Ringer Spy Shawna writes:

Never let it be said that Sean Astin doesn’t go the extra mile for fans. Low on sleep from two days of driving for the Toyota Pro/Celeb race in Long Beach, he came to Denver’s Starfest just for the day, to do a couple of autograph sessions and an afternoon talk.

Here’s what I remember of the talk-quotes where I could manage them from recorded snippets and notes. I didn’t catch it all, I’m afraid.

He came out to wild applause, posed a little, and got some cheers and whistles when he (quite sexily!) took his jacket off. He talked about needing a caffeine hit because he’d just gotten up at 4am to fly in from Long Beach (and later mentioned he was flying back to LA the same day.) Said Denver fans were all very nice and welcoming. He wasn’t wearing shoes, and explained, as he said he told his wife on the phone that afternoon, that he just wanted some freedom, and he was a hobbit anyway! He briefly showed his tattoo, saying it was all over the place anyway, and mentioned his website, which was apparently familiar to a small but healthy contingent.

He first talked about his book about his LOTR filming experience (“There and Back again, an Actor’s Tale,” which is coming out in October), and how that got set up. He said he felt it necessary to write it all down, because people were always asking him about whether it was fun to film, and he said it was like asking someone “so, how were the 70’s for you?” He said he hopes maybe his book will find a place on people’s bookshelves along with all the other LOTR editions and companion volumes, along with Andy’s book. (He also mentioned-I don’t remember if it was an audience question or something previous he was referencing–someone asking him about what it was like to work with a CG character, and he said “I wouldn’t know. I worked with Andy.”)

He talked about the Oscars, and how people say he was robbed of a nom, but he said he always tells people he’s proudest of the ensemble SAG award (and rightly so!)

He talked about upcoming projects: Celebrity Poker on Bravo, and a mother’s day special on 20/20 (or was it Dateline? 😉 ) with his mom. Said the program was emotional, honest, and that he felt “stupefied that I was a part of American cultural life this way.”

He talked about his recent film projects-Slipstream, which he filmed in South Africa last year, and Smile, where he plays a teacher who encourages a student to work with disfigured children in China. He mentioned that he and his family were just in Shanghai last weekend, watching the last bits of filming for that project, and how thrilled he was that people recognized him even over there. He also talked about being disappointed on losing out on the directing job for Fantastic Four, but that he’s very interested in doing a comic book adaptation sometime, now that he’s had the epiphany of what makes them so great, and he said Marvel has assured him that he’ll get a chance to direct something for them soon. He also talked about his work with the Presidents council on service and civic participation, and about volunteerism, and how his current pet cause is literacy, and about how important it is to read to your children. He also said he recently met one of his idols, Jimmy Carter, and that he hoped he might be helping out with one of Carter’s Habitat for Humanity projects.

The first audience question was about the ideals that Sam represented-friendship, loyalty, etc. Some very nice quotes here about that:

“I just love the idea of friendship. Part of what I go into in the book is that now that I’m sort of this-as the actor who portrayed Sam who is arguably sort of the sort of quintessence of the ideal of friendship, now I’m sort of an ambassador for that. So it’s really just a matter of time until I screw up bad enough to not be worthy of that. (pauses) It might have just happened!”

“But no, I love that idea, and I liked sort of affecting it off-camera as well as living it on-camera in character. Just trying to be that friend to Elijah. (pauses) Um.. yeah.. I mean.. It’s not like he needed a mentor or protector he’s a pretty self-sufficient and forward-looking individual and um.. but I just liked the idea of doing it so I did it. Y’know, get him stuff and bring him stuff-at least for the first half of filming. Then he was like “can you bring that over here?”– “no!”

“There’s a lot of different Sams in the book. It’s almost hard to imagine sometimes that it’s the same character. The one who’s so instantly afraid, or bursts into tears, or quivers that he’s going to get turned into something unnatural by Gandalf, that it’s the same guy who picks up Frodo and says ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.’ (applause) Is that the same character?”

“The ideas about the character that resonated the most with me were those heroic things. Despite the fact that I was getting ever more portly, I still in my heart and in my consciousness, I wanted to believe that I, Sean, was able to play a heroic part, so those were the qualities that I gravitated towards. To the extent that I’m able to manifest or resonate with those ideas in a way that feels authentic to myself and to the filmmaker and to an audience is my great benefit as a human being to be able to enjoy that space. So it was my determination to honor it and to try and not to disappoint.”

He got a question from someone about his experience of directing Angel, and what it was like to come into an already-established team like that. Sean explained how he got the job, and how there was definitely a sense of established history and protocol there, and how it felt to be the new guy on set telling everyone what to do.

Another fan presented him with a gold rabbit statue [Edit: The statue we gave him from the Misty Mountain Smial is the order of the Golden Coney. — Scott McKenzie, Misty Mt. Smial] (complete with backpack full of pots and pans), as a replacement for the Oscar he should’ve gotten. He was delighted, and decided he should give an Oscar speech:

“I’d like to thank the Misty Mountain Smile for acknowledging my work in this film. I really can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined this.” (lots of laughs)

He told a cute story about how his mom put her Oscar and her statue of Bill and Sam close to each other, hoping the Oscar would bring luck.

He continued with his “Oscar speech”: “I’d like to thank my wife. They always thank their wife. I REALLY understand why they thank their wife. My wife is the most patient person in the history of the planet!”

He then talked about how, if he’d won at the Oscars, he’d have started his acceptance speech with the line “I’m happy to accept my party’s nomination…”

His next question was from someone who asked him what it was like meeting June Lockhart, who was one of his co-stars on the episode of Las Vegas he was on. He talked a little bit about his character on that show– “loveable, but an idiot”-and seemed like he’d had a lot of fun with it. He said he didn’t work with June much, but found her delightful, and mentioned that she rather enjoyed the risque scene she had (she was surrounded by male strippers) He said he always was amused that young people found things like that shocking, as if they’d forgotten where they came from! He said he enjoyed meeting June, and connecting with her on a generation-to-generation of actors level.

His last question was from a woman (with a very shy child who couldn’t quite get the courage to say hello to Sean) who asked about how Sean felt about Tolkien wanting to create a mythological history of England. After admitting (to some shock-apparently some people don’t watch the DVD extras!) that he hadn’t even heard of Tolkien before hearing about the film project (he said blame his college and his parents!) he talked about how he finds it fascinating that the mythology Tolkien created is being re-created in derivative forms, such as the movies, and in things like fan-created works (he mentioned that he collects fanart) and how technology is helping that process along.

He finished his talk by signing a big poster that all the celebs at the con had signed that was to be auctioned off. He decided he’d sign his name with several different pens, apparently how presidents sign bills, and made the fantasy complete by sitting down at the table on the stage to do it, and acting quite Presidential!

I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, so perhaps someone else will report in, but in general, I think it was a great talk. None of the questions were silly, and Sean’s responses were all very well-thought-out. It was nice to see him in a setting where he could go in-depth into his thoughts about something instead of having to come up with a soundbite. It’s a pity there wasn’t more time-there were a lot of people lined up to ask questions who didn’t make it-but overall, it was a great talk. I highly recommend seeing him do one of these live if you can, preferably when he’s just on his own and has plenty of time to ramble.