Longtime reader, first time blah-blah. I was at a charity showing of The Two Towers this evening, which featured a special appearance by Sean Astin, who also showed his short film, “The Long and the Short of it.” The showing was a charity for Reading is Fundamental, and the entire ticket price went to it. Sean Astin was originally going to be in town helping with Project Elanor, which was going to convert an old parking lot into a reading garden for children. Since he was going to be in town, this charity screening was also arranged. BTW, I’m not involved with Project Elanor at all, but I figured it needed an explanation.

Before I get into the evening’s events, though, I have to get this off my chest. Regal Cinemas was originally going to have this charity event in a theater that seated only 300 people. A massive email-writing campaign then occurred where we all wrote to Regal to say that we were sure we could get 700 people to fill the larger, much better theater across the street. Apparently, Regal received over 900 emails. They naturally switched it to the big theater. But then it seemed like little more than half of the people actually showed up! I could tell the theater manager was disappointed, even though he said they had raised $3,000 for the charity, we all knew that it was supposed to be a packed house, and that it should have raised $5,600 ($8 per ticket X 700 seats, and Regal didn’t take any cut of it, either). Anyway, that aspect was awfully disappointing.

Anyway, on to the stuff. Sorry if this is a bit abbreviated, but it’s 1 AM, and my brain usually shuts down around 10 PM.

There was a short intro by the theater manager, and then Sean arrived, walking down from the back of the theater. He’s definitely lost all the Sam-fat, and is looking a bit on the buff side.

One of the first things he did was lead the entire theater in a Happy Birthday song to a young girl in the audience (I think she was involved with Project Elanor as well, but I’m not sure).

He made a few opening remarks, but seemed eager to show the short film first. I won’t go over the short film, as most people have probably seen it on the internet already, but there was one interesting note he made. He said that he had been somewhat taken with the wombats in Australia, and was wondering how he could combine wombats with the face of one of the gaffers on LOTR (sorry, don’t remember the name). Well, of course, there aren’t any wombats in his film, but the large poster that the three people are putting up in the film is a fake advertisement for an automobile dubbed “The Wombat.”

A tidbit about the short film: “The Long and the Short of it” will make it onto one of the Two Towers DVD’s coming out (I think on the theatrical version), along with an 8-10 minute “Making Of” special!

What was his favorite film to work on? Either THE GOONIES (filmed here in Oregon, out at Astoria and Cannon Beach), or RUDY.

What characteristics of his co-stars most surprised him? He had a couple, but the only one I remember was that “Christopher Lee is really funny.”

What is his favorite moment in the films? I don’t remember the exact answer, but he did append “I can’t wait to fight a spider!” to it.

What is his favorite film in the LOTR trilogy? Of course he said he hasn’t seen ROTK yet, but he expects that one to be his favorite of the three. And we will definitely see the Grey Havens. Frankly, I’m surprised people keep asking about it, because its easy enough to find the footage where Peter Jackson explains that it is his favorite part!

He was asked by one young girl if she could get a hug. This was kinda funny to watch, because of course he wants to give us whatever we want, but then he’d have to hug everyone in the theater. So instead he offered to hug three “ambassadors” from the audience (one from each section of the theater, one of whom was the birthday girl). He ended up hugging a fourth person in the front row.

He was asked about his involvement in Project Elanor, to which he gave a rather lengthy explanation that roughly sums up to “I would like to do whatever I can, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant to make this world a better place for us and our children.”

He was extremely gracious, almost to a fault, in that he was really trying to answer everyone’s questions, but of course, people’s hands just kept popping up, and he couldn’t answer them all. He wasn’t going to stay for the Two Towers, as he was going to take his wife and daughter out to dinner. He stayed for a long time, though, answering questions (sometimes the same questions). At one point his cel phone went off, and he explained that it was his wife, and he was going to have to wrap things up soon, and then he kept answering peoples questions! Finally, his wife and daughter actually showed up at the theater to drag him away! It was pretty cute, because his daughter ran right up to him in front of everybody, and did the “impatient child waiting for her parent” kind of dance, sometimes running in circles around Sean. At this point he had been talking for almost an hour, and he finally closed the questions, gave the three “ambassadors” hugs, and left the theater to a standing ovation.

