Sean Astin ’97 has appeared in more than 70 films and TV shows, including The Goonies, The Lord of the Rings and Rudy. He is a writer, director, producer and social advocate, as well as New York Times best-selling author (There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale) and an Academy Award nominee for Kangaroo Court, a live action short film he directed and produced, which addresses the disenfranchisement of African Americans in inner cities.
Astin is a gifted and critically acclaimed actor who has tackled a wide-range of roles, from the all-American dreamer Rudy to the brave and loyal Samwise Gamgee. He moves easily from films like Where the Day Takes You, where he played an anguished, homeless drug addict, to the slapstick, as a posing, almost-muscle-bound fop in Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates.
Some of Astin’s many appearances include The Final Season, the true story of an Iowa High School baseball coach who lead the team to a miraculous 20th State Championship; Memphis Belle, the true story of the legendary B-17 bomber crew that was the first to complete 25 successful bombing raids over Germany; and The Low Life, for which Astin received critical notice for his portrait of a mentally challenged and dysfunctional outcast.
A few of his other films that found substantial audiences were Click, Courage Under Fire, and Encino Man. Finally, Like Father Like Son, Borderland, Kimberly, Smile, Bigger Than the Sky, Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, and Deterrence are all meaningful films that connected with smaller audiences.
After the massive success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Astin enjoyed working on a succession of popular television programs, including 24, Law & Order, My Name Is Earl and Monk. He played a naïve prospector in Steven Spielberg’s landmark television event, Into the West, and starred as the boy, in the homage to the Technicolor romantic comedies of the 1950s, Boy Meets Girl.
Astin has developed a strong following in the fantasy and science fiction genres, playing the beloved character Two-Flower, in an adaptation of Terry Prachett’s fantasy/satire epic The Colour of Magic for Sky Television. Earlier in his television career, Astin played the title character in Harrison Bergeron, based on Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, and he has garnered praise for his portrayal of Mr. Smith in Showtime’s Jeremiah.
Astin’s voice has been heard in many places, including as narrator for Animal Planet’s revered Meerkat Manor series. He also voices the bumbling and loveable title character of the Disney Channel’s Special Agent Oso.
Equally comfortable behind the camera as in front, Astin is the founder and president of Lava Entertainment, which focuses on adapting literary titles. He has directed and produced television shows and plays.
A steadfast and civic-minded activist, Astin served on George W. Bush’s President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation for two years and for 10 years as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army during the Clinton administration. He also has worked on boards for a number of nonprofits, including the Creative Coalition, an organization that bridges the gap between Washington and Hollywood on issues of importance to the entertainment community; the National Center for Family Literacy; and the Patrons Association for Los Angeles Valley College.
Additionally, Astin worked closely with Astra Zeneca on a comprehensive bi-polar awareness tour, in support of his mother, Patty Duke, who has been an outspoken voice in the mental health community and written extensively about her condition.
Astin has spoken to audiences ranging from corporate seminars (GlaxoSmithKline, Yellowbook, Discuss Dental and Tommy Hilfiger) to youth leadership seminars, student groups, juvenile correction institutes, colleges, science fiction/fantasy and other conventions.
He has appeared on countless radio and television shows including Larry King Live, Good Morning America, The View and 20/20. He is also a familiar face on the late night circuit, with appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, Real Time with Bill Maher, The Tonight Show and The Late Late Show.
Astin graduated with honors from UCLA, earning degrees in history and American literature, and he studied with the legendary acting teacher Stella Adler. He has been active as a UCLA Alumni Association volunteer, judging Spring Sing competitions and offering his professional experience at Entertainment Networking Night, a networking event sponsored by the Student Alumni Association.
He lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 17 years and fellow Bruin, Christine ’97, and their daughters, Alexandra, Elizabeth and Isabella.