How Sean Astin comes full circle in Color of Magic

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Sean Astin, who plays Twoflower in the upcoming four-hour telemovie version of The Color of Magic, told SCI FI Wire that the project is very faithful to the Terry Pratchett Discworld stories on which it's based. But, the Lord of the Rings star hastened to add that, like any adaptation, it can't entirely replicate its print counterpart.

The colorful fantasy unfolds in the magical realm of Discworld, which is about to welcome its first tourist, Twoflower. Tasked with guiding Twoflower on his trip is Rincewind (David Jason), an incompetent and cynical wizardry student. Chaos soon ensues, sending Twoflower and Rincewind off on a wild adventure during which they encounter Death (voiced by Christopher Lee) and a power-mad baddie, Trymon (Tim Curry), as well as the possible demise of the universe.

The British production aired last March in the United Kingdom; ION Television will premiere it in the United States on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT. SCI FI Wire recently spoke to Astin by telephone. Following are edited excerpts from our exclusive interview.

How closely does this movie version reflect the source material?

Astin: Terry, I think, is really happy with it. So I think the capturing of the spirit of the source material is there. There are a lot of things that are different. It's the first two books in what was essentially a miniseries. But there were a lot of purists on the set working as extras who were tickled pink with what we were doing and also had lots of comments about what wasn't there. So I took the message to be that people loved that it was getting done and that there was such passion about it by the filmmakers and everybody working on it, and yet ... I heard this great phrase from the librarian at my kids' middle school, and it was "Don't judge a book by its movie." How perfect is that? So I would say it's very faithful, but not perfect.

What did you like most about Twoflower as a character?

Astin: I love him. I love him, love him, love him, love him. I love his optimism and his curiosity. He's a great character. And I loved the comedy. Something will blow up behind him. Everybody else will scream and run, but he'll stop, say, "Look at that!" and take a picture of it. I love that, that unflappable personality. I love the luggage and magical suitcase that has everything in it and all the gold you could ever want. Terry designed him after either a Japanese or an American tourist in the 1950s. That was his idea for it. I actually bought that hat off the rack and brought it into the wardrobe session. It added a safari quality to it that we liked. So I loved everything about him. And I loved his interaction with Rincewind. It was a fun character. The whole thing was fun.

You got to shoot in the legendary tank at Pinewood Studios. How cool was that?

Astin: That was awesome, just awesome. I did Memphis Belle on the lot at Pinewood. I was 18, and I was just in awe, blind awe at what was going on. So to go back there at 36 or 37, whatever I was when we shot Color of Magic, after having made a whole bunch of movies and TV shows and traveling around the world and having been part of The Lord of the Rings, was great. I got to go back to Pinewood with all that knowledge and experience and just soak in the history of that place.

We're assuming that you've seen the finished product by now. What did you make of it?

Astin: I really got a kick out of it. I saw it with my kids, and they had fun with it. It's Pratchett. There's a very English sensibility to it in terms of the comedy. British wit is so fast, and you've really got to open your eyes and lean forward a little bit if you want to catch everything that's coming at you. But I think people will like it. I had a good time watching it.

OK, be honest. Did you burn that shirt the minute you wrapped production?

Astin: I love that shirt! We actually had a bunch of them for the shoot. The only thing is I wanted it to be even more deep reds and purples and blues, really rich colors. But it couldn't have withstood the scrutiny of the blue screens and green screens and stuff. So they had to pick that shirt. I was a little disappointed at first that it wasn't the colors I wanted, but I actually ended up loving it so much that I cut out from the fabric different flowers—because there were a couple of different flower splotches—and I'd glue them onto my script or onto my set chair. I still have a shirt. It's not in the front of my closet, but it's in there somewhere.