was as if Astin feared that everyone would read this book and if he pissed off the wrong person, his career might be in jeopardy.

Too, Astin would stick a toe over the line of boastfulness only to then throw a 180 degree turn and spend paragraphs reiterating how his accomplishments are nothing to be proud of and that others surely would do at least as well. It reminded me much of a person who purposely insults himself only so that others will reassure him of his own greatness.

These problems conspired to create not an insider's glimpse into the adventure of making TLotR trilogy but a faintly sycophantic, self-promoting plea for recognition for his part in something great.

Profile Image for Kyrie.
3,022 reviews
July 7, 2013
I am sorry I read this book.

It left me with an impression of a whiny, disgruntled actor with little clue as to what he wants to do with his life, but he wants us all to know how brilliant, gifted and humble he is.
Profile Image for Stephanie "Jedigal".
580 reviews41 followers
September 14, 2008
I read b/c I am a huge lifetime fan of the LOTR books, and I felt the movies surprisingly did right by JRRT! Also, I had just read and enjoyed Leonard Nimoy's I AM SPOCK. This was a bargain book, and based on the above interests, I thought it would be worth a try. I hoped I would like it.

Well, the stories in this book for the most part were not what I was hoping. Content is much less about the filming process and location than it is about Astin's mental/emotional process and insecurities. It's a very PERSONAL memoir. You DO get some candid glimpses of the tv/film industry, but on a word count basis I'd say it's 75% Sean Astin's neuroses and 25% (or less) interesting facts. His account seems very honest, but also annoying. When I am annoyed at my own internal foibles, I only share them with a few select people. I certainly would not take myself so seriously as to think that hundreds or thousands of people want to read about that.

I admit, I can relate to his crazy thought process, but I think it's crazy to have printed it for the world to see. I can't help but wonder if that will hurt him in the future, if any folks in the industry take the time to read this.

The only people I would recommend to extreme fans of LOTR FILMS and anyone who needs encouragement in knowing that success is possible even for people who are neurotic and insecure.
Profile Image for Jen.
60 reviews21 followers
January 24, 2015
I had once read an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow where she explained how she places her films into two categories: good films and bad films. She seemed honest, but ungrateful, about her entire career. I remember finding her unattractive and boring, disappointed someone could lose so much perspective despite all the success and opportunity they had.

And, unfortunately, that is how I view Sean Astin in There and Back Again An Actor's Tale.

Astin's book reveals a number of insecurities, such as not getting enough screen time in almost any film he is in to his constant worry over his film salary. If there is one specific fact about the Lord of the Rings trilogy that I can take away from this book, it's that the films were a $270 million dollar franchisee. This book came out in 2004, so many of the stories he does describe regarding the filming (ex: Andy Serkis ripping Astin's wig off during rehearsal) are things I watched on the behind the scenes DVD or have read elsewhere in interviews, etc. But reading about how Astin felt under appreciated in almost anything quickly got annoying. By the time I got to the parts about LotR process, I began reading this book slower cause I just couldn't handle his tone.

Since he was the child of two Hollywood actors, Astin possesses a sense of entitlement. The first third of the book, Astin discusses how his character didn't take off the way he wanted. How certain actors were more supported by agencies or studios and he was not. Or how certain experiences were picturesque and perfect (ex: filming Rudy - of course, cause he was the star). Even the LotR experience isn't enough. Astin complains about how he didn't connect with certain actors (the truly recognized ones, like Ian McKellan or Ian Holm) or how he felt the final cut of LotR: Return of the King was didn't "make him feel" (not enough Sam!). Many times, he writes how other people like Elijah Wood or his wife had to stop his "self-pity mechanism" by reminding him that LotR was a once in a life time opportunities. I'm sorry, his what?! "Being a selfish jerk" would have been the correct term.

I'm being generous in giving this book 2 stars - but here's why. Although Astin's account seems it was written by a teenage boy, there is honesty in some of it. If he felt mistreated, he certainly did write it. Whether mistreated by other actors or studios or with himself, the book seems to be like Astin's personal journal. Astin makes some points about how difficult it was to get started in directing, especially if you are not even close to a household name in Hollywood (famous parents can only do so much). Same with his honesty with weight issues. If anything, these opinions gave more insight into the film industry itself, which was interesting.

I finished the book with an understanding that even though actors may come to know the ins and outs of their characters, that does not mean actors are the characters. Samwise had a quiet strength that grew during moments of turmoils in Tolkien's unique masterpiece. Sean Astin simply played him - then complained about it.
Profile Image for Ginger.
63 reviews9 followers
May 25, 2009
I absolutely loved this book for all the wrong reasons. The writing is atrocious and incredibly vain. Very little thought was given to structure or editing. The entire idea of Mr. Astin writing a book is incorrectly founded on his belief that he is a renaissance man. All that aside, I just could not put this down.
From the very start Astin makes ridiculous statement after ridiculous statement. On the first page he asserts that sometimes you have to just do whatever script you get as long as there isn't a banana sticking out of your character's ass, and on the second page he says of filming Lord of the Rings "At times it felt like what I have read about soldiers fighting in the trenches of World War I...no hyperbole or disrespect intended." I took to reading passages of this book aloud to anyone near me for laughs, and because I just couldn't believe what I was reading. Whatever publicist encouraged/let Astin choose to write a book in his mid 30s about his handful of roles, regardless of his cult status, really misadvised him.
It says the book is written "with Joe Layden" but I'm guessing this is just an entourage buddy, because the editing here is nonexistent. The first 70 pages of the book find us jumping back and forth to different topics and different times within a matter of paragraphs. It literally moves from the set of Lord of the Rings, to his filming of a movie a few years prior at a ski resort, to traveling in England, to meeting his wife at age 18 all within a few pages. It takes about 1/3 of the book before Astin even comes to the role of Sam Wise Gamgee, which is ostensibly what the book is about based on the title and cover. Once he gets on that subject the book thankfully becomes more linear.
The book is mainly just a place for Astin to go back and forth between describing his megalomania and total lack of confidence. He thinks he is a true artist with directing skills such that Peter Jackson should have taken all his ideas into confidence. He complains about his salaries, how he is treated on set, and his fellow actors. He even recounts how after the release of "Return of the King" he was getting a lot of press as an Oscar hopeful, and all the attention made him so depressed that he spent his Christmas holiday playing video games alone and mostly avoiding his family.
There's some pretty interesting information hidden away in here about how the trilogy was actually filmed and the demands of "the actor's lifestyle", but you should read it for the awesome hilarity. The movie knowledge is just an occasional bonus.
It shouldn't get 4 stars from me, but it does. I enjoyed myself 4 stars worth.
Profile Image for ^.
907 reviews58 followers
July 19, 2015
Mr Sean Astin comes over as the most self-centred, most deluded, most insecure man I have never met. “High maintenance” is a term that could have been invented just for him; a self-absorbed creation working in a world of fantasy. In brief, I entirely agree with every word of Erin’s review (and also with Nata’s comment to Erin’s review).

I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was eleven years old, and have read it three further times since. I went to the cinema to see all three films when each was first released, and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. I do have the DVDs, though I have not yet (!) got around to watching them. So, thinking back ten years or so to the celluloid action, I hate to disappoint Mr Astin, but have to be brutally honest, that I just don’t remember his screen performances to be anything like as extraordinarily brilliant as he does. But, to be fair, I am minded that I really ought to find time to watch those DVDs, so that I may fairly assess his gifts(?) afresh. I am also frankly curious to see if any director has subsequently given him employment. Would any other actor or actress seek to work with him? Personally, I would not.

I persisted, despite bouts of doubts, in reading this book end to end precisely because of the frankly unbelievable real-life character of the author. The development of his personal internal and unflattering unattractiveness became a compelling and gross fascination unto itself. Was Mr Astin’s ghost writer extraordinarily bad at his job, and only able to get away with that because Mr Astin, as he admits himself, does not enjoy reading? Clearly the book’s publisher (Virgin) had cynically calculated that critical acclaim was unimportant, because just the very mention of “The Lord of the Rings” would ensure profitable sales before the book dived. How sad is that?

For one pound sterling paid on the second-hand market I felt that I received full value; even if the associated intangible value is unlikely to be that which Mr Astin, his wife, and daughter, would wish to be remembered for. The charitable cause which received that pound will no doubt use it wisely. I will compost the book.

Meanwhile, I tend my compliments to Mr Peter Jackson and his core production team. Their job must have been considerably tougher than I had ever previously imagined.
Profile Image for Sarah.
34 reviews11 followers
March 11, 2017
I didn't finish this and can't remember anything substantial of the parts I did read, but I know that it has tainted my perception of this actor so heavily that I now fast forward the appendices to the movies whenever he talks. I watch those often and I have done so regularly ever since the DVDs were first released, but now I can't help but see him as a whiny, egocentric and deeply envious little man baby. Someone should have told him that this book would not do him any favours.
27 reviews
August 7, 2010
This book was horrible. According to Sean Astin he is like star trek, you have an enormous federation of starships yet for some reason there is only one competent crew in the whole fleet. Astin walks around as gods gift to acting except other than LOTR he has been doing bit jobs. Hard to claim you are some acting genius when the cast of iCarly has had more success than you.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,432 reviews543 followers
June 23, 2014
I loved the Lord of the Rings movies and thought Astin was well-cast as Samwise, so I went into this memoir expecting to like it. Alack! Instead Astin comes across as self-pitying, self-aggrandizing, and self-absorbed and there are few tidbits about the LotR movies to make up for it.
Profile Image for Chelsea Frandsen.
11 reviews1 follower
January 13, 2023
Biased disclaimer one: I am a theatrical artist. An actor/director/writer who has had to work to achieve all that I have achieved so far. Working in the stage and screen industry is hard--REALLY hard. Never mind Hollywood or Broadway, "making it" anywhere in the film and theatre industry is no easy feat.

