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on 3 October 2004
A better title for this book would have been "Me! Me! Me" or "Poor me!" or "Three years of imaginary slights from fellow cast members revisited".
For fans of the movie franchise this reveals some things that have never been discussed in public before and as such constitutes a 'must have', but when it comes to the real 'meat' of acting in the movies, from Astin or any other cast member, this is very much an offering for vegetarians. Instead what one gets is 'the private diary of Sean Astin, aged 14 3/4' - or at least that's how it reads. Despite the impression that this is a book about LOTR it's over a hundred pages before Astin really gets onto the subject, and then we're into a long barrage of 'damning with faint praise' or long rants about imagined slights from fellow actors. At one point Astin argues that he's not a Hollywood brat, but this book seems to make a very strong case that he is - and an insecure, arrogant, bitter, hypocritical and self-obsessed one at that.
Most of Astin's fellow-actors are criticised over extremely trivial things. So we get complaints about Mortensen's 'trench warfare' in bombarding the writers with suggestions, complaints about Bloom not stopping a conversation with a Hollywood bigwig at Cannes when the obviously-more-important Mr Astin arrives, or complaints about McKellen and Holm (real actors, Sean!) not having the hypocrisy to repay his 'Your acting's fantastic' compliment.
Given that large sections of the book are given over to public apologies to those he's abused in interviews in the past (Peter Jackson and Andy Serkis) you'd think he'd have known better and learnt from past mistakes, but alas not. Repetition is everywhere so that eg we're told he doesn't like John Howe's work as much as Alan Lee's not once, not twice, not three times, and he takes stances on situations where he hasn't even checked his basic facts (for the record Billy Boyd is the oldest of the hobbits, not Sean, and his 9/11 Two Towers speech contains sentences written by Tolkien not written from scratch by Walsh and Boyens).
That being said it's a book that's hard to put down. It's an addictive, if at times unpleasant, read leaving one wondering at the end if Astin means to be deliberately malicious or is just not clever enough to realise the huge gaff he's made in putting his private whines and petty whinges into the public domain.
All that being said, fans of the movie will love the gossip and unique perspective on what it was like to get involved with these movies.
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on 10 October 2008
This book has sat on my bookshelf for around three years now after receiving it as a present.
Despite my love for Lord of the Rings, I just couldn't seem to take to Sean Astin, possibly because of the DVD commentaries, but for whatever reason, I couldn't.
However, I recently decided to give the book a chance and was not expecting a great deal, possibly to not even finish it.
But, I found myself enjoying it from the start and difficult to put down. My initial thoughts on Astin as coming across as self-important appear to be correct after reading the book. BUT, I found the fact that he was refreshingly honest and self-depracating throughout the book, made it for me.
Other reviews have noted how much he 'whines' and 'moans' but many of his thoughts are one's that we all go through on a regular basis about 'life not being fair.' Although many of us are not capable of admitting that, even at a later date.
It gave me an interesting insight into the world of movies and also Lord of the Rings, without spoiling the movie for me, in fact it has made me want to watch it again.
It is a valid point from another reviewer that he does seem obsessed with respect from more renowned actors than himself and rarely seems to mention lesser known people. I guess that is a by-product from being a child-star.
In summary, I thought it was brave of Astin to admit and reveal his weaknesses of thought (he had no need to!). I feel a lot more respect for him after having read the book and am very pleased I did so.
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on 10 May 2006
This is NOT a book solely dedicated to the subject of the making of Peter Jackson's superb movies, so be forewarned if you purchase it strightly as a Tolkien fan (as I did).

Nor is it a complete biography of Sean's life.

It is more of a collection of thoughts and key life experiences as opposed to a complete expose of either the making of the movies or of Sean himself.

That said, it is nonetheless a fascinating read.

The book reflects on 3 key areas of Sean's acting career and life:

1) Insight into some of his acting and movie making experiences

2) Insight into his experiences on the LOR set - including some thoughts on working with other members of the cast and crew.

3) Sean's own thoughts on the nature of himself and his personality, as well as his personal life.

Sean comes across as incredibly open and true about himself - including what he sees as his weaknesses, failings and vulnerabilities. He provides the reader with a fascinating insight into life as a movie star, and is extremely candid as he demonstrates to us he (as well as most celebrities) is really no different from us: that the very same insecurities, anxieties and pains affect the seemingly perfect icons we all aspire to.

We learn really very little about the other cast members of LOR, some are mentioned only fleetingly. What we do learn is how Sean felt about working with them and how the filming experience impacted on his life and his view of himself. Especially well visited, is Sean's relationship with Peter Jackson.

Sean expresses very well the angst, devotion, fear and passion that all felt who were involved in bringing LOR to the screen: especially Peter, Fran and Phillipa. We learn a lot from Sean about the processes everyone journeyed through, and he gives us a deeper appreciation of the incredible scale of this production.

The book really brought home to me the risks and trials involved in not just the acting profession, but also the movie making industry. It was soothing to learn that, even those we place on a pedestal travel the same dark and bumpy roads in life as many of us regular people do.

I found Sean a genuine author - wanting merely to share with the readers his thoughts and experiences. He doesn't come across as arrogant or self serving: but as very normal and very human. He doesn't shy away from sharing very private aspects of his personality, and I think many will be able to relate to the darker times and feelings Sean has been through.

I would recommend this book to LOR fans, but on the understanding it is NOT a very thorough expose. This is, after all, about Sean: he has much more to tell of value than his experiences on just one movie (however wonderful and unique it is).

This book WILL tell you a lot about Sean the man, as well as Sean the actor. It will give you a good taste of the movie industry in its reality. I think it will encourage many who are looking into the acting profession as well, as it gives quite a lot away.

Thanks for sharing Sean, and good luck to you and your family for the future.
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on 6 February 2008
As an ardent fan of the LOTR trilogy I was really looking forward to this book. I needn't have bothered because, more than anything else, it is more about an insecure actor whining and moaning his way through the story of his time on the film, a film that he thought he was grossly underpaid for, never mind the fact that it made him quite well-known.

Poor old Peter Jackson having such an ungrateful and negative actor around for so long. I bet he never invites SA to be in another film that he directs.

What comes through the most is just how jealous of other actors' 'coolness' he is, how he would have directed things differently to PJ, etc etc. There were chunks that I just skipped and it could have been edited to 100 pages less.

Don't bother.
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VINE VOICEon 11 February 2007
I was deeply disappointed by this as I was expecting to learn more about The Lord of The Rings films from someone who had been on the 'inside'. Instead what I got was a lot about Sean and then a lot more about Sean with only little bits of other stuff thrown in amongst yet more stuff about Sean!

A word of warning to the potential reader - Beware - because you may find that you run the risk of beginning to dislike Mr Astin and what could be (and has been) described by some as his whingeing. I decided to cut short my reading before I reached this point as I wanted to continue to have a regard and esteem for a man who is an actor of worth.

If you want to learn LOTS about Sean Astin and his life experiences so far, along with his views of 'the craft' then this is for you. If like me you wanted to learn about the movie stay well clear as you will not learn much about Peter Jackson's fabulous cinematic trilogy from this book.
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on 1 March 2008
I wouldn't recommend you read this book! Why? let me explain. I loved Sean Astin's as Sam in the LOTR, like every other actor he gave a stellar performance and was frankly brilliant. I also loved him in the Goonies, in my mind a childhood classic!! In this book (to be fair to him) he gives a open, honest and frank account of his career and the whole LOTR film process. However if your a fan of the trilogy this book doesn't add a great deal, a lot of this is covered in the DVD extended editions! Only a third of the book is devoted to the LOTR, the rest is about Sean's few other films and personal feelings. If your a fan of Sean Astin I think you will be bitterly disappointed. After reading this book I didn't warm to him. The moment I finally lost patience was when he dreamed of having a dinner/meeting with Peter Jackson, stating 'the two us discussing ideas like two titans of the film industry!'. Peter Jackson a titan, yes of course, Sean Astin.....sorry no!
Sean's writing style I also found frustrating, when he finally started to talk about the LOTR, he would go of on a tangent about his other films, Rudy being the main one, before coming back to the original story.
For me this is a classic case of wishing I hadn't been tempted in the first place. The vision that you had of someone, completely shattered by reality. Sometimes it best to leave some things alone!!
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on 29 July 2005
This has to be the only book I've ever read that I needed to think long and hard about regarding whether to award it 1* or 5*. Eventually I plumped for 1* because I guess the majority of people taking notice of reviews are interested to hear an opinion on how good the product is. With that in mind, this book, as an in-depth, Behind-the-Scenes story of The Lord of the Rings is abysmal. However, as a fascinating glimpse into the mind of an insecure, self-obsessed "actor" - it's hugely entertaining.
Other reviews on this site have already declared how this is all about Sean Astin and not The Lord of the Rings. VERY true. In fairness, how many people would have bought Sean Astin's Autobiography ? Aside from his parents(who are apparently very famous) I'd guess no-one. But anyway, as a public the book companies have fooled us into spending good money and we've been fiddled. Don't dispair.
This really is a superb read. It's unintentionally hilarious and reading between the lines you can tell that the vast majority of people involved with making these films got on brilliantly whilst our friend Mr Astin is obviously bothered by absolutely everything from his portly shape to the fact that he's not exactly regarded an A-List Actor. Let's not even go into his Directing career.
You can't help but get the feeling that guys like Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, etc probably had a good laugh about Frodo's best friend and his vast array of insecurities whilst they were out creating a strong cast spirit and Mr Astin was locked away being the "perfect" husband and Dad. I'm sure if any of the other main characters wrote an account about their time with Peter Jackson & Co. you'd get a VERY different a book from Sean's.
I'm sure you get the picture so if you fancy a good laugh with a sprinkling of The Lord of the Rings thrown in - pick this up. If you want a balanced account of life on the movies - watch the documentaries on the DVD Box Sets
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VINE VOICEon 28 October 2006
It would be churlish of me to summarize this book with the following statement: "Reading `There and Back Again' will tell you far less about the `Lord of the Rings' films than you want and far more about Sean Astin than you need." But it seems apt having spent the last couple of weeks reading this grumpy memoir.