So then the Two Towers started up. Now you have to understand that this crowd seemed to be made up of approximated 75% women/young girls, and about 25% men/young boys. The result was that pretty much anytime any of the central male characters showed up on screen, they were greeted by short Beatle-esque screams and cheers. The largest cheer was expected to be for Sam, of course, when he showed up for the first time, but I actually think Merry and Pippin got the biggest cheers of the evening. They actually cheered pretty much everything when it showed up. There was even a cheer for the first shot of the Eye of Sauron. There was also a cheer for the statue of Helm Hammerhand at Helm’s Deep!

The only time I’d ever seen this level of audience enthusiasm and involvement was actually at a sneak preview screening of THE ROCKETEER, of all things. That audience was made up largely of older men who had obviously loved the comic and series when they were kids, and loved seeing it get the big special effects treatment. But I digress…

The cheering was kind of fun initially, but it wore thin pretty quick, especially when they KEPT cheering for characters, even when they had already been introduced. One guy finally yelled “SHUT-UP!!!” which worked for about 5 minutes.

The other thing that started happening was that people started to yell back at the screen, of which I remember two instances:

ARAGORN to EOWYN: “What do you fear, my lady?”

(I’m not sure if Miranda Otto has ever played a clown-phobic character before, or if this was just an oddball comment).

THEODEN: “Saruman’s arm will have grown long indeed if he thinks he can reach us here.”

Like I said, this all got old pretty quick, and about halfway through the movie, they stopped the movie and the lights came up. There was a pause before the theater manager came out and first thanked everyone for the attendance and the enthusiasm, but also to quiet down, as there were some people here who had not yet seen the movie, himself included. How you are a theater manager and somehow miss a movie like this, I’m not sure. Anyway, he told us this was not “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and that we should just quietly enjoy the movie. The audience was pretty good after that, though it made Galadriel be the only character who didn’t get a cheer. That may also have been because she turned into Jennifer Lopez for a minute in the last movie (you know, the part where Frodo offers her the ring). Oh well.

Anyway, the rest of the evening passed with little news, other than the occasional scream/cheer/yelp from various parts of the audience.


The evening started of at 5:37, when Sammi and I drove to the theater where maybe 100 people were standing in line in the rain. Luckily, we were under an overhang, so we didn’t get wet. At 5:56, we ran into Chelsea, who I hadn’t seen for two years. That was exciting. The three of us talked about bloopers, orgasm faces, and RotK. At 6:37, two orange cones were set out. At 6:41, a white limo made its way down the street across the park. The three of us shrieked, but no one else saw it. At 6:55, we entered the theater. I had sent my money in by check, but they didn’t have the list with our names on it, so I had to pay for another ticket. C’est la vie. At 7:00, I got in; Sammi had scored two seats by the roped-off row in the middle. Score!

At 7:33, Sean arrived. People started chanting ‘Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!’ until the whole theater was doing it. Rock. He spent a few minutes talking about his family, thanking people (he referred to ‘Team Astin…some people don’t know they’re in it, but they are’), and thanking his family ‘for not leaving yet.’ He mentioned that his youngest daughter has a birthday tomorrow, and couldn’t remember if it was her seventh-or eighth-month birthday. ‘She’s still spitting up, if that means anything,’ he said. He then went on to introduce his film, ‘The Long And The Short Of It,’ telling about how he bounced the story idea off of Dom while shooting the Khazad-dum sequence. When the crew went back for secondary photography, he shot it in six hours using available cameras. He talked about how glad he was to showcase the people who we don’t really see, like the size doubles. The film was shown; people applauded like crazy, esp. the last credit, which read: ‘PS: I love you, Christine.’ What a guy. After the film, some weird, ‘Rudy’-like music came up, and he started running in slo-mo and mimed catching a football.