Biased disclaimer two: I have met Sean Astin. He is a very humble, down-to-earth conscientious "working actor". He is open and kind to everyone he meets and works with. Sure, he tends to worry a bit too much--as be very openly admits in this book--but to me, that's one of this strengths. He is also a family man, and the rare kind of artist that can balance fame wit being a "normal person" without coming across as two-faced.

Just to clear things up, this is not a "behind the scenes look at LOTR" per se; but it does give insight to what it was like participating in the films--from pre-production to red carpet of "Return of the King". The book is not called "behind the scenes of LOTR" it's called "an actor's tale" which means that Sean Astin gives us a mini-autobiography of his life before LOTR(like the fact that he put himself and his wife through college--ALL of college, BY HIMSELF; and what emerges pre-LOTR stiff is someone who even though he was raised in Hollywood, has figured out how to transition from "kid star" to "adult star" without too much drama.

Once he gets into the LOTR stuff, it gets better. Because not only do we get insight into shooting the films, we also get a specific actor's honest opinion of specific people, places, and things(ie, training, and pre-production bootcamp, plus the tattoos story)--which is very rare in this type of book. It was nice to get in the head of someone who cared so much about making this project--even if he did drive people a little nuts--and also to see that he wasn't the only one.

Yes, people who have read this book don't like it, and that's cool. As an artist myself, I appreciated this honest and (in my opinion) very conscientious and humble insight into the hard work that went into one of the best film trilogies of the 20th century.

Give this book a chance.
Profile Image for Jodie.
1,887 reviews
January 17, 2012
If I can only give you one piece of advice in this lifetime, it would be this...if you decide to undertake this reading adventure, you will want back the time that you invested. I started reading this thinking it could be an interesting behind the scenes thing and ended this book because it was me against Sean Astin. I was determined to finish this book even if it killed me! I consider myself a victor!
2 reviews
April 17, 2009
Blech. Don't waste your time. Very disappointing.
Profile Image for Graff Fuller.
1,236 reviews19 followers
September 9, 2021
I read this back in the mid-2000's (I believe). It was a wonderful book. Peter Jackson (and his casting director) really DID cast the best person to play, Samwise Gamgee.

I've only read this book once, but I may have to go back and read it again (play on the title). It really does deserve a reread.

I have so many great memories of reading this book and sharing in the adventure of an actor taking on this role, but feeling unprepared and anxious...that he was worthy of it.

Please read this book...it is SO good.
Profile Image for Mayda.
3,029 reviews57 followers
November 24, 2014
For fans of The Lord of the Rings series, this audio book is a must. Well written and well read by the author, Sean Astin gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the trilogy. Most interesting were his personal views on the getting the part of Samwise Gamgee and what he brought to that role. Also included are tidbits of what it was like to have two famous actors as parents. What was it like to spend nearly 2 years on set in New Zealand, filming three movies at one time? Sean Astin spares no details!
Profile Image for Suzie Quint.
Author 11 books146 followers
January 21, 2012
Can't imagine anyone writing a book that would make themselves look so small, mean and petty. Openly jealous of just about everyone, he even calls his mother's book "self-serving." The perfect guest for Maury Pauvich.
Profile Image for Melenia.
2,400 reviews6 followers
May 3, 2021
Edit: read twice back to back and love it even more!

Audio book.

I utterly adored this book!

Go listen to it!

That is all.
Profile Image for Christina.
14 reviews
March 16, 2022
I hate that it took me fourteen months to finish this book! The fact is my headaches can make it difficult to read actual books, and it was no fault of the book that it took so long.

I really enjoyed this one. Astin could be brutally honest, perhaps to a fault, but insightful. I appreciated how he laid it all out on the page, even if he didn't come across in a good light. He grew up in Hollywood, and it was refreshing to see how wise he could be with people and past events. We all mess up. We can all be selfish, but he made a point to be respectful and kind when he apologized.

Of course, the central focus of the book was on Lord of the Rings, but learning about what lead him to the trilogy was just as important. This book has rekindled my interest in LOTR, with all of the tidbits and stories Astin shared.

