Patty Duke Finally Reveals Who Sean Astin’s Biological Father Is


Sean Astin, famous for his role on Lord Of The Rings, has always been close to his mother, Oscar winner Patty Duke. What bothered him throughout his life was the question of who his father actually is, as Patty Duke never really told him. Before her death, however, Duke cleared it all up…

Baby Sean

Sean Astin was actually born Sean Patrick Duke on February 25, 1971 – with his mother’s last name, Duke, in light of his father’s unknown identity (stay tuned to hear when it changed and why). When his mother Patty realized that she was pregnant, she was in between relationships by only a matter of days – which made it hard to know for sure who the father was. And she wasn’t the only one who wanted to know…

Baby Sean

The Sweetheart’s Sweethearts

Patty, along with some of her relationships around the time of Sean’s birth, was being scrutinized by the masses from a very young age. From the outside looking in, she was jumping from one relationship to another too fast to be normal. America cared about their sweetheart – but what they didn’t know was the circumstances Patty had come from, and who or what had pushed her repeatedly in difficult directions.

The Sweetheart’s Sweethearts

A Rough Start

Patty had been hustled into child acting by harsh managers and a mother who couldn’t take care of her. These managers were a married couple who trained young stars to become disciplined adult actors. They initially had high hopes for Patty’s older brother, but once Patty was a bit older herself, they saw more potential in her and quickly turned all of their efforts to her. Their method was to practically adopt her, and as such, they were able to dictate her time and practically her entire life.

A Rough Start

A Star Is Born

First, they changed her name, as she discusses in her autobiography, “Call Me Anna.” They eradicated her accent. Then they took it upon themselves to not only find her acting offers, but to also decide whether or not she would take them. At a relatively late age for normal teenage rebellion, Patty began to speak up for herself against the harrowing demands of young stardom, wanting to have some of a say over how she spent her time.

A Star Is Born

In Need Of Escape

But her managers were just as determined to keep her locked down. They would find ways to intervene, and Patty continued to find ways to evade them. It wasn’t long before she felt trapped in this life that had been decided for her, and felt the urge to turn away in any direction she could. That’s when the media started to take note of some of the more public decisions she was making.

In Need Of Escape

Husband #1

Her big chance for escape seemed to come while she was working on the set of The Patty Duke Show: a sitcom designed around her personality and rise to fame and thus named after her. She and the director Harry Falk became close and began dating, leading him to realize that her managers were overly controlling her. He proposed to her, and in accepting him she was finally given refuge from her managers. However, their marriage only lasted a few years.

Husband #1

Patty Looks For Love

Nonetheless, this marriage was the catalyst that finally broke her free of her child star bondages and reliance on her guardians. When this marriage didn’t work out, Patty took some time to herself, focusing on her career. But a few years later, she found herself in a highly criticized affair with another star child, Desi Arnaz, Jr. Not surprisingly to some, this fling came to an end almost as soon as it began.

Patty Looks For Love

Lucy Doesn’t Love You

Arnaz’ parents, actors Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, very publicly disapproved of the fling since their son was 6 years younger than Patty. But Patty herself was still so young, and unequipped to deal with so much of her life being watched. But a visitor she was hosting named Michael Tell offered to make a show out of marrying her to help turn the attention away from Arnaz, and that’s how Patty wound up with husband #2 – for a grand total of 13 days.

Lucy Doesn’t Love You

A Different Kind Of Love

Patty and Michael never grew close during their time together, and so she didn’t considered her second marriage to be of consequence – not knowing it might yet have an impact on her future. She quickly moved on to a new relationship with fellow actor John Astin. At the time, John was still married but separated, which briefly got in the way of their relationship’s potential. That’s when Patty found out that she was pregnant with Sean.

A Different Kind Of Love

A Motherly Instinct

Patty knew immediately that she wanted to give her unborn child a different kind of life than the life she had growing up. But not knowing who the father was would naturally make that a little bit tricky. No matter how much she loved John or vice versa, she felt that bringing a baby into their relationship might be more than he had bargained for; he had signed up to be a boyfriend, not necessarily a father.

A Motherly Instinct

A Father For Sean

Neither John nor Patty could be certain if it was his child she was carrying, but fortunately for Patty, he was ready to care for her child. Patty reciprocated by offering to care for John’s three children from his previous marriage in return. Once his divorce was finalized, the two were married in 1972 with a 1-year-old Sean even attending the ceremony. In a momentous impulse, Sean loudly called John “Daddy!” and their future together was decided – for the time being.

