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Sean Astin: Before And After Sam

In theaters for less than a month, the final installment of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Return of the King," already has taken in more than three quarters of a billion dollars worldwide.

Sean Astin is the subject of some Oscar talk for his emotional performance as hobbit Sam, who must help Frodo, played by Elijah Wood, carry the ring to Mount Doom and save Middle Earth.

The son of actors John Astin and Patty Duke, Astin notes, "My mom won an Oscar when she was a kid for (playing) Helen Keller, and I was nominated when I was 23 for a short film and my dad was nominated in the same category. We're sort of Oscar people, Academy people, but I think for the right reasons."

But he tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith what has been most rewarding to him is what his mom thinks of his performance.

Astin says, "She talked to me like an actor for the first time since I was 8 years old. She wanted to talk about craft and what moved her and what was honest. Instead of just the usual kind of pride and nodding look. She was so excited. So the Oscar talk thing is a double-edged sword. I look at myself as a journeyman kind of working-class actor. That's how I feel. And my agents and the town now are excited about getting on the phone because of the response they get on the other end of the phone when they're talking about it. For years it was, 'Oh, we love Sean, but…' Now they want to talk about it. So that makes it kind of meaningful to me."

About Sean Astin

  • Born Sean Patrick Duke in Santa Monica, Calif. on Feb. 25, 1971
  • Astin was portrayed as a character in the TV-movie "Call Me Anna" (ABC, 1990), based on his mother's autobiographical account of her victory over manic depression.
  • Made his first significant appearance in front of the cameras alongside his mother, portraying a battered child in the "Please Don't Hit Me, Mom", a 1981 "ABC Afterschool Special."
  • Four years later he was one of the treasure-hunting kids in "The Goonies" (1985) and went on to play the son of divorcing parents (Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner) in "The War of the Roses" (1989).
  • In 1990, was featured as a ball-turret gunner in "Memphis Belle" followed by the silly "Toy Soldiers" (1991) in which he starred as a misfit who saves the day when terrorists take over a posh private school. The following year, he was in the surprisingly successful "Encino Man" but it wasn't until his performance in "Rudy" (1993), a fact-based sports story about a "little quarterback who could", that Austin showcased his talent.
  • In the early '90s, Astin also formed a production company, Lava Entertainment, and branched out into filmmaking with the affecting short "On My Honor." One of his efforts, "Kangaroo Court" (1994) which examined race relations amid a legal backdrop, received an Academy Award nomination as Best Short Subject. (Interestingly, Astin's father was nominated in the same category for 1968's "Prelude".) He also directed himself in an episode of the HBO fantasy series "Perversions of Science" in 1997.
  • In 1995, Astin garnered critical praise for his turn as an intelligent and rebellious teen in a repressive society in the Showtime adaptation of "Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron" as well as for his gung ho soldier in "Courage Under Fire" (1996).
  • In 1998, he was a C-SPAN employee in the political comedy "Bulworth" and in 2000 proved effective as a redneck stranded in a snowbound diner with the US President during a crisis in the heavy-handed if intriguing "Deterrence."
  • Following a nice turn as an ambitious screenwriter in "The Last Producer" (USA Network, 2001), the actor was cast in what was his highest profile role to date, that of Samwise 'Sam' Gangee in Peter Jackson's highly-anticipated tripartite screen version of the J.R.R. Tolkein classic "The Lord of the Rings" (filmed in 1999-2000).
  • Released over a three-year period, Astin would grace movie screens each December beginning in 2001 with "The Fellowship of the Ring" and continuing with "The Two Towers" (2002) and "The Return of the King" (2003).
  • He is next starring opposite Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in the Sony comedy "Fifty First Dates," which will be released on Feb. 14, 2004. Astin will appear in the Showtime drama series "Jeremiah" this fall. Behind the scenes, Astin has directed an episode of "Jeremiah" and an episode of "Angel."
  • Astin has earned a degree in History/American Literature and Culture from UCLA.
  • He is married (his wife's name is Christine) and they have two daughters: Alexandra, 7 and Elizabeth, 1.
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