There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale

by Sean Astin
308 pages, Biography/History
Reviewed by Ariel_of_Narnia

An interesting read, a study of human nature, and a behind-the-scenes look at a mere man; language.


(Note: Written with Joe Layden.)

Sean Astin here relates his past, his struggles and victories, and the pinnacle of his career as Lord of the Ring's Samwise Gamgee.


He has a general concept of right and wrong that he abides by and his assessment of these areas in his life are, at least for the most part, laudable. He's got a great work ethic (at least, for the most part) and holds family, relationships, education, and the pursuit of your dreams in high regard.

Spiritual Content

He calls the Hollywood greats the "Hollywood gods" a few times and once says that he "prayed" to them metaphorically. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was considered the films' "bible". A brief reference to Mecca is made.


He mentions a couple set injuries: a cut to the head during a stunt (not serious), a branch or shard of glass in his foot (rather nasty), and another actor's chipped tooth. In talking about one man he worked with, he mentions that said man was allegedly an interrogator during a war and might have (according to rumors) killed the captives after having extracted information in a harrowing way. Tattoo pains are related. A suicide is mentioned.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mention of a film about drug addicts. Sean received a shot of novocaine for an injury. Smoking is mentioned a couple times.

Sexual Content

He implies that he and his wife had relations prior to marriage (to whom he remains faithful). He refers to her as the "sexiest woman" he knows. He refers to a man who apparently slept with quite a few women. He mentions having seen a movie that "would make a porn star blush". In an interview, he was asked what he thought of prenuptial agreements and he later apologized for his answer.

With the Lord of the Rings cast, he mentions "nights of debauchery and drunken revelry", an actor breaking out into a "little raunchy catwalk... just a flamboyant gay guy having fun", and (unrepeated) raunchy jokes (including gay and anatomical ones). He brings up the fan speculation over whether or not Frodo and Sam are gay (he doesn't think so but purposely avoids offending those who like the notion). He also mentions fawning Orlando Bloom fans trying to catch his attention.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"A**" (once or twice paired with "hole"), "sh**", "cr**", "p***", and "d**n" a few times. "Balls" twice metaphoricially and "d***" once in reference to the male anatomy. The f-word nine times. "B****" twice and "bas****" a couple times.


What struck me most while reading this book is that Sean Astin does not attempt to hide his faults nor speak only of his highpoints and victories. He points out his faults, regrets them, and gleans lessons from them for both himself and the reader. Similarly, he talks about his lowpoints and failures and finds the good that came out of them. While his viewpoints about his problems are understandably human, he doesn't brush them off. He's not a perfect role model in the least (he isn't afraid to mention that he's not near enough like Samwise Gamgee), but he's willing to own up to his mistakes.

This was an interesting read with touches of humor, a look at the industry from the inside, and a frank study of a man who pursues his dreams and provides for his beloved family. Note, however, that it does have the kind of language and sexual content that one would expect from a book that deals with Hollywood culture.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 2.5
Written for Age: adult

Review Rating:

Average rating: 4 stars
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