Let's be clear: this book isn't for fans of the film at all - it is a vehicle for Astin to muse about his life as an actor. My first point against the publishers would therefore be the misleading tagline the book receives: "An Actor's Tale - A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Lord of the Rings". There is barely half the book devoted to specifically LOTR material and it's hugely disappointing. I should have smelled a rat early on when Astin admits to not having ever heard of Tolkien when he was offered the part.

I was disappointed over the lack of LOTR insights, but I at least expected the rest of the book to be an entertaining view of Astin's acting life. Sadly this isn't the case: Astin is a whiner. Barely a page goes by without him complaining about some aspect of his career, whether it be critical indifference to his performances, his monetary worth, or the chip on his shoulder about never having really made the `big time' as he puts it (until LOTR at least).

It's clear from musings about his early career that Astin suffers from low self-esteem, self-doubt and crushing under confidence in his own abilities. This of course is nothing new for many actors. He badly wants the recognition of his peers and seems desperate for it even when it's negative. Yet bizarrely his writing becomes inconsistent when he later shows extreme over-confidence in his `heroic' portrayal of Sam or his annoyance that he couldn't influence the production of LOTR more. At one point he remarks how Christopher Lee was crestfallen when Saruman was entirely cut from the third film: "sometimes brutal decisions have to made", yet when his own scenes were lightly trimmed he throws a fit and screams to his wife "They've ruined it!" It's this inconsistency that makes the book a confusing and annoying read.

There is a degree of honesty about the problems Astin has faced and his descriptions of how he dealt with these issues. He has written erudite reasoning for his behaviour and many pages are devoted to analyzing himself and then trying to improve: a commendable trait and one that could be respected if you could believe it. But Astin has had far too long to think this stuff through and the cynic in me believes that his `self-improvement' thoughts were not experienced at the time as written, but only while he was actually writing his book several years later.

Beyond Astin's self-confessed propensity for melodrama and a lot of personal background that I really didn't want to know, his writing style is a mess. The book constantly jumps around between anecdotes of his early career right in the middle of an account of something on the LOTR set. It's jarring, annoying and doesn't respect the reader. When we finally do get some interesting information about the film production, it's usually focused on some aspect that Astin wasn't happy with.

It's not all bad. Some of the anecdotes are almost amusing and I do think the friendships he describes with Elijah Wood and Christopher Lee were genuine as far as Astin saw them, but again the cynic can't help but notice that the only people Astin seems to respect are those who are `successful' in the movies - he doesn't seem to ever hang around anyone in the industry `lesser' than him.

I didn't enjoy this book. I found the whole experience tiring and reading should be anything but tiring. I learnt little about the LOTR films (the main reason I bought it) and more about Astin than I care to know. I finished it feeling that although Astin is a decent actor with some good work behind him, he simply cannot get over himself long enough to recognize his accomplishments and enjoy them.
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on 17 October 2005
The book starts off with the early days of Astin's career until about a third of the way through he begins his The Lord of the Rings journey, which takes up the rest of the book. There are some interesting stories of his time on and off set, but they are frequently interrupted with anecdotes from his early movies which he considers to be big achievements - Toy Soldiers (not the Toy Story-like one) and Rudy; two films that never made a blip on the radar over here.
The openness of Sean Astin's book is sometimes offset by his luvvie ways - he spends a little too much time blowing his own trumpet about his being a serious "artist". However, a couple of sentences along, I found myself respecting him for being so honest and open about his flaws and insecurities as an actor and individual. This love/hate relationship is carried on pretty much throughout the book. It's kind of like Gollum wrote this book in that sense.
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on 7 February 2011
I loved Sean Astin's performance in The Lord of the Rings and was really looking forward to reading this book but I should have read other peoples reviews before ordering it. He does not come over well at all and seems to have serious confidence issues which are endlessly repeated and it doesn't make for a good read. I learnt nothing about the making of the films that I didn't already know and ended up thinking Mr Astin is a whinger. Being cast in one of the biggest films of all time in a starring role was not enough for him. He seemed to think he should have had input on the directing of the film as well and constantly worried that Peter Jackson might not be getting it right. I am amazed his agent or whoever let him publish this as it doesn't paint him in a good light at all.
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