Tag Archives: And They’re Off

Sean Astin’s Nightmares and Laughs — ‘Abu Ghraib,’ ‘And They’re Off’

Cheri Oteri, Sean Astin "And They're Off"

Sean Astin tells us he had “nightmares for a week” after finishing Luke Moran’s upcoming big screen drama, “The Boys of Abu Ghraib.”  The nice guy who played “Rudy” and “Lord of the Rings'” Hobbit Samwise Gamgee as an Abu Ghraib prison guard? 

“I’m someone who’s really fixated on politics,” comments Sean, who has actively campaigned for candidates including Hilary Clinton.  “I’ve also done military-themed movies.  I did some work for the U.S. Army.  The fact I was offered the chance to do this, it had to happen.  I think it’s a patriotic gesture to play the part.”

It’s been a hectic — and extremely eclectic — time for Astin of late.  He just wrapped work on his first Christian film, “Amazing Love,” with Erin Bethea (“Fireproof”) and says he the experience meant so much to him, “I’m mourning the loss” of having to move on after having finished production.  He’s playing a youth pastor in the movie he says is about “fidelity and unconditional love” that’s divided between scenes of today and scenes of the Bible story of Hosea and Gomer.  He has one scene with a very familiar cast mate:  his mother, Patty Duke. 

In another change-up, October 28 marks the beginning of the roll-out release of Astin’s “And They’re Off” horse racing movie spoof.  He reports that the toughest part about playing the sad sack horse trainer in the comedy was keeping a straight face.  “We laughed the whole time,” he says of the film that also stars Cheri Oteri, Mo Collins, Gigi Rice, Martin Mull, Alex Rocco and other funny people.  “Sitting across from Kevin Nealon talking about taxidermy, I had to put my face in my hands to keep from laughing out loud,” Sean claims. 

“This kind of film is something I’ve always wanted to do.  I love ‘Waiting for Guffman’ and all those movies.  That it’s set in the world of horse racing is awesome.” 

Astin says that “And They’re Off” writer-producer Alan Grossbard is a track aficionado who infused the movie with accurate bits of color.  “You know who’s going to love it is horse racing geeks.  There’s enough stuff in there, they’re going find it very familiar.”

Sean Astin (L), cast of "Love's Christmas Journey" four-hour telefilm Hallmark Channel photo

Come Nov. 5, Sean will be seen starring with JoBeth Williams, Charles Shaughnessy and Ernest Borgnine in “Love’s Christmas Journey,” the latest installment of the Hallmark Channel’s hugely popular “Love Comes Softly” series of telefilms based on Janette Oke’s book series of a 19th Century frontier family.

            Actors love diverse roles, but Sean admits, “I don’t know that I intentionally set out to do that.  I just want to work.”  And as far as playing bad, he adds, “I played an ax murdering voodoo cult cannibal in a movie once.  I got it because my attorney was friends with the producer.  There was nothing socially redeeming about it at all.”

Sean Astin Running for the Roses

Sean Astin Disney Channel photo

Sean Astin is eagerly anticipating word on release of his recently-completed indie comedy, “And They’re Off” – a mockumentary in which he plays a failed horse trainer.  “By traditional standards, he’s not really a trainer – he’s only had one horse — but as far as he’s concerned, he is,” reports the actor with a laugh.  “He’s upbeat no matter what awful things go on.  He’s got a documentary crew following him around the track at Santa Anita at dawn, teaching about horses.  He’s out walking around the track saying, ‘I’m not going to ask my horse to do something I wouldn’t do myself.’”

            According to Astin, the script by Alan Grossbard was “a hoot.”  Veteran TV director Rob Schiller, making his feature debut, left room for the actors, including Cheri Oteri, Martin Mull, Kevin Nealon and Mo Collins to improvise as well. 

Special Agent Oso

            Meanwhile, Astin says, “It felt like I was meeting myself” the other day when he had a face-to-face encounter with his “Special Agent Oso” yellow and green cartoon Panda counterpart.  The Oso special photo op was part of his promotion for season two of the Playhouse Disney series, which launches July 10.  It certainly has its share of celebrity admirers.  Guest voices include Mel Brooks as snoring Grandpa Mel (his real-life grandson is a fan of the show), Brad Garrett, Lisa Loeb, Rita Moreno, Ming-Na, Freddy Rodriguez and Rebecca Romijn.

“Oso is going to be at Disneyland this summer,” Sean reports.  “It was a really special thing to hug this big teddy bear.”  Adds the father of three girls, ages 13, seven and four, “I think every actor who does voiceover for a particular character becomes possessive.  I know I find it off-putting to see ‘Special Agent Oso’ in Spanish because the voice isn’t me.”