A Father For Sean

Another Father For Sean

However, Patty’s relationship with John wouldn’t see as many years as Sean’s would. In 1984, John and Patty developed a rift, finally divorcing in 1985. All of a sudden, this turn of events gave Patty the feeling that it was time to tell Sean that John might not have been his father after all. For the first time, he heard that a total stranger from his mom’s past might be his father – someone named Desi Arnaz, Jr.

Another Father For Sean

The Man Who Raised Sean

Sean truly loved the man who he had known as his father up until this day. It wasn’t hard for him to decide that John would remain an important figure in his life, whether or not they shared blood. But that didn’t answer his inner dilemma toward what he should do with this new information his mom had just given him. He wondered if he could ever get used to the idea of having a different father.

The Man Who Raised Sean

Keeping Two Dads

Despite his wholesome relationship with his large family, he decided to accept his mother’s words and get in touch with the man who he now believed was his biological father. But once he and Arnaz met, they took such a liking to each other that he didn’t want to end their relationship with a simple meeting. He decided to pursue a real bond with Arnaz, which blossomed and lasts to this day. He was just 14 at the time.

Keeping Two Dads

Time Goes On

Sean went into adulthood juggling a lot on his plate: his single mother, his two fathers, and any inner turmoil that came from having something he’d believed his entire life turn out to be untrue – but he did so with tons of strength and positivity. He was strong not only himself, but also for his mom – whose childhood issues would continue to shape her adulthood – and for his fatherly figures, who also felt some responsibility for his situation.

Time Goes On

A Huge Heart

If you didn’t already love him for his endearing Samwise Gamgee portrayal in Lord of the Rings or Rudy in Rudy, his capacity for positivity is sure to hook you. Despite dealing with stuff at home, Sean followed in his mother’s footsteps and entered into the world of entertainment.

A Huge Heart

The Goonies

Not letting the unusual confusion over his biological father get in the way of his dreams, Sean continued on to achieve a fulfilling acting career. In 1985, the very same year he received this shocking news and had his reality uprooted, he was given his first major acting role as Mikey Walsh in The Goonies – casting him as the lovable type that he seemed to be in real life, and that he would go on to play in many other feature films.

The Goonies

Rudy

In 1993, Sean Astin won hearts over around the world again with his touching portrayal of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger in the film Rudy. Here, he plays an aspiring football player with no clear shot at his dreams. But he refuses to give up on them, overcoming a series of obstacles to finally touch the success he’s always dreamed of. There ending is far from perfect, but the battles Rudy fights and is able to win leave him feeling victorious – much like the victories Sean made for himself in real life.

Rudy

Samwise The Brave

Sean’s career really hit the jackpot when he was cast as the steadfastly optimistic Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings. Sporting a constantly warm smile in the face of a harrowing journey with a million terrifying threats through Middle Earth, Samwise accompanies his friend on a difficult quest out of nothing but the caring in his heart. As it turns out, those Samwise eyes that overflow with kindness and stop you in your tracks were a feature of Sean’s in real life as well.

Samwise The Brave

Stranger Things

Ever the sacrificial support system, Sean’s most recent acting gig was as the modest hero Bob Newby on Stranger Things. Here, he volunteers himself as a fatherly figure to the sons of his girlfriend – just in time for the entire family to get trapped in a life-or-death situation together. He gets everybody out and saves the day, but unfortunately doesn’t make it out himself. Does the fatherly figure he plays here seem at all inspired by elements of Sean’s real life? Sit tight: it gets more complicated.

Stranger Things

Daddy Drama Returns

In the midst of Sean’s proliferous acting career, he was approached by a stranger who had even more surprising and uninvited news about his father. The man turned out to be a relative of his mother’s second husband, Michael Tell, who insisted that Michael was Sean’s actual biological father. It seemed impossible, given the short and unromantic nature of this particular marriage. But to Sean, it opened a door that he had never quite been able to close before.

Daddy Drama Returns

Questions Unanswered

Sean’s chance meeting with a relative of Michael Tell was, in the end, telling of much more. It made Sean face the fact that he still didn’t have a definite answer about his father. At this point, his father’s identity had already been questioned and resolved multiple times, with Sean needing to emotionally adjust to the news each and every time. It must have been exhausting. This time, he didn’t feel equipped to just take in any more news without a bit more certainty.

