Those of us who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s remember Sean Astin as the star of some of our childhood favorites, including Encino Man, Rudy, and of course, The Goonies. However, the spunky kid who played little Mikey Walsh has grown up and amassed quite a resume, capped off by a role as Samwise Gamgee in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Currently, Astin appears in Boys of Abu Ghraib, an indie drama directed by and starring Luke Moran about a conflicted guard at the infamous military prison.
“[Boys of Abu Ghraib] was deeply personal,” he said in our interview. “It was traumatic and cathartic at the same time, and I think it’s a great first effort of a young filmmaker to choose to spend his time in an intense subject matter. I think we’re coming up on the tenth anniversary of it; the issues are not settled in our policies. So, for the public to spend a little bit of time feeling through this story is a good thing.” He was also kind enough to give us his Five Favorite Films, so without further ado, here they are:
Gandhi (Richard Attenborough, 1982; 87% Tomatometer)
I tell people that my favorite film is Gandhi, but my actual favorite film is Patton. Well, you know, there’s so many ideas in the two of them. You know, Patton says, “God help me; I love it so,” with regard to war, and Gandhi is willing to die and to encourage a lot of other people to be willing to die in service of a peaceful civil disobedience. So both things have to do with creating change.
So, with Gandhi, I think Ben Kingsley’s portrait — just physically, how he looks, and the way he sounds when he’s delivering that sentient dialogue — and then Attenborough’s canvas — the visual canvas of India, the trains and all that stuff — and then, just my knowledge of the history of people pushing back against colonialism; all of those things just lift you up. They lift you up. The idea of Martin Sheen reporting back to America about what he’s seeing and the obvious lessons that are learned from these people who are willing to walk into abuse in order to make the point that they should be free — I love it because it’s like, “What can we learn from places and people around the world?” I love that. I love the international richness of it, the cultural richness.
Patton (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1970; 98% Tomatometer)
With Patton, understanding the second World War is required spiritual learning for anyone born in the later 20th century going forward. You know, I could list 50 films, but that one… There’s something about the mantle of celebrity, mixed with a really good rendering of military tactics, and finally, George C. Scott’s performance… I mean, really, if you look at them, it’s Ben Kingsley and George C. Scott that have me put them on the list, because they make those portraits feel so authentic. This idea that, “I’ve been here in countless guises before,” this hint at reincarnation, if you will, and destiny. This questing for destiny is something I feel in my life. I’m put here at this moment, in this time, when social media is doing what it’s doing, and filmmaking has reached this kind of new zenith, and I feel like everything I’ve been born and raised and taught and experienced has put me here for a particular reason, and I just know it’s gotta be something. The fact that Patton feels that, this quest for destiny, that he’s supposed to be doing something…
You know, the actual morality of war… Karl Malden’s character, who’s nowhere near the forceful personality and couldn’t probably whip a battalion into shape in the way that Patton does — you need both guys. But ultimately when it goes on, Patton doesn’t know when to stop, and I love that they dramatize that. He’s being interviewed and he talks about the Russians, that he should just keep going and fight the Russians — “We’re going to have to fight that war sooner or later” — and oh, guess what? In the news today is this Crimea issue, and you sort of go, “Boy, what does that mean? How are we going to relearn that lesson?” So there’s just so much stuff wrapped around it that’s relevant and interesting, and it’s a story well-told. Just the way they set up the conflict and everything, I love it, love it, love it.
I love L.A. Confidential. If it’s on for even a second, I just watch it to the end. I almost want to call my cable service provider and ask them not to show it any more, because it has overwhelmed my life. It’s because I’m from California, from Los Angeles, because the idea of police corruption, of political ambition, of logic and defying expectations. Really, Bud White is Rudy, in the thug cop questing for detective greatness. [laughs] There’s something about that. Also, the way that it commingles all of the ideas of pornography and politics and financial development and mob power and drugs. You know, I studied history and English at UCLA, and one of the big themes in a bunch of our history classes had to do with, “How is it that Los Angeles and Hollywood and California present themselves to the world as both this destination place of palm trees and glitter and gold and your future, and also corruption and deceit?” There’s this duality to it, and I just think that Curtis Hanson’s way of delivering that… And the performances! I mean, David Strathairn and Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger and Kevin Spacey and James Cromwell… Police corruption, and justice, vigilante justice, and it’s just got everything. It’s just a perfect movie.
Boys of Abu Ghraib is currently in theaters in limited release and available on VOD.