The Sean Astin Experience at GenCon 2003
Poppy Hilldweller writes:
I had the great fortune to attend gencon along with 12 other wonderful women from bitofearth.net. We were of many different ages and backgrounds, from all over the country and even the world, united by our love for Samwise Gamgee and our admiration for the actor who brought him to life. Needless to say, our primary motivation was not gaming. The consensus by all at the end of the weekend was that it exceeded our expectations, that Sean Astin is one the most, if not THE most generous, considerate, loving, genuine (not to mention GORGEOUS) human beings we have ever met, and that Sam fans are the most delightful fans to be around because we all have a bit of Sam in us (we aren’t at all biased, of course).
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I just want to share a few personal highlights to go along with the reports that will role in. The Hobbitwraiths, as we Samiacs call ourselves, were first in line Sat. morning at Decipher for Sean’s first autograph session. Laden with gifts such as books for Sean’s girls, an Indy Moot Search for Squee” t-shirt, and a beautiful photo album from Project Elanor (the charity project Sean participated in with bitofearth.net last April), we anxiously waited in line for an hour, hardly containing our excitement. Sean came across as so very genuinely happy to meet us, pleased with his gifts, and without the help of his faithful and funny assistant and the gencon staff, would surely have had a conversation with each and every one of us while hundreds of others waited their chance to meet him.
When I introduced myself to Sean and explained my background involvement in Project Elanor as the travel coordinator (I didn’t get to attend the event myself), I was rewarded with a warm hug and did I mention how gorgeous this man is. I gave him the gifts for his girls, talked a bit about how wonderful it is to have a dad who reads to you, and was, much to my delight and surprise, given another completely unexpected hug cheek to cheek. I couldn’t help myself I kissed the man on the cheek without even thinking about it. It was simply instinct. Sorry Christine, no harm intended (as I had to explain to my husband when he saw the picture).
The rest of our group had similar experiences and we all melted into a puddle of pathetic fangirl squee on some conveniently placed beanbags where we reviewed the photos and the videos. Many of us stood in other lines to meet Sean again during the day, as well as John Rhys-Davies and Brad Dourif. Because we were limited to autographs on decipher products at the decipher line, I stood in line again at the Guest of Honor booth to have Sean sign my giant Sam & Frodo poster from TTT. I was delighted that he agreed to take a group photo with the hobbitwraiths after the Q&A. Sean also mentioned that there would be a special treat after the Q&A for a couple of fans we all knew from Portland.
Being the outspoken member of our group, I got to spend a bit of time at the mic asking questions on behalf of our group and John’s Q&A. I asked him my favorite question for LOTR actors what do you wish fans would ask you rather than the same questions you always get? He really seemed to enjoy the question because he went on for about 10 minutes about what Tolkien’s story means to him in our contemporary world, how he feels our culture is in crisis because we have lost our moral center, and his concern about the rise of radical fundamentalism. I enjoyed hearing about John’s values and commitments, and feel that I know much more about him now than I did before. I also told John, since he had joked about people only wanting Orli’s phone number from him, that there were some of us who did not fancy elves at all, but thought that dwarves were quite hot. John in his Gimli voice invited me to join him back stage following the session. This did not surprise me at all, considering nearly every woman who gets an autograph from John also receives a hug and a saucy tickle. Watch out, ladies. Finally, I asked John if he had any good stories on Sean Astin that we could tease him about during his Q&A. I think John accused me of being a saucy hobbit, and then couldn’t come up with any dirt at all. In fact, he spent the next several minutes praising Sean, his family, and making wonderful predictions that you have all heard by now about Sean’s future Oscar award, presidency of SAG, and governorship of California.
When Sean came on stage, he really hammed it up, kissing John’s feet. John introduced him to us repeating all the praise he had earlier rendered and adding future candidate for president of the United States.” I think Sean blushed at all this, but he also pumped his fist Rudy fashion in the air.
I hope there will be a transcript from Sean’s Q&A soon (one of the hobbitwraiths is working on it) because Sean was completely marvelous (no, I’m not biased). When asked which characters in film he was most like and most unlike, he spoke about Rudy as the character who he most identifies with (because of Rudy’s single-minded commitment and passion), and his character Greg from Where the Day Takes You (a drug addict and run-away) as the one he was most unlike. He stated that Sam was a better person than he was (hard for me to believe, Sean).
One of the hobbitwraiths asked Sean to elaborate on a recent quote in AICN in which he spoke of the scene on Mt. Doom with Frodo as his most sacred acting experience. Sean did elaborate, at length, and there were many wet eyes in the house by the end of his answer. I’m not going to try to summarize what he said other than it dealt with his struggles over the years crying on cue and controlling those tears once the crying began. He spoke of the scene with Elijah as his graduation from graduate school in acting. He said it was a God” moment. I can’t wait for the transcript of this there will be quotes there that you will want to save.
I was excited to be able to ask the next question, especially because he had spoken of a God” moment. I told him that he has always come across to me as a very spiritually centered person, and could he speak about how he saw himself spiritually. Sean seemed very thoughtful about the question and talked about his experience of God and love in the universe, especially in the birth of his daughters and in his family in general. He also spoke about his parent’s religious background, John Astin’s embrace of Buddhism later in life, Mackenzie’s spiritual journey which involved Eastern mysticism, and the comfort his family had received from a community of Catholic sisters at the death of his sister (I must admit I wasn’t aware that Sean had a sister). Sean summarized by saying that he was very open to God and the universe and was committed to always growing.
One thing that really moved me was that as Sean began answering my question, he said, without me even bringing it up, that he remembered a letter I had written him (as part of the bitofearth.net’s Red Book project). Can you imagine someone who receives as much fan mail as Sean does remembering a single letter he received? I will treasure that for a very long time. Sean thanked me for my question, but it is he who deserves the thanks for being so warm, personal, and genuine with his fans.
After the Q&A, Sean took a picture with our group back stage. He looks a bit scared in it, but who can blame him, being surrounded by women who adore him, traveled so far to meet him, and generally pestered him all weekend. Sean then treated us to a special scene. A fan whom he had met through Project Elanor had asked Sean to propose on his behalf to another Project Elanor participant, both of whom we knew. Sean gladly obliged, and announced to us all “she said yes!” He then told us “I think she is crying.” He then got on the phone with the lucky groom, congratulated him, asked for the date of the wedding, and said that though he couldn’t promise to be there, he expected an invitation. I hope that moment tells you more about the kind of human being Sean is than anything else I said in this report.
Thanks to John and Brad for being so warm to all the fans, thanks to the great folks at Decipher for putting up and being so helpful to our flock of squealing fangirls, thanks to Sean for being the best person I could ever imagine being a fan of, and thanks to all the wonderful ladies of bitofearth.net who made the weekend one I will never forget. Fandom can truly be a wonderful thing.