The man who helped Frodo up Mount Doom in “Lord of the Rings” talked about his mom’s mental sickness, movies and extra at Missouri State University earlier this week.
Sean Astin has been in the movie enterprise for many of his life as an actor, director, voice artist and producer. From his roles as Mikey Walsh in “The Goonies,” Samwise Gamgee in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Rudy,” Bob Newby in “Stranger Things 2” and others, Astin is conversant in the large display.
Astin was a keynote speaker for Missouri State University’s second annual Impact Summit, an annual occasion began in 2018 to lift consciousness on school college students’ mental health wants. Approximately 270 attended the convention, in line with MSU officers.
Astin is well-acquainted with mental sickness as his mom, Academy Award-winning actress Patty Duke, was identified with bipolar dysfunction in 1982 and wrote about it in her 1987 autobiography. Duke died in 2016.
Academy and Emmy award-winning actress Patty Duke pictured throughout a information convention in 2010. (Photo: (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File))
The stigma around mental illness has gotten a little bit better, Astin said.
“In my mom’s time, it was, like, Bellevue and padded rooms and shock therapy,” Astin said.
Astin said his mother exhibited several symptoms of bipolar disorder throughout his childhood and it made things difficult.
“If you look down the 12 symptoms that are indicated for bipolar disorder, my mother was like spectacularly an example for each one of them,” Astin said. “What she loved about her diagnosis was she had a socially acceptable explanation for all of the awful behavior she had been exhibiting for a period of time and it had really marred her reputation in the industry and made her life miserable.”
Once Duke was diagnosed, Astin said she became an advocate in her public life, but their private life didn’t see much change until later on.
“It was very hard for me, personally, to reconcile this person who was a lauded recovering mental health patient and yet, behind closed doors, it was different,” Astin said. “It was hard for me.”
Sean Astin, left, and Elijah Wood in a scene from “The Lord of the Rings. (Photo: PIERRE VINET/NEW LINE CINEMA)
Astin talked of the parallel between his first role in “Please Don’t Hit Me Mom,” which he starred in alongside Duke, and his real life.
“It was an ABC after-school special. They were real subtle with their titles,” Astin said. “We were doing this scene where she was beating me up.”
Astin said he kept nervous chuckling and ruining the takes.
“After three of them, my mom takes me outside and she goes, ‘I took a chance on you. This is my career. You better do this right.’ I went in. Action. She hits me. Sobbing. And cut,” Astin said.
Duke told Astin that he did a good job, he said.
“That’s either abuse or the start of a great career,” Astin said.
Duke’s character has a breakthrough in the film and says that she’ll get help to stop abusing her child, Astin said.
“What I think was happening in that moment to me, I think that was her way of talking to me and empowering me,” Astin said. “That continued through our whole life.”
A scene from the 1985 film ‘The Goonies.’ From left: Ke Huy Quan, Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen. Credit: Warner Bros. (Photo: Warner Bros.)
During his speech, Astin recounted meeting fans who would tell him of their struggles in college, life and other areas. He told one woman in particular that she was worthy to accomplish all she wanted to accomplish.
That same woman told him at a later date that she had contemplated committing suicide, but then chose not too because of Astin’s words, he said. That experience continues to touch him, he said.
“Wouldn’t it be cool that if all you needed to be a superhero was the ability to listen to somebody’s anecdote and not feel like it was threatening your schedule or creating an obligation for you that you might not want?” Astin said.
People usually fall into one of three areas: folks with mental health challenges, people who are directly touched and those who have no contact with mental illness, Astin said.
“Even all the help in the world doesn’t fix everything,” Astin said. “The best way to de-stigmatize mental illness, is perfect treatment, perfect outcome. It’s not a realistic sort of thing, but it’s kind of a cool goal.”
Astin attributed his own mental health care to family, fitness and faith. Astin is a long-distance runner and he has participated in four LA Marathons, the San Francisco Marathon and the Chicago Marathon, according to his biography.
Astin recently starred in Netflix’s “No Good Nick” alongside Melissa Joan Hart. Episodes are available to stream.
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