Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin continues to live in New Zealand, even though his days playing heroic hobbit Samwise Gamgee are done. Now, he's shooting scenes as the poet/bard Linus in Hercules, an NBC miniseries slated for next May. He still has LOTR on his mind, however, having just published his new book, There and Back Again: An Actor's Story. Naturally, Astin borrowed the title from Bilbo Baggins' autobiography. He also shared some opinions his costars are unhappy about.TV Guide Online: Congrats on your new book. Is it a behind-the-scenes diary of your LOTR days?
Sean Astin: No. It's just me trying to give voice to some thoughts and feelings that I had. I'm trying, in some way, to place myself in Hollywood history. As a second-generation actor whose parents [Patty Duke and John Astin] were popular cultural icons in the '60s, and someone trying to make my way in the industry, I'm just trying to say, "Hey, I'm standing up and want to be counted." TVGO: So it's an autobiography.
Astin: It's nominally a Lord of the Rings memoir. But to have people really understand what I was thinking and feeling about that, I felt like I needed to explain how I was trying to build my professional career at the time. It's a little coarse and a little abrasive in parts, but it's honest and it's from my heart and I think there's value in it. TVGO: "Coarse and abrasive"? Does that mean you complain about people and conditions on the set?
Astin: It's not so much complaining about others as sharing how I experienced my journey. The frustrations I felt were largely a function of my own inability to cope sometimes. TVGO: What provoked your inability to cope? Was filming too tough physically or mentally?
Astin: You've got to read the book. It's 308 pages of me trying to express why it was a little more difficult experience for me than it should have, would have or could have been. TVGO: You've been concerned that Sam would be construed as a fat, comical figure.
Astin: It's way beyond that. It just has to do with where my mind-set was at when I went into the film. People who read it and stood in line for hours and hours and hours to get a book signed [have] expressed appreciation for my willingness to share my insecurities, fears and doubts. Being fat for so long was really hard on me. It took a toll on everything... my personality, my self-image, my body chemistry. TVGO: Are any LOTR colleagues angry with you?
Astin: I'm sure some people have experienced anger, but nobody has communicated that directly to me. I'm sure that some people have been disappointed and frustrated, but I don't think anybody's been mortally hurt. I think that my friendships, professional relationships and alliances are fine. TVGO: There's long been talk of a film adaptation of The Hobbit. Think Peter Jackson will make the movie?
Astin: Yeah, I do. I'd like to play Gaffer Gamgee, Sam's father. TVGO: Will your book endanger that?
Astin: I hope not. I say in the dedication that The Lord of the Rings was the most profound personal and professional experience of my life, other than getting married and having kids. I dedicate it to the filmmakers and cast and crew. People who read the book understand where I'm coming from. People who read excerpts from the book — I don't know what they think of me. I read a news article yesterday that shocked me. I'm disappointed that it was characterized in a way that I thought missed the truth of what was in it. The book exists for people who can't get enough [of LOTR]. It can be a little buzzkill, actually, for people who just want to live in a mythological environment. I recommend those people not buy it and read it. But if they want to understand it more, I offer 308 pages of some other additional points of view. TVGO: So despite the book, you're still friends with your cast mates?
Astin: More than friends. We're family.
For much more Lord of the Rings dish, read the current issue of TV Guide magazine — and keep an eye on TV Guide Online's Insider!