I'm a little surprised to see so many negative reviews, but hey, maybe I am biased because he autographed my copy! Regardless of how you feel about him, this book gives you a window into him.
Profile Image for Lisa.
Author 5 books30 followers
August 8, 2020
Make that 3 and 1/2 stars. This book tells you all the inside scoop on much of the making of the LOTR movies (although Astin and Elijah Wood were off filming Frodo and Sam's parts, so there aren't many stories about the other actors and their experiences). Sam Gamgee is my favorite character in the trilogy. Astin spends the first third of the book describing his own career pre-Samwise, and it's interesting reading. The thing that drove me nuts about the book was the repeated format of the author detailing his own personal insecurities, feelings of entitlement, and feelings that he wasn't getting the attention or whatever he deserved, followed by an apology for feeling as he did or saying anything publicly about it, and acknowledging that he was wrong and everything turned out well enough in the end. By the umpteenth repetition of this pattern, it begins to sound like someone who offers an apology and then blames the recipient for doing what he did--like he's making excuses for bad behavior, even though he realizes the behavior was unwarranted, rather than accepting responsibility for his own mistake/personality quirks. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book (except when that pattern got to be too much). Also, the author sometimes assumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader about his other work, when the reader is obviously (and perhaps only) familiar with his performance as Sam. Astin did a wonderful job of portraying Sam; I can't imagine a better one. And the stories of the LOTR movies are fun. It's clear, however, that Sean Astin is still on the journey that we got to see Samwise Gamgee complete, from ordinary person to hero. And that's to be expected of a young actor whose personal journey is far from complete--Sam may have been there and come back again; Sean is still getting there and figuring out how to get back to his personal Hobbiton (not to mention the Grey Havens).
Profile Image for D..
681 reviews16 followers
June 11, 2010
This is basically Sean Astin's autobiography. The first 1/3 talks about his movie career prior to the LOTR movies, focusing mostly on ENCINO MAN forward. The last 2/3 is about the filming of LOTR and the aftermath of their release.

Astin primarily focuses on his emotional and philosphical challenges over the course of the book. He name-drops a lot of actors he worked with, drops and anecdote or two, and then over-analyzes their relationship.

Most of the book is Astin navel-gazing, actually. It gets hard to read him talking over and over again about how he wishes he could be closer to this person or that person, how he had his feelings hurt by this person, how there was a misunderstanding between them, etc. etc.

There ARE some interesting tidbits, particularly about his father, John Astin, and some funny moments with several of the actors during the LOTR, but I just kept wanting Sean to lighten up and ENJOY what he was doing. He's SO serious that he comes across as a whiney killjoy at times. Strangely, his autobiography was not self-serving AT ALL. In fact, several of the actors finally do wind up telling him basically to "lighten up," and I couldn't agree more.

A diverting read, but not a book I'll ever revisit.
Profile Image for Kellie.
1,243 reviews29 followers
June 18, 2012
I can't express how very much I enjoyed this. I remember being unsure about watching the LOTR films, because I had not read the books; however, Peter Jackson did such an awesome job bringing them to life that it was okay if you hadn't read the books beforehand.

I've been a fan of Sean Astin for years. I was absolutely fascinated by his tales of the filming of the trilogy, his relationships with his fellow actors, the people he met, his feelings, hopes, everything he experienced. It's always fun to hear about the behind-the-scenes stuff that only those that were there are privy to. I was captivated; I laughed, and yes, even shed a tear a time or two.

He has brought back the wonder of the films for me, and now I will be watching the entire trilogy again to relive it, with a new appreciation for the work that went into it, and for his performance as Samwise Gamgee.

I also have the book, and will eventually read that, since this audiobook was in abridged form. Who knows what I missed?!!????
Profile Image for Meri.
444 reviews44 followers
June 24, 2007
This was a very interesting peek into the journey of making the Lord of the Rings. I kind of wanted more juicy stuff on the actors, and not so much Sean's own personal acting career, but hey - it's his book.
Profile Image for Erin.
242 reviews
August 9, 2008
I don't like Sean Astin anymore. I always thought of him as similar to the characters he plays...not so. He is in fact a fame-hungry, whiny, conceited person. I thought this book would show some cool behind-the-scenes looks into the movies he's been in, but he spent most of the time complaining about the credit he wasn't getting. This was an eye-opener for me.
Profile Image for Erik Nelson.
1 review
November 17, 2012
The title is really disingenuous, as I was expecting a first-hand recount of making The Lord of the Rings movies. Instead it's a self-pity fest by Astin, featuring whining about his mediocre career and slagging others that he's worked with.

I never thought I'd pick 'whiny' as the single word to describe a book, but here I am.
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