Questions Unanswered

Resolutions

At this point, a lot of things were right in Sean’s life, and he was grateful for it. He had been raised by a loving father. He had grown up in a large and close family. He was now happily married to his wife of almost 10 years. He’d enjoyed a successful acting career, following in his mother’s footsteps. So, despite feeling obviously frustrated by the complex situation, he was mostly just curious – and so he resolved to solve the mystery once and for all.

Resolutions

One Last Step

He decided that a paternal DNA test was the only way to get the information, and the answers, that he needed. He was ready to close the door that had so far remained open to others, giving them chances to repeatedly uproot such an important part of his life. But in order to know for sure, he needed to get in touch with the last contestant who hadn’t been a part of his life so far. So, he found Michael Tell.

One Last Step

The Final Father

After Michael and the other two men he knew might be his father agreed, the test was done – and the results showed him that Michael Tell was, after all, his biological paternal father. Everyone had thought it the least likely answer since Michael and Patty had hardly known each other. But looking at this picture, the truth seems pretty clear now. Upon learning this information, he reached out to Michael again to ask for one more favor: to get to know each other.

The Final Father

Patty Doesn’t Buy It

Like with the other candidates, who were all fatherly figures to Sean, he and Michael began to form a bond – which they still have to this day. Whether they were brought together by science, love, or both, their relationship clearly proves that it’s just impossible not to get along with Sean Astin. But, his mother had a harder time accepting the results of the test. When asked about it, she expressed, “I can support his truth as long as my truth, if not supported, is respected.”

Patty Doesn’t Buy It

Patty Fights A Battle

Despite the issues that made Patty’s adolescence hard, Hollywood was even better then than it is now at keeping the lid on mental issues. Even though she had troublesome episodes during filming processes that would be witnessed by the cast and crew, the news was kept very quiet. So it wasn’t until she was in her 50’s that the world heard for the first time that she had been struggling with mental disorders for most of her life.

Patty Fights A Battle

Patty’s Contribution

Later in life, she decided to go public about having bipolar disorder. Following this, she wanted to take the knowledge a step further by speaking up for others as well. So she decided to become a spokesperson for mental health, and spent the rest of her life advocating for more research and funding. But part of surviving with mental disorders is holding onto the comforts you’re able to find in the world, and for Patty it was her belief about Sean’s father.

Patty’s Contribution

An Understanding Son

It was hard for Sean to hear Patty’s dismissal, but it didn’t cause any damage to Sean’s relationship with his mother or any of his fatherly figures. Though her aversion may seem strange, the emotional turmoil Patty had gone through was playing a major role in her life. Unlike Sean, his mother wasn’t ready to open her heart to multiple possibilities about a situation so fragile. Can anyone really blame her? Sean, at least, did not.

An Understanding Son

An Unusual Family

Sean Astin’s open heart is nothing short of a phenomenon when taking into account the complicated hand that he was dealt in his youth. He has welcomed not one but three fatherly figures into his life, even though many came into it without warning, and even after finding out that some were not his actual father. He cultivated healthy relationships with them all, regardless of uncertain and sometimes unideal circumstances – showing how much he truly appreciated each one as a person.

An Unusual Family

Young Patty

Patty Duke was only 23 at the time, but she already had quite a career behind her in the arts. She first went on the stage at the age of 13, following in her brother’s footsteps. She had made a legacy for herself by being one of the youngest actors to ever receive an academy award for her captivating performance as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. However, being one of America’s beloved young stars meant that Patty was right under the public’s watch at the time.

Young Patty Duke

 

Strength of Character: Personally And Professionally

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the same strength of character Sean displayed in his personal life, dealing with unusual twists and turns that could have done more damage and left many feelings hurt, was giving him strength in his career. Because Sean found a way to harness the strength he got from his strange circumstances and the fulfillment of many relationships into his career, it never ceased to fulfill him in the same way.

Strength of Character: Personally And Professionally

A Legendary Heart, On And Off Screen

In the end, Sean gets the kind of extended family that few people even believe is possible in this day and age. And without a good nature like his, it certainly wouldn’t be. But thanks to his uncanny ability to find the good in any situation – which is such a part of him that even his roles in film often embody it – Sean has made the improbable possible, and finally has the answers that eluded him for so long.

A Legendary Heart, On And Off Screen