When Sean Astin Went From Goonie to Hobbit

Eric Charbonneau/Berliner Studio/BEI Images

"I don't know if anyone could have anticipated that 30 years later, people would still be screening the movie all over the  country"

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's AFM Daily on Nov. 6.

By the time Sean Astin took his first trip to the American Film Market in 1990 at age 19, he'd already been acting for nearly a decade. He'd gotten his start in the 1981 ABC Afterschool Special Please Don't Hit Me, Mom in which he played an abused child opposite his real-life mother, Patty Duke. But it was the role of Mikey in 1985's The Goonies that put him on the map.

The film's success makes you "stop and think," Astin, now 43, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I don't know if anyone could have anticipated that 30 years later, people would still be screening the movie all over the  country."

While Astin starred in other memorable films post-Goonies (including 1993's Rudy), the Steven Spielberg-produced film remained his biggest box-office hit, at $61 million domestically, until Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films. The trilogy, in which Astin played hobbit Samwise Gamgee, went on to gross nearly $3 billion worldwide. "Most of the people I know think they're pretty good movies," says Astin. "People want to work with actors who have been a part of something special to them, so for the rest of my life I'll be able to work with filmmakers because they'll study Lord of the Rings."

Astin will be back at AFM this year with The Surface, an independent film that deals with issues of "suicide and depression, issues [nobody] can avoid," he says. Of his experiences at the market, says the actor, now a married father of three: "There's something about standing behind a curtain in a room like in The Wizard of Oz, listening to different reps from different territories haggle over the price — like it's some sort of new liquid tonic they're going to bring for their people."

Astin also hopes to return to AFM in a few years to sell his first feature, an adaptation of Lois Lowry's best-selling children's book Number the Stars. "It will be a huge international title," says Astin, "and I'm sure that everyone at AFM will be clamoring for it — at least that's the dream I tell myself at night."

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