Then the Q and A started. He talked a bit about BK, the infamous Indian size double, playing chess and talking politics on a helicopter shoot. A man asked, ‘What characteristics of the cast members were most surprising?’ Sean said, ‘Christopher Lee is funny. [pause] Elijah’s, like, a hundred years old.’ He then told the story about how he mimicked Sallah around John Rhys-Davies until JRD came up to him and said, ‘You know, that borders on parody.’ (It’s on the DVD.) He also said that JRD’s ‘political ideologies are a little farther right then Attila the Hun’s.’ Ouch! A little boy asked about the foot injury, and Sean called it a ‘gnarly cut’ and mimed Elijah playing with the blood clot. A woman asked what the hardest part of being in LotR was, and he said emphatically, ‘I was *so* fat.’ A girl asked about the episode he directed for Angel, and Sean said that he really enjoyed episodic television, and that he was upset that Joss wasn’t around much, so Sean didn’t get to ‘soak up any of his brain juice.’ I asked him who his favorite character was, and he said that it was Treebeard, because of the theme of nature rising up against industry. He tangented about Tolkien and the Industrial Revolution, and wowed the crowd (or at least me) with his intelligence and eloquence. His cellphone went off in the middle of it, however, and he said that it was his wife telling him to wrap things up. Apparently, he wouldn’t be staying for the movie. After the call was over, he fielded a few more questions: his favorite part of RotK, he said, is ‘[fancy sword move] fighting a giant spider.’ Take it from me: Sean Astin fencing is quite the breathtaker. One of my favorite parts of the evening came next, when a boy asked him who his favorite cast member is, he instantly said, ‘Elijah.’ Next, a girl asked him what Orlando’s number is. ‘310’-not! No.’ Intelligent and droll’-be still, my heart. After that, Christine and the kids came out to much applause (Allie, by the way, is too adorable for words). He talked a bit more about Portland and Project Elanor, then called up three kids, one from each section of the theater, to give a hug to.

Now the fun part. Sammi and I ran up the aisle, out of the theater, and out of the building to try and catch Sean as he was getting into his limo. Now the amazing part. We looked down the side of the building and there he was. Just talking to the theater manager, not another fan in sight. We sprinted down the sidewalk, and a guard moved in front of us; we slowed down to a walk and started laughing. The guard stepped aside and grinned. Sean looked up, smiled hugely, and said, ‘Hi!’ We, of course, were a bunch of nerves, and so muttered something about a picture and autographs. Sean said he’d love to, so we handed the camera to the manager. We posed (Sean has his arms around our shoulders, squee), and then he signed our books. Then, as if the evening could get any better, he noticed that the guard was holding back another group of fans and laughed. ‘Oh, so you’re only letting the pretty girls in, is that it?’ he said. After that, he got into the limo with Christine and the kids, and we went back into the theater accompanied by death looks from the other fans.


I am called HobbitLovr, Line Party Leader in Salem Oregon, Barrel Rider, Ring wearer…. well you get the idea. 😉 I’m writing to tell you about the Sean Astin appearance in Portland last night. I saw him up close and personal and it was wonderful! I and my ringer friends were one of the first few in line at the theater, and had to wait 3 hrs in cold wintery weather, but mingling with other cloaked and furry footed Middle Earth lovers is always part of the fun, and being there early paid off, because we were right up front, about 10 feet from where Sean stood.

He produced and directed a short film called “The Long and Short of it” and introduced the film, then sat down to watch it with us, and sat in the one empty seat in the front right by us!

His talk was so intimate and personal. He spoke to us for an hour and 15 minutes, most of which was Q & A with the audience. He is so much like Sam Gamgee in real life. Such a NICE guy! He even had his wife and kids there, and Sean had them come out so we could see them too. At the end his older daughter came and stood up there with him and was doing cute things, like dancing circles around him, while he talked.

