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Blake J. Harris: I was going to say: the bravery [of the Little People] notwithstanding, what did you think of the actual puppets? I think the director is on record saying that he thought it was going to be a lot better in the final production…but this was your first movie (and an odd one at), so I was wondering if it seemed weird to you.

Mackenzie Astin: Again, at the time, I probably knew somewhere deep down that this was weird looking. But at 12 or 13 years old and suspending my disbelief, I probably thought: yeah, that looks like the character on the card. The face and shape are kind of similar. I could buy that. And again: in the moment, even though you’re staring into lifeless eyes (that are made of marble or glass), you gotta believe! So I had no idea. I had no idea how deep into the garbage I was.

Blake J. Harris: My experience is the same; whenever I’m writing something, no matter the project, no matter the scope, you’ve got to put blinders on and all that matters is this one project, doing the best you can do, and all that. So I was kind of surprised to read that interview that you sent me with the director. Where he sounded very dismissive of the project, saying that he only did the movie to get paid. Was that his attitude on set?

Mackenzie Astin: No. From what I remember of Rod [Amateau], and probably because he came from the stunt part of the business, his MO was to get it done; to be buoyant on set and to make the best of what we had to work with. Though he was probably more aware at the time than I that we weren’t making Doctor Zhivago.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

Mackenzie Astin: But no, it didn’t seem like he didn’t care on set.

Blake J. Harris: Okay, good.

Mackenzie Astin: It seemed like everybody was “in” and they were going to do the best that they could.

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Blake J. Harris: So before we talk about some of the downsides to the movie, and what it was like going through your mixed feelings about it, what were some of the best parts about it?

Mackenzie Astin: For the young me, for the Me Then, I would say getting to run around and do (finger-quote) “stunts.” Getting to do little things like slide across the hood of the ’69 Triumph that was Tangerine’s car. Like the Duke’s of Hazzard! And being able to throw out ideas was great. Like, oh god, I think I moonwalked in one shot!?

Blake J. Harris: [laughs]

Mackenzie Astin: And just being the star of a movie was a good experience. The Older Me, the me that’s a little bit more mature looking back, I recognize that some of the best parts were the camaraderie amongst the Little People actors. The experience, of working with a collection of people who make their living that way, it was a great vibe to be around. It was a troupe; I was watching a troupe of people work with each other, together, to make sure nobody got hurt and to do a good job. And man…those suits! It was the summer, in the valley, and those things—like Kevin said, they weighed something like 80 pounds—and when the heads went on, they couldn’t see. I mean, the choreography was limited by how far they could go without bumping into something!

Blake J. Harris: Right, right. Kevin said he had, like, no orientation. It was so hard.

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah.

Blake J. Harris: And how did it go with Katie? Was it good for you relationship? Was it hard to work with her?

Mackenzie Astin: [long sigh] Blake, we broke up like halfway through.

Blake J. Harris: Oh my god. How???

Mackenzie Astin: I don’t know! I mean, I was probably trying to sow my oats.

Blake J. Harris: Sure. You’re the star of a movie!

Mackenzie Astin: Right? And an asshole. So somehow the relationship didn’t make it through the film. We broke up about halfway through.

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

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Mackenzie Astin: It’s really a testament to Katie how professionally we continued to carry ourselves after the breakup.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, I mean I had no idea. I couldn’t notice…

Mackenzie Astin: I mean, it was never unfriendly. But I do remember that by the time the Garbage Pail Kids movie finished, our relationship was in the toilet.

Blake J. Harris: So this was all a really long time ago, and I’m sure there was no specific moment, but do you remember when you started to realize that this was not the movie you hoped it would be?

Mackenzie Astin: I don’t know. I’m sure there was part of me…I’m sure at some point during production I started to realize there was no pirate ship that we were going to find. That this wasn’t going to be…good at all. But again: you carry through. I think I was excited about the idea of going to see it in a theater. And God, I do remember that day because [cracking up] there was nobody there.

Blake J. Harris: Really?

Mackenzie Astin: It was like me and my buddy and maybe eight other people in the theater. And, you know, nobody really laughed or oohed or ahhed. It was evident once it was on screen that…it should never have been.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah. What was the reaction like from your family? Did your father… how did he avoid the I-told-you-so-type thing? How did that not create a problem?

