Actor Sean Astin finds a new appreciation for the Great Lakes as he makes a movie in Milwaukee.
People along Milwaukee’s lakefront on Wednesday saw what they might have believed was a Coast Guard helicopter water rescue going on off McKinley Marina. It might have seemed confusing, though, since the rescue appeared to take place three times.
What was actually going on was the making of a feature film. Principal photography wraps up today in Milwaukee for “The Surface.” It’s a drama about two men in dire straits who are thrown together by circumstances in the middle of Lake Michigan.
We spoke earlier this summer with the writer and director of "The Surface." But this week, we had a chance to catch up with the film’s star. Sean Astin is best known for his lead roles as Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings” and the title character in “Rudy.”
In “The Surface,” he plays a character named Mitch, a "despondent soul" who has experienced hard luck and loss in his life. The film begins with Mitch’s plan to commit suicide by going out into the middle of Lake Michigan.
When he gets there, he runs over debris of a plane, whose pilot Kelly (played by Chris Mulky) is badly injured. Mitch pulls Kelly into the boat that's now stranded, and they essentially become each other's guardians. Astin says it becomes a “redemptive story about meaning and life."
Astin was drawn to the role as an opportunity to “engage thoughts of life, death, and mortality," and he hopes people can relate to the film - and even be moved by it.
"Our purpose of making this movie is to help people," he says. "If somebody's considering suicide, maybe on some level, they can see this movie. It's not too hard for me to believe that I'll hear someone in a year saying, 'My brother was feeling really low and I showed him this movie, and it really meant something to him.' So movies actually have the capacity to impact people."
The Lake Michigan setting also proved key to Astin's experience making the film. He says he was struck by the beauty and importance of the Great Lakes and hopes the film stimulates interest in Lake Michigan and the community.
"From a spiritual, from a dramatic, from a philosophical point of view, I really am proud to have communed with Lake Michigan, to have engaged it from Milwaukee, from Wisconsin, and to have sort of created something that you can put in a time capsule," he says.
Between the shots of Lake Michigan and an engaging story, Astin hopes many people will come out to see this "little movie."
The film's producers also hope to include Milwaukee area musicians and bands on the soundtrack, and plan to host a contest for the title song soon. You can find more information on their Facebook page.