Very few actors have had as many beloved and iconic roles as Sean Astin.
In just 48 years, the star has played memorable roles that are revered in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, sports and even comedy. There are countless stars in Hollywood with a major following, but almost none with as much mass appeal as the son of late actress Patty Duke.
Feb. 25 marks the Astin’s birthday. With a handful of new projects on the way and a plethora of amazing parts behind him, now seems like the perfect time to take a look back at Astin’s diverse career.
Below are just five of his top roles:
“The Goonies” (1985)
Sean Astin (center) got his big break in acting with a role in “The Goonies.”
(Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
After a pair of made-for-TV movies, Astin got his big break in 1985 with “The Goonies.” The words “big break” may even be an understatement as he went from relative obscurity to working on a project produced by Steven Spielberg. Even then, the iconic director was coming off of hits like “Indiana Jones,” “Gremlins,” “Twilight Zone” and much more.
So when Astin was tapped to play the gang’s intrepid leader, Mikey, it meant a lot for his career going forward. However, he previously admitted on the “Inside of You” podcast that his career almost ended at the audition stage after he performed poorly.
“So we’re walking through it and he says ‘Are you nervous?’ And I said ‘Yeah, a little bit.’ He goes ‘Why?’, and I said ‘I don’t know,’” Astin explained (via CinemaBlend). “He goes ‘Well, you’re just about to meet the most powerful man in Hollywood’ and he opens the door. And he had this smile on his face. And I was like ‘OK.’”
He went on to explain that he got tripped up on a line during the audition and had to consult the script briefly. When he took the line again, he messed up in the same place and let out an expletive.
“And Steven gets up and walks out of the room. And I’m like ‘Well, I guess I’m never going to make another movie in Hollywood.’ I’m a guy who’s cursed, you probably don’t want as the star of your kid movie a kid that says ‘sh–.’”
Fortunately, Astin ended up getting the role despite the foul language, which launched his career.
Sean Astin’s second breakout role came early in his career with the success of “Rudy.”
After the success of “The Goonies,” Astin worked steadily throughout the following years. However, in 1993 he was tapped for another role that would end up being an enduring film classic as the title character in “Rudy.”
The film, which is still beloved in the world of competitive organized sports, tells the true story of Daniel Ruettiger, a young man whose dream was to play football at the University of Notre Dame despite his size and other obstacles. It’s known far and wide as one of the most inspirational sports movies and the go-to example of hard work paying off.
Astin spoke with Yahoo Entertainment in 2018 to discuss the movie’s ongoing appeal.
“The surprise came when the film started to find its audience in the year or two or three after it came out. When it originally came out, it was not a box-office success; it was discovered by video fans, and then on cable,” he explained. “Then at a certain point, it reached this critical mass where it seemed like a lot of people knew the film in the mid-’90s. Once it locked in like that, I felt like I knew it was always going to have a place in people’s hearts. As long as there’s a college football season where the film gets played over and over again at the beginning of the season. So at this point, I’m not surprised — I’m just really gratified that it continues to live in people’s minds and hearts.”
“The Lord of the Rings” (2001)
Sean Astin shot to even greater levels of fame thanks to the role of Sam in “The Lord of the Rings” franchise.
(New Line Cinema)
“The Lord of the Rings” books generated countless fans when J.R.R. Tolkein released the first one in 1954. That’s why everyone was so excited when Peter Jackson took the helm of a three-movie trilogy and released “The Fellowship of the Ring” in 2001.
The franchise was a decided hit, ultimately earning 30 Academy Award nominations and winning 17 of them. “Return of the King,” the third installment, more than cleaned up at the Oscars that year.
Astin plays Samwise Gamgee, who Tolkein has said is the real hero of the entire franchise. Despite the accolade, in 2017 Astin was forced to explain to “Lord of the Rings” superfan, Stephen Colbert, that he knew nothing about the story when he was cast. He just knew that Peter Jackson was a big deal and he wanted him for a trilogy.
Fortunately for fans, and Colbert, he did his homework later on.
“I read them cover-to-cover three times and I absolutely love them. To me it wasn’t like being transported into another world, it was like work. I want to understand how he would hold the pipe!”
Needless to say, despite “The Goonies” and “Rudy” being enduring classics, “The Lord of the Rings” franchise shot Astin to new, unimaginable levels of acclaim.
“50 First Dates” (2004)
Sean Astin pivoted to comedy after ‘Lord of the Rings’ with a role in ’50 First Dates.’
After the immense success of “The Lord of The Rings” ended, Astin broke the mold and decided to make his first role after “Return of the King” a comedy. He signed on to co-star in the Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore film “50 First Dates.”
The movie follows Sandler’s character as he meets a young woman, played by Barrymore, with a rare condition that causes her to forget the events of the previous day and believe she’s reliving the day of her accident again and again. So, he spends every day trying to make her fall in love with him again.
Astin plays her brother, Doug, who helps his father ease his sister’s transition every day by doing little things like refilling her shampoo bottle and queuing up the same football game for them to watch so that she doesn’t have to suffer the bad news of what happened to her.
His character is also fitness-obsessed and is revealed to have a bit of an issue with steroids. The character also speaks with a bit of a lisp, which Astin is still often asked to do in interviews and appearances to this day.
“Stranger Things” (2017)
Actor Sean Astin knew that he would make a great fit on ‘Stranger Things’ since it was inspired by ‘The Goonies.’
When “Stranger Things” burst onto the scene, kicking up 1980s nostalgia left and right, it wasn’t a surprise when fans found out that the former “Goonies” star had been tapped for a role in the second season. After all, the show is heavily inspired by Astin’s big breakout role among countless other artistic projects from that decade.
Even the actor himself figured out pretty early on that he was destined for the role of Bob Newby in “Stranger Things.”
“I attend a lot of regional Comic-Cons all over the world, and I started hearing about this show within days after it premiered. People would come up to me and tell me I had to see this show because it was ‘The Goonies,’ and it was the ’80s all over again, and how much it reminded them of the movies that were done then,” he told Variety in 2018. “I got an email from an agent saying, ‘There’s an audition for you for “Stranger Things” if you’re interested.” I looked at my wife and said, ‘Huh, that’s not a coincidence.’”
Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, he even said that the role helped him close that youthful chapter in his career.
“I think I finally came to grips with being in my mid-40s by being in ‘Stranger Things.’”