Smeagirl/Girllum writes: Hi, just got home from the Sean Astin signing at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in Manhattan. Wow, it was really amazing! He gave a fairly long speech before the signing, and I wasn’t recording or taking notes or anything so what I write here is only a tiny paraphrased percentage of what he said. But I was reading the book on the way home and luckily it looks like most of what he said regarding his philosophies on life and acting and book writing and so forth, are in the book anyway, so you’ll still get that info. if you read the book but missed the speech.

I guess I should start with when I got to the store (if you want to skip straight to Sean, scroll down to the “***********” I put below for your convenience). When I walked in there was a woman with a British accent asking if anyone was there for the Sean Astin signing, and handing out a flyer if you said you were. Here’s the flyer, with my own comments in brackets:


Event Guidelines for Wednesday, October 13th at 7:00 pm
Barnes & Noble Union Square Welcomes
Sean Astin – There and Back Again

Due to the anticipated large attendance at this event, we ask that you be aware of the following guidelines:

*Books for this event will be available at the first floor cash desk. [But they let me pay by credit card.] Please purchase books before going up to the fourth floor for the event. [Weird — I’ve been in this store dozens of times, and somehow I never knew they had a fourth floor!] Mr. Astin will only sign copies of There and Back Again. No other items or memorabilia of any kind will be signed.

*The seating area will be cleared at 5:00pm, and customers will then be able to fill the seats on a first-come, first-served basis. [The seating area was very large, maybe 300 seats? Sorry, I didn’t think to make a note of it. I got there a few minutes after 6:00 and at first it looked like there were no seats left, but I walked around the room and finally found a single seat available in the fourth row! It looked like everyone else had come in couples or groups, so a few single seats were left here and there. Luckily Smeagirl has no friends.] Seats cannot be saved for people not present. [People were saving seats anyway, but the staff started cracking down on this around 6:30.] Once the seating area is full, customers will be directed to a roped-off standing area. [This eventually filled up too, but I couldn’t see how far back it went from where I was.]

*Sean Astin will talk about his book and take a few questions from the audience if time permits before signing books.

*Due to the large number of people at this event, no cameras or cellphones will be permitted on the stage. Photographs may be taken from the floor during the booksigning. The author will be unable to pose for photographs.

*Members of the press/TV camera crews are requested to notify the names and accreditations of journalists and photographers who intend to be present at this event before 10:00 a.m. on Weds., October 13th. Please call 212-253-0819, or email [This is a Barnes & Noble e-mail address.]

These guidelines are subject to change. Thank you for your cooperation.


So, everyone was sitting around between 6:00 and 7:00 waiting for him to come out. People were chatting and I got a couple comments on my TORn shirt (a red “lousy” shirt I just got in the mail a couple days ago — thanks to whoever sends these out for being so quick!), but it was hardly all LOTR fans by any means. Actually most people seemed to be bigger fans of his other movies, which I’ve never seen (I will, I promise!). People were shouting “Goonies!” and “Rudy!”

When Sean came out, the audience was cheering and hollering with unbelievable enthusiasm. These were definitely big fans! As he walked past the rows of people he shook hands with those people who were within reach. At first he sat down at a table and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see him because there were about a half-dozen photographers standing between us, but after they took lots of photos of him holding the book, he got up and stood at a podium so everyone had a nice clear view of him.

Now I have to pause here to say that from a purely shallow fangirlish perspective, as far as looks go, Sean was about one of my least favorite LOTR actors (being more partial to Viggo and Elijah, personally). And I figured I’d find him even less attractive without his Hobbit wig and costume. But WOW — I’ve done a total turnaround on this. He looked so handsome, I was flabbergasted. Of course he looked a little older than in LOTR, but this hasn’t diminished his attractiveness in the least, in fact I’d say quite the opposite. Words like “dashing” and “sophisticated” were coming to mind, but mostly “handsome.” REALLY handsome, and this is coming from someone who was *not* a big Sean fan in any way, shape or form. Shouldn’t he be getting some serious leading man roles? (Maybe he is, I haven’t been following — if he isn’t he certainly should be.) He was also wonderfully well-spoken, very polished overall. For some reason I’m drawing a complete blank on what he was wearing, I guess I was just mesmerized by his face.

He started by saying that this is his very first book signing (which brought a huge cheer). Then he thanked Barnes & Noble, and he said that when he first got a call about the LOTR movies he went and bought his copy of the trilogy at a Barnes & Noble in CA. He also thanked St. Martin’s Press and his co-writer Joe Layden. He also read aloud his dedication in the book, thanking PJ, Fran Walsh, the entire cast & crew of LOTR, his wife and daughters, and this reading from the book brought another big cheer.

He also said that he wanted to clear up a couple of things that had been floating around the internet. He said some writers had referred to passages in the book describing “fights” with other people, and he said the book doesn’t describe “fights.” He said he describes some conflicts with other people, but taken in the context of the whole situation he describes, they shouldn’t be called fights. He also said he’s read some negative reviews of the book, but he learns more about himself from them and that’s a good thing. And he supports the right of anyone to have their own opinion about the book and buy it or not buy it as they wish. He said he had the idea for writing the book after seeing people pay $20, $30 or more just for an autograph or a meeting (it wasn’t really clear here if he was talking about himself or other actors) and he thought people should get more than that for their money, but he doesn’t have time to answer everyone’s questions individually so it makes sense to put it in a book. He said this shouldn’t be considered the “definitive” or “final” version of anything he relates, just a supplement to other information from other people.

At one point he gave a very heartfelt and moving request for people to vote (very sorry I can’t remember his exact words, it was really stirring though). He said he was hoping the event wouldn’t go too long as he wanted to watch the debate, and he said the issues being discussed in the debate are vital to the fate of the entire world. He didn’t endorse a particular candidate though.

As I said, I think most of what he discussed is in the book, but if I remember more specifics I’ll post it. (Sorry, getting late, mind getting foggy.) At one point he was describing something about the script, and he said (with his Sam accent sort of half on) “Don’t go where I can’t follow” and just about the whole audience collectively sighed and swooned, which was a really neat sound I don’t remember ever hearing before.

Then they went to questions but only had time for three or four. One person’s question wasn’t even a question, he just said “Can you do the speech from the locker room in Rudy?” And Sean jumped up on a chair and shouted something incoherent for a while. (Sorry, I haven’t seen the movie.) Of course this brought another big cheer. Another question was (paraphrased) “When you first read the LOTR books, did you most identify with Sam?” And he said that he had already been told the part he was trying out for was Sam, so he was reading the books with that in mind and focusing on Sam because of that, but that he did identify with Sam in terms of the love of nature. And I couldn’t hear the final question but it was apparently something along the lines of “What advise would you give an aspiring actor?” And he spoke for quite a while but most of it was things that would sound trite and stupid if I wrote them down, like “Believe in yourself” and “Be patient,” but they were obviously heartfelt and sounded quite moving when he said them. He also said that it’s a difficult field, because even though he’s from an acting family he still had difficulty for many years.

I’m leaving out lots of whooping, cheering and clapping from the audience. People were *really* enthusiastic.

After his speech he went and sat at the table again and the B&N staff was very organized in getting people lined up to get their books signed. They went row by row (which was nice, as I was in the fourth row) but it was still quite a long wait on line. Even though Sean wasn’t personalizing the books, he wasn’t rushing people either, but speaking a sentence or two with each person. Some people gave him letters and things which he was putting into a stack next to him. I got to speak to him longer than I expected and he was very gracious. Not friendly in a bubbly sort of way — it was kind of hard to read his mood — but certainly very nice. He signature includes a little smiley face.