Comic Con in April. My thanks to Abeer Mahmoud and Khaldoun Qaddoura who conducted the interview, and provided me with the English version and photos. Read on for Sean's thoughts on visiting the United Arab Emirates, plus some inside info on his upcoming roles in "Extraction," "Santa Switch," "Moms' Night Out" and "The Boys of Abu Ghraib."
After the overwhelming success of last year, the Middle East Film and Comic Con April 5 & 6, 2013 had returned stronger and bigger. People queued for hours while dressing up innovatively as their favorite characters in order to get the chance to meet up with the celebrities and get their autographs. It was a great privilege to get the chance to interview the American Actor Sean Astin, who starred as “Sam” in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in addition to many other remarkable roles. Sean Astin, “Abu el Banat” as he calls himself (the father of daughters) gave us a brief about his future plans, and opinion about the Middle East Comic Con in which we got the chance to see further into his lovable personality.
Did you get the chance to attend the original Comic Con in San Diego?
Yes, my introduction to the Con World was in the year 2002 where I got the chance to be a part of the Theatrical version of the “Fellowship”, the experience itself was overwhelming. In addition, I re-attended last year with the Teenage Ninja Turtles while playing the voice of Raphael.
Is this your first visit to the Middle East?
I went to Istanbul, Turkey; however this is my first trip to the Gulf and Dubai. I was worried that I had to cancel my trip to the Comic Con and Dubai, since I got a new job called "Extraction" in which I will be playing as a CIA agent [Kyle Black]. Luckily my booker was able to arrange everything accordingly in order not to lose the chance of attending the Con while making sure to return back in time to Los Angeles in order to start shooting.
What are your plans for your visit to Dubai?
I woke up early this morning headed toward the open beach and run for 5 Kilometers, went into the Persian Gulf water, and tweeted out pictures. What was fascinating is to walk next to people in contemporary and traditional clothes; I knew I was in the Middle East. Moreover, I saw the striking Dubai Skyline that included Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab. Now I am in the Comic Con meeting some press, doing interviews and attending the assigned activities of the day.
Tomorrow morning, I will go on the Top of Burj Khalifa, run Palm Island, visit market place in Old Dubai, do more convention and at night go home. I got less than 48 hours in the country so I am going to seize the time, meet people, visit some Middle Eastern tradition and get a stamp on my passport.
Actually I was very excited to see what will a Middle Eastern Comic Con going to look like, especially when we take into consideration that the UAE is a Muslim country, so I always thought it would be more conservative. What made me sure it will be a success is that Dubai is one of the biggest trading ports, and its economics are international and that the Comic Con was supported by the Government. I knew one thing for sure that the guests who came in will be similar to the people I meet in all over the world, where comic books, fantasy and science fiction is what brings them together. Moreover, I hope that the Middle East Film & Comic Con is going to show respect to the customs of the Middle East while bringing new cultures for people to experience.
Do you miss being in Lord of the Rings Locations?
Whenever I come across a river or mountain, I travel in my mind to the 200 locations in where the movies got shot and realize that yes I actually miss it.
Did you watch the Hobbit and what was your feeling as you are not a part of it?
Yes, I did have the privilege to watch the movie and liked it a lot. If I would describe my feeling I would say it was “bitter and sweet”. I am happy for the people who worked on it and made it happen although they faced financial obstacles at the beginning they had managed to sort it out and come up with a great job that many audiences were waiting for. At the same time I was nostalgic, because it reminded me of the trilogy I was starring in, and made me think with emotion.
Will we see you in the second or third parts of The Hobbit?
Definitely not the second part, I was wondering about the third part as well but nothing has been discussed yet.
You started to work on a movie related to the Middle East, “The Boys of Abu Ghraib”, tell us about your role and why did you choose to be part of it?
Sean pauses and thoughtfully answered, “ I am a proud American, I support my country even when I disagree with decisions that are made by our leadership and even if my fellow citizen do things I do not like, I support America, I support my flag, I support the military”.
I think that anyone who will watch the movie will know that the torture in the prison is inexcusable since no government in the world should use torture to extract information from the enemy.
Moreover, in this movie, I play a role of a prison guard in the Center. I am an actor who enjoys going through different emotional states of mind. I was shooting with many Muslim actors, in which my part requires me not to think of them as people, however as orange prison uniforms where I had to scream and yell at them. There is a moment, I suddenly burst into tears because I realized that I am just acting and this torture is real and already happened. I felt sad and wish that these prisoners could be compensated financially and emotionally.
I also felt bad for our American soldiers. I believe they did not receive proper training and learned to unquestionably follow the orders.
I think that the people in the Middle East will love the movie because it will show America in such a harsh light and in America they will love the movie because it is an honest portrayal without trying to attack our government.
Sean added, one of the great things about freedom and democracy that we got the chance to have a movie that shows America in a negative light and we got to learn a little bit more about ourselves.
You have a busy schedule in the upcoming months, tell us more about it.
A Christmas movie will come out this year, where I play the role of an Elf [Santa Switch]. Moreover, I recently got done from shooting a Pilot for CBS called The Surgeon General. Jason Isaac, the actor from Harry Potter movies, portrays a General Surgeon for the U.S military in which he has 6,000 individuals who works for him. In this Pilot, I play the role of a mental health director. Sean says, I am praying a lot for all the Gods I could think of, that this Pilot to be a success. [Alas, the series was not picked up.]
Moreover, during May and June I will be busy on acting in a movie called “Moms’ Night Out”. The movie is about 3 mothers taking the night off and the fathers have to handle all of the chaos.
You have been nominated for an Oscar for Directing, however for years you have not directed any movies, did you gave up on directing?
No, I did not give up on directing, however it is very hard nowadays to do a movie and I am very ambitious to do a movie inexpensively that I might raise money for through social media. It does really not matter what genre of movies I am going to direct, however I like political movies the most.
Furthermore, I would love to do a movie about America and the Middle East it which might discuss religion, politics or culture.
What are your words to your Middle Eastern fans?
The same thing I say to my fans anywhere, is to take risks with what you watch by watching things that are sometimes outside your comfort zone. In addition, through social media people could share the movies, music and interest that reflect their culture to the world. By using social media tools such as the Facebook and Twitter, it would not be a one way transfer; the Middle East could also share their interests to the world, thus it is a cultural exchange that I believe might create peace one day.
Will we see you in Dubai soon?
Definitely, I am going back to my family to tell them all about the A-rated hospitality, cleanness, safety and striking skyline of Dubai. I would love to come back and visit again with my wife and three daughters, and I am sure they will enjoy it.