It was just so heart warming to spend an evening with Sean Astin, really getting to know him. He didn’t use a microphone, didn’t need it. It was a small cozy group. I don’t think there was any advertisement other than what TORN and posted. So not many people knew about it, just us true fans. 😉

As Sean did Q & A one girl asked “Can I have a hug?” and so he agreed to hug one person from each section of the audience. He was very sweet and accommodating. Later a little 8 year old girl sitting in the front row asked the question “Was it really heartbreaking the scene where Sam fights Shelob to save Frodo” and Sean said, “The most heartbreaking scene is closer to the end, but you look like you have a big heart and can take it” then he motioned to her to come forward and he gave her a big hug! He was just SO SWEET!!!!

He talked a lot about the ROTK, as many people asked questions about that. He said he hasn’t seen it yet, but he’s sure it will be his favorite of the three films.

He talked a lot about the other cast members, telling things about them that made the audience laugh. He said “of course Elijah is a thousand years old” and “Chrisopher Lee is a very funny man” … he talked about his foot injury, and told other little stories around the making of the movies. He spoke very highly of his wife and children, and said the best part of making the movies was having them nearby.

He said his favorite scene (of Sam) was fighting Shelob, and gave us a short physical preview of that swordplay. He added taht he actually filmed that scene 4 years ago!

When asked about pros and cons, he there were “no cons, only pros” but the worst part about filming LOTR was “being fat.”

He sure has thinned down since the making of the movies! He looked very handsome, dressed casually in jeans, plain black tshirt, and white sneakers. He had a cell phone in his pocket which rang once; it was his wife, asking him to wrap it up, after he had been talking for nearly an hour. 🙂

Someone asked if he thought they’d make a movie of the Hobbit and Silmarillion. He said he hopes they do The Hobbit, but doesn’t know how they would ever do the Sil. He said he was never able to read the Sil himself, kept trying, but never got further than three pages! Ha! I knew I wasn’t the only one! 😉

It was WONDERFUL! We weren’t allowed to take any pictures. They theater manager gave us a stern talking to about that beforehand. It’s a New Line Cinema agreement.

Today Sean will be participating in “Project Elenor” – the planting of a garden in Portland, where there once was a parking lot.

I got the impression that Sean has strong ideals. He said he feels that he’s only on this planet for a short time and wants to have as much positive influence on the world as possible while he is here.

It was wonderful seeing him! He was very personable, very friendly, warm, casual, very real… very much like the guy next door, and he treated everyone’s questions with respect and kindness, and gave us all an evening to remember!

River Daughter:

Let me say this…. Sean Astin is a really nice person. Didn’t get to meet him personally, he didn’t give us a real opportunity, and there were so many 14-17 year old girls there, I wouldn’t have stood a chance. But he talked to this audience as if it were a chat, not an ounce of pretension, and a lot of politely embarrassed discomfort when little girls made gushing swooning comments… No pictures were allowed. Y’all will have to just imagine it!

Let’s see, what happened… The important parts:

My stars! the man was buff! Tight black t-shirt… Pects… biceps! and a tan.

He came in prior to the showing and spoke for about an hour and half altogether, I think!…. Talked longer than he intended to in introduction of the short film, and then did a good hour of Q & A with the audience… Random things I can remember:

About Elijah Wood… He said “Elijah Wood is about a thousand years old”. …Second time I have heard someone describe him that way… Someone else who knows him said he was an “old soul”?

When asked about the ‘importance’ of acting, he recalled a time he was talking with Kathleen Turner about the importance of acting, and she had said, “We aren’t making wheat.” [pause].

But he talked about how much he enjoys acting and enjoys movies. Hard to describe this… talked about how an early acting coach had said “Tell the truth, make it real”. And how is own young daughter had come home and said her acting teacher had said “It’s all just make-believe” [slaps hand on forehead] HA!

Politics… He talked a lot about liking politics, but was subtle about expressing any real views. He said that he and his size double “BK”, in addition to playing lots of chess, talked politics all the time. BK called him “Mr. President”. HA! Perhaps he was hinting at aspirations. He said that he wished he had spent more time with John Rys Davies at the time, but that JRD had been so reclusive… He said JRD loved politics too, and was “just to the right of Attila the Hun”. HA! I think he is also trying to make a conscious decision to not become an “outspoken political actor”. I am sure he talks politics all the time in private, but he is visibly conflicted about what to say in a public setting. I can respect that!

When asked about his comments at the Oscars (reminder here ) He said that it was hard to go to those things, when the world is in such hard time…That he had debated with himself which pin to wear. He said he had an Army pin he almost wore, but in the end he wore his US Flag pin instead. He said, “I am proud of my country, and so many people want their voices to be heard right now, a lot was said that night [frown] and even on the way here I saw anti-war protestors” [shakes head] “I want my voice to be heard too… He talked about joining the President’s council on Volunteerism… A grey haired man in the audience yelled out “You are doing something good Sean!” And he got much *standing* applause.

Said he liked the concept of Treebeard, he said he liked the idea of the environment itself rising up to defend itself. “not out of radical environmentalism, but out of self-defense, trees that had been here long before us, and would remain long after us, the environment itself being strong.” Something like that.

Said was most surprised to meet and become so fond of Christopher Lee, because Lee is so nice.

Said he most looked forward to RoTK, but that he had not seen it yet. a tiny little voice in the front asked him if the ‘Choices of Master Samwise’ would be heartbreaking, and he said “yes… but the scene at the end would be even more heartbreaking. Then he looked at her for a long time, and said, “how old are you?” she said ‘8’. He said, “come here”, and gave her a hug. She must have looked very sad. It was sweet.

Then he looked like he wanted to say something about the end of RoTK, and asked if everyone had read the books. Almost everyone raised their hands. He asked who had not, and about 6 people raised their hands. He said he couldn’t say then, because he didn’t want to ruin the end if there were people who didn’t know…. [groans]

One person asked him for spoilers from RoTK… and he made a couple of sword motions and said “I get to fight a big spider!” Laughter. I think the audience wanted more than that!

Talked about how it was so hard to relate to the project as three different films, because they mixed them all up filming… he said the close-ups on Sam for a RoTK scene might be filmed one day, and then 8 or 9 months later, they would film the close-ups on Frodo for the same scene and they would have to watch the dailies to remember what it was.

When asked about how he seems so different than others in Hollywood with a nice stable family, he said that his marriage lasts because his wife is so patient (I think it is also because he is a nice husband) He said that when someone in show business marries someone in show business, their egos butt heads, and they are both on competing trajectories. He said if his wife ever wanted a trajectory of her own, that only then would he find out if he is as patient as she is.

He talked about wanted most to direct films… and about his film he will be making about the Texas storm.

His film is great, and I had seen it before… He uses the size doubles from LoTR to show how people can use their talents to work together. If you haven’t seen it, it is available here: The Long and Short of it (it is only about 5 min long, and downloadable in a couple resolutions)
Afterwards, I was impressed that many people asked him questions about it first, before getting right into LoTR questions. Some were there to see and appreciate what he was interested in, not just be LoTR fanatics!

My brother and I actually left before the film was over, right as the preparations for battle were beginning…. It was 11:00 then, and we were tired. The audience was told to pipe down part way through TTT… what started out as cheering when each lead actor appeared for the first time descended into a lot of Rocky Horror picture show type banter that was a bit much. Everyone there was a very eager fan, if perhaps there were many that were just young and too vocal… I am sure the movie got out after midnight. So even leaving when we did, we got home to Olympia about 2:15 am!

OH! – Almost forgot! – He was asked if PJ would do the Hobbit. He said it was complicated with the licensing, but that he hoped it would be done, because it was his favorite… he said “If PJ won’t do it, I might.”

It was a fun experience, and I am very glad I went. I do hope they got a break from the rain today to do the garden project!