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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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04/02/2005 Archived Entry: "Book Review: There and Back Again"

There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale
By Sean Astin
Published by St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0312331460
308 Pages, $24.95

Reviewed by Laurel Sutton

I now know more about Sean Astin than I ever wanted to know. Not a judgment, just an observation.

I thought Astin was brilliant in the Lord of the Rings movies, just the right blend of common sense, rustic arrogance, and unflinching bravery needed to make Sam the hero of Tolkien's books. You know that, right? That Sam is the hero? Frodo, by comparison, is a whiny holier-than-thou wanker. Notwithstanding Elijah Wood's big blue eyes, Frodo is so very tiresome. And Sam gets the last line (indeed, the last spoken line) in the trilogy possibly the best closing line in 20th century literature. It makes me teary every time I read that last scene.

Anyway, Astin's book. Mostly it's about his experiences making the LOTR movies, which is really the only reason anyone would buy it. I mean, he's the son of famous parents, but aside from these movies he hasn't done anything earthshaking (yet). He's clearly got a long career ahead of him including, as he says several times in the book, holding public office - and by the time he's 60 he'll probably have loads of great stories to tell. For now, you'll have to settle for some low-level gossip about his co-stars (Ian McKellan stole his makeup artist! Elijah Wood smokes clove cigarettes! Christopher Lee was mad that his scenes were cut from ROTK!) and some fairly interesting glimpses of what it was like to work for Peter Jackson for three years. A good afternoon read.

I gotta say, though, riding Astin's emotional roller coaster does get tiresome. Never having read the books, Astin didn't know who Sam was or how important he was to the soul of the story, or that Sam only realizes his strength over the course of the quest. So he spent a lot of time worrying about Sam coming off like a buffoon and not having as much screen time as the other characters in the first two movies. This problem could have been easily solved if he had just READ THE DAMN BOOKS before he started the movie! Or, failing that, he could have hired a rabid Tolkien fan (like me) to explain it all to him and tell him in no uncertain terms that yes, Samwise Gamgee is in fact the goddamn hero. And that he should've been nominated for an Oscar.

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