Perfect for Mother’s Day, the family comedy Mom’s Night Out tells the story of Allyson (Sarah Drew), a wife and mother who loves her family, but also longs for a peaceful, grown-up evening out with her friends. Leaving her husband (Sean Astin) to watch the kids for the evening suddenly turns into chaos, in a true celebration of the beautiful mess known as parenting.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Sean Astin talked about being a part of a good, clean comedy that families can see together, why movies with a component of faith are so appealing to audiences, that he loves physical comedy and hopes he gets to do more, and how such a chaotic story had a surprisingly un-chaotic set. He also talked about what attracted him to the upcoming FX series The Strain, adapted from Guillermo del Toro’s novel and premiering this summer, and how, even though there’s been talk of a sequel to The Goonies since 1986, he’d be game to do it, if it ever happened. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
SEAN ASTIN: There are two parts to that answer. One is that it’s just fun to be on a movie set and looking to find the comedy in sweet, simple family moments. It’s there in our own lives, every single day, whether we recognize it as funny at the moment or not. It’s great to lift up that dynamic in a film, and it’s fun to do. And then, the other thing is that my whole life and career, I played Oso in Special Agent Oso and I was the narrator for Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet and I did The Goonies. I’ve got this library of things that I’ve done that are very family friendly, and everywhere I go, people always ask me, “When are you gonna do more family friendly stuff?” And the answer always is, “Well, it depends on when I get offered something and people are making movies like that.” When this one came along, I just thought, “This is great! This is a great opportunity to do something that I’m going to enjoy and that answers a request that the public has.” The public has been asking for these kinds of movies for a long time, and occasionally they get them. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad, but this was an opportunity to service that desire in people’s hearts.
This guy doesn’t really seem to have a clue about what he’s doing, but he clearly loves his wife and wants to be there for his kids. Do you find roles that are just the straightforward, good guy to be pretty rare these days?
ASTIN: It’s funny, lately people have cast me as a homicidal murderer. They think, “Oh, you’re such a nice guy, nobody would expect that.” I guess I resist the inclination to generalize. I think there are lots of family movies out there. When my wife and kids want to watch something, we go on Netflix or Apple TV, and there’s tongs of stuff to choose from. I don’t agree with this idea that it’s so rare. I think certain people like certain kinds of movies, and they don’t get those kinds of movies very much. This movie takes you into a world of people who attend church, and church is important to them. It just lets you experience some of their world with them. I think that’s really inspiring for a lot of people who don’t get to see it that way. Usually, there’s some political bent on anything that has to do with any church experience. The fact is that church is a huge part of American cultural life. This movie does what movies can do, which is to take you into a different place, a different time and a different culture. It drops you into that culture. I think there are going to be more and more movies like this coming out, that have a component of faith in them, but that don’t need to preach. I think those movies are going to be coming out a lot soon. Life is hard sometimes. People find different ways to get by and to make things easier for themselves and to help their family, friends, loved ones and the people around them. The movie doesn’t say, “You should do this. You should do that.” It just allows you to observe people in the process of helping each other learn to be forgiving of their own frailties and to enjoy all of the messy mistakes that happen along the way, because we all have them. The only smart, healthy way to deal with it is to have a sense of humor.
ASTIN: I absolutely love it! I do believe that it comes naturally to me, and I hope that I have lots of chances to do more, in the coming part of my career. It is fun with a capital F.
This movie has a lot of chaos happening in it. What was the atmosphere like on set, especially with all of the kids?
ASTIN: This may be the most sophisticated production I’ve ever worked on, where children are such an important part of the process of the story. It was a smaller budget film and the filmmakers have children, so they intuitively understood that children have their own rhythms. They have sleep-wake cycles and food cycles and energy peaks and dips, so they structured the schedule to be able to swivel the shots around to capture when the children were up. And if they weren’t quite in the sweet spot, we’d shift over and do something else and wait for them to come around again, or do it the next day. It’s a luxurious way of doing it, but it’s really smart. The kids were professionals. They knew what they were doing. They knew how to hit their mark and they knew where their eyelines were. It’s shocking how sophisticated little kids can be, when it comes to behaving in a professional manner, and that’s a credit to their parents. In this case, there was a healthy way of grooming the kids to perform in a professional setting and their playtime was honored. It was good. I loved it. I thought it was great. Usually, when I’m watching a movie where there’s kids involved, I keep wanting to tell the director they should do this or they should do that, to capture the performance. On this, I was just able to sit back and enjoy watching savvy people do the right thing.
You have The Strain premiering on FX this summer, which is quite creepy and unsettling. When you read the pilot script for that, what was it about that show and character that made you want to get involved?
ASTIN: Well, I saw Pan’s Labyrinth, so when my agent called and said, “Guillermo del Toro wants to meet with you,” I said, “Yes!” He said, “Well, go meet with him.” And I said, “I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if I’m an extra. I don’t care if I have to clean toilets. Whatever I have to do, the answer is yes.” So, I went over to meet with him and Carlton [Cuse], and they basically asked me to be in the show. They said they wanted me to be in the show. And I said, “Yeah, I wanna do it!” So, I read it and liked it, and they explained what the part was. I listened to the books on tape, which were so great, and read by Ron Perlman.
ASTIN: Yeah, Steven [Spielberg] has been talking about it since 1986. It’s a finger-snap of Mr. Spielberg’s away from happening. There have been lots of screenplays, and it’s been a process. Every time it’s come up, it’s been on the verge of happening. So, my official public position is that it will absolutely, 100%, without question happen. I just don’t know when. It could happen in a month, or it could happen after I’m dead, but it will happen. It has to because so many people want it to.
Is it something that you want to be involved with, if it does happen and the script is right?
ASTIN: Goonies are Goonies. If Spielberg calls and says he wants us to do it, I can’t imagine it not working out.
Mom’s Night Out opens in theaters on May 9th.