His mother is a famous celebrity, but life wasn’t always glamorous for Sean Astin. Becoming an actor just like his mom, Sean grew up in the spotlight in Los Angeles. He took on his first acting role when he was just nine years old. Although he had a successful career, and his famous mother took good care of him, there was still something missing from Sean’s life. He didn’t know who his biological father was. It wasn’t until his mid-twenties that he found out the truth after having all three of his potential fathers take a DNA test.
He Heard Rumors About His Father While Growing Up
Since he was a kid, Sean Astin was well-recognized. The first child of famous actress Patty Duke, Sean received plenty of attention but was also at the center of plenty of rumors. His mother had a few different romantic relationships around the time Sean was born, making it uncertain who exactly his father is.
Sean couldn’t ignore the rumors — he was curious himself. But throughout his entire childhood, his biological father was never confirmed.
He’s Been Famous His Entire Life
When Sean Astin was born on February 25, 1971, he was given his mother’s last name. But it wasn’t because she was famous, it was because she didn’t know for certain who the father of her son was.
An Academy Award-winning actress, Patty Duke was between relationships when she learned that she was pregnant with Sean. This made it unclear who the father was, with Patty making her best guess as to what day she became pregnant.
Patty’s Parents Were Worried About Her Love Life
As she was a teenage celebrity, Patty’s parents worried about her well-being. They wanted to make sure that she was protected and didn’t end up hanging out with the wrong crowd. She soon met Desi Arnaz Jr., son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy.
Reportedly, Patty’s parents didn’t approve of their relationship, as Patty was 23 years old and Desi Jr. was 17 at the time — six years younger than Patty. She was also tying up loose ends, ending her first marriage to Henry Falk, who was 13 years older than her. It was around this time that she became pregnant with Sean.
The Flame Went Out
Just as quickly as Patty and Desi Jr. caught each other’s interest, their fling fell apart. She was already famous and dating another celebrity proved to be too much attention and pressure for the young actress.
Patty didn’t want her love life to make the news and wondered how she could keep her private life out of the spotlight. Michael Tell, a rock music promoter and newspaper publisher, had been subleasing Patty’s apartment. He had an interesting solution.
Patty Marries Michael
Although they were nearly strangers, her tenant Michael Tell suggested that they pretend to be in a relationship in order to distract the press. He told Patty that if they acted like a couple, reporters would leave her alone, so she could date whoever she wanted.
Not only did he suggest that they pretend to be in a relationship, but Michael also convinced Patty to marry him to make it appear to be the real deal. For better or worse, she went along with it. The two were married for just 13 days in 1970 before deciding to get an annulment.
Patty Began Dating John Astin
Although her first relationship with a celebrity didn’t work out, Patty Duke ended up dating another actor. After her short publicity stunt marriage with Michael Tell, Patty began dating John Astin, and actor known for his role on The Addams Family.
At the time, John was still legally married to his first wife, Suzanne Hahn. This caused some problems when Patty found out she was pregnant. The couple welcomed baby Sean in February 1971, certain that John was the father. Two years later, Patty and John were married.
Sean Called John “Daddy!” During the Ceremony
Sean was 18-months-old at the time of Patty and John Astin’s wedding. John already had three sons from his first marriage, and was happy to raise Sean as his fourth son. While the couple had never confirmed that Sean was his biological son, they believed it to be true.
During Patty and John’s wedding ceremony, Sean looked up at John and exclaimed, “Daddy!” After their wedding, John legally adopted Sean as his son, giving him his last name. Now Patty was officially married with a family. She could finally relax and be free of any drama the press would create… right?
Patty Duke and John Astin Get a Divorce
After 13 years, Patty Duke and John Astin’s marriage began to fall apart, and in 1985, they decided to get a divorce. This meant that Patty had to figure out where she would live, as well as take child custody of her son Sean. Since their lives were already changing, Patty decided it would be a good time to confess something to her son.
Sean was a teenager when his parents divorced, and Patty dropped a bombshell: she didn’t know for certain who his father was.
Sean Believed Desi Arnaz Jr. Was His Biological Father
Upon hearing that a man named Desi Arnaz Jr. might be his father, Sean knew he wanted to meet him. Sean reached out to Desi and told him that Patty believed he might be Sean’s dad. Desi agreed to meet up with him, and the two hit it off.
“Desi Arnaz Jr. loves me, and I love him,” Sean said in an interview. “We are so close.” Sean went on to describe Desi as his “second dad” after John Astin, who raised him. It seemed that Sean had found the missing link in his life.
Sean’s Acting Career Keeps Growing
Through his parents’ divorce, and finding out that his biological dad might actually be Desi Arnaz, Jr., Sean’s acting career kept going. That same year, in 1985, he earned his breakthrough role as Mikey Walsh in The Goonies.
It was Sean’s film debut at 13 years old and he was a natural in the part. He won a Young Artist Award for Best Starring Performance by a Young Actor – Motion Picture.
He’s The Typical “Good Guy”
Sean’s kind personality made him a natural for several roles. In 2001 he was cast in the role of Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings franchise. Sean played the loyal friend who set out on a dangerous journey through Middle Earth. Sean and the rest of the cast won numerous awards for the hit films.
Seemingly typecast as the “good guy” Sean also played the part of Bob Newby for 10 episodes in Stranger Things
Sean Was Cast As Rudy
In 1993, Sean Astin secured one of his most memorable roles, playing the lead role of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger in the film Rudy. The film followed a young man who aspires to become a famous football player and follows his dreams to play football for Notre Dame.
Sean was a shoo-in for the role, as his personality perfectly fit that of the real-life Rudy, whom he worked with to make the film authentic.
The Connection In His Role On Stranger Things
In the second season of Stranger Things, Sean plays the role of Bob Newby. The character seems fitting for Sean, as he might be able to relate to the role in real life. In Stranger Things, Bob is dating Joyce, and in turn, becomes the father figure of the family and ends up protecting them from harm.
Sean was a natural at playing the non-biological father role for characters Hopper and Mike. Was the character based on someone he knew in real life?
Someone Claiming To Be Sean’s Relative Reaches Out
By the time you’re 26 years old, it’s safe to assume that you probably know who your relatives are. It’s rare to find out in your mid-twenties that you have family you never knew about, so when a man reached out to Sean claiming he was related, Sean was genuinely confused.
This man told Sean that they’re related, and that he believes Michael Tell, who Patty Duke married for 13 days before Sean was born, is, in fact, his father. At first, Sean didn’t believe him, but the man was so adamant about his hunch that Sean decided to take a closer look.
No One Really Knew… Right?
Sean was never certain who his biological father was, as his mother failed to provide him with any concrete information. It only made things worse for him as tabloids picked up the story and published his personal life for all to see.
But after meeting this man who claimed he was a relative through Michael Tell, Sean decided it was time to find out the truth once and for all. If neither John Astin nor Desi Arnaz Jr. were his biