Sean Astin brings real life Iowa Baseball Coach Kent Stock to life

Sean Astin is an icon among the fanboy set for his work in such films as The Goonies and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. However, it is his work in portraying real life Iowa, baseball coach Kent Stock in The Final Season that he really wants to spread the word about now.

The film is the true story of Kent Stock (Sean Astin), who in the early '90s, gives up a job and ditches his wedding plans to take over as head coach as the Norway High School baseball team. Kent must win over his players and convince them and himself that he can fill their former coach's shoes and that they can go out winners. In the summer of 1991 Norway High's baseball tradition ended on a triumphant but sombre note.

Did you see a lot of parallels in the character of Kent Stock and the character of Rudy? In terms of overcoming odds and subverting peoples expectations of who this character was?

Sean Astin: No, not in that way. In one of the earlier versions of the script Jim (Powers Boothe) and Kent have a kind of tactical relationship about Kent getting the job at the school. I don't know if that was historically accurate or not but Kent knew what he was capable of, even though he was so grateful to have the job and he was a little overwhelmed by having it, he would never have been able to accomplish what he accomplished by leading this team to the championship he did given what had happened with them. In terms of losing a bunch of seniors who had graduated and all the towns bad vibes and everything else.

He knew what he was capable of and I guess in a sense Rudy did too. Rudy was about believing in yourself and fighting desperately to achieve something that was beyond yourself. This movie to me is more about achieving excellence. In terms of the way the game presented itself. That's what this community did, that's what the players did, that's what the coaches did, they expected excellence every second, year in and year out. There's something really admirable and instructive about that.

Going back to what you said about historical accuracy did you do any research on Kent Stock? Or, did you research playing a coach?

Sean Astin: No, not really. I sort of felt I, having played baseball for 13 years and been a baseball fan my whole life and spending a lot of time in the midwest, because my wife is from there... I felt like I kind of knew this story, knew these people; felt comfortable with that. When I got to Iowa Kent had given me this Buzz Bissinger book Three Nights in August, all about his favorite managers. I was thinking about that as I was filming sometimes and just being around him just sort of absorbing his tones. Just the way he kind of carries himself and the way he communicates. I didn't feel the need to go out and research stuff or read about things. There's just been great coaches in sports movies so I kind of felt like that was my research.

Can you talk about how you became an executive producer on the film?

Sean Astin: Basically, the executive producer credit that I have is just an acknowledgment that I believed in the movie and was committed to do the movie before all the money was raised. That my commitment helped them raise the money. They raised some money beforehand and you never know if a movie is going to get made. There's a lot of guidance saying, "This movie isn't going to happen." It was just an incredible longshot that the movie was going to get made in the eyes of some professionals. They really communicated their intention for me to be a part of the movie in such a way that I felt like reciprocating it. I basically gave my name to them to run with and they did it.

Executive producer is an interesting credit, you know what I mean? The real guts of the producing was done on the ground and was done by the Iowa people. It's a story by Iowa people, raised with Iowa money... (laughs) it's an amazing accomplishment and I just happened to play a part.

The Final Season seems to put across the whole David vs. Goliath theme that exists in sports. I was wondering if you thought those aspects of the movie are what draw people in to sports films? They want to see people overcoming adversity?

Sean Astin: Anytime you watch a great documentary about an event that you know the outcome of... the moon landing, or a World Series that got won by your team... when you're watching the documentary and you're being taken through the early stages of it you almost still have that anxiety. Then when it happens it's only because of that tension that you were carrying that the joy is that much sweeter. I think movies do that and sports movies in particular, there's a beginning, middle and end no matter what the sports story is. In this movie it's not David vs. Goliath, it's sort of Goliath vs. Himself. This team had won 19 state baseball championships. They were the champions. Around their communities they were the big cheese, so the idea that the rug was being pulled out from under them by bureaucrats and administrators and this dynasty that they had built was subverted doesn't make them David. Essentially, there's nothing they can do to fight that. It means that they are going to go out to the best of their ability on their terms. The tension is whether or not they're going to be able to ultimately do that.

The outcome of the movie, for anyone who has ever watched a sports movie, is obvious. It's obvious but that's not the point. The point is watching how they do it. Watching what happens... through those emotions and maybe more importantly what's happening off the field. Why they're doing what they're doing, how the kids are thinking about the sport. I don't think high school baseball movies have been treated as authentically as this, as realistically as this.

Okay, what's going on with The Goonies 2? Will you do it?

Sean Astin: You know I've been saying the same thing, of course I'd do it if it was right, if the character was good, if the story was right or whatever. I'm totally up for it. It's more than a lock that it'll get done. Who knows when? There's an animated thing that I've been hearing a lot about. I would think that based on how much they're promoting the DVD, not just promoting it but by how many DVDs they're selling, they're kind of softening up the ground for their animated show that I've heard about. Yeah, so stay tuned...

Do you have any ideas with what you would like to see happen with that?

Sean Astin: Yeah, lots of ideas. (Laughs) I do I have a whole version of the movie but nobody's wanted to let me tell it to them. Nobody in a position of authority has wanted me to tell it to them so it will probably die with me. (Laughs).

The Final Season comes to theaters on October 12 from Yari Film Group.

Evan Jacobs