Mackenzie Astin: I mean, he’s a pretty noble dude. So I think it was just instinctive of him to be encouraging to his son. I do remember that he allowed himself to get a kick out of one of the reviews from a paper in the Valley. You need a little background to get it, but Anthony Newley, who was a Broadway star [and who played “Captain Manzini” in The Garbage Pail Kid Movie], and the show he was known for was called What Kind of a Fool Am I? The headline of the review, or maybe it was the first paragraph, was: NOW I KNOW WHAT KIND OF A FOOL ANTHONY NEWLEY IS.

Blake J. Harris: [laughs]

Mackenzie Astin: It’s a silly pun, but the old man got a kick out of it. He still gets a kick out of it. Every now and then I remind him and it makes him laugh 30 years later.

Blake J. Harris: And tell me about the days and weeks and months (and even years) after The Garbage Pail Kids Movie? Like how dejected were you? Did you get back on the horse? Did that haunt you?

March 29, 2016 - File - PATTY DUKE, (December 14, 1946 - March 29, 2016) was an American actress of stage, film and television. Duke died at 69 of sepsis from a ruptured intestine. Duke won an Academy Award in 1963 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in 'Th

Mackenzie Astin: Interestingly, and I don’t know how much of a direct impact that experience had, but The Facts of Life finished (I think) the next year. And I had missed out on a whole bunch of school and actually a whole bunch of Little League games (I was a big baseball player at the time). And also I’d learned from my mother’s experience that being a child actor can sometimes rob you of your childhood.

Blake J. Harris: Uh-huh.

Mackenzie Astin: So I made a decision after The Facts of Life finished that I was going to go back to high school. I decided that I wasn’t going to act for a little while, I was just going to go to school full time. So I hung up the acting shoes for, I think, about three years. I played ball on the high school team and I ended up editing the school paper, which was great. I was a “normie,” if you will. Which was great!

Blake J. Harris: Ha.

Mackenzie Astin: Looking back now, I’m sure the rotten egg that the Garbage Pail Kids is (and was) had something to do with that. But also it was just sort of the right decision for me at the time. To step away from the vehicle.

Blake J. Harris: At the time did you feel like you were stepping away from it permanently (and then you just so happened to go back to it)? Like was it something that you planned to stay away from for a long time, or was it always more like a wait and see thing?

Mackenzie Astin: I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do.

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Mackenzie Astin: Other than play ball and have a sort of normal experience. [laughs] I was also fortunate enough to be making TV money, so I didn’t have to really worry about making money just yet.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

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Mackenzie Astin: So I went back to school full-time and totally fell in love with not being an actor. And fell in love with journalism, fell in love with writing and putting together a paper. And fell in love with a couple of girls too.

Blake J. Harris: Ha!

Mackenzie Astin: I got into a pretty good school [Johns Hopkins University], in part because my father and grandfather went there, but I ended up not going to college because I was dating a girl that I really liked and… [in a high pitched nothing-to-see-here tone of voice] I might have discovered a little thing called marijuana.

Blake J. Harris: [laughing] That tends to happen around that age.

Mackenzie Astin: So the idea of studying was much less appealing than playing videogames and, you know, trying to make smoochies on as many girls as possible. And having a good time being 18 and having a shitload of dough in the bank.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah.

Mackenzie Astin: So what happened was I got in touch with my old manager. I thought: okay, if I’m not gonna go to Baltimore to go to Johns Hopkins then maybe I’ll throw my hat back in the acting ring. Which I did. And was able to keep working. I think actually that break that I took between the TV show I did (and also the worst movie ever made) helped in rekindling what might have been lost.

Blake J. Harris: Do you remember what brought you out of “retirement,” as it were?

Mackenzie Astin: I think I did a couple episodes of a show called Brooklyn Bridge. 

Blake J. Harris: Ah, I remember that show. It was kind of like The Wonder Years? 

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah, exactly. Gary David Goldberg was the creator of the show, and it was a terrific, terrific cast. It was set in the 40s, I think, in post-war New York. Jenny Lewis was on the show (this was when she was still acting) and I ended up playing the part of a guy who married her older sister. So that was the first gig out of the box. And before too long I landed a movie, a Disney film called Iron Will. Which was a pretty big film and a pretty exciting experience. And I was out of the gate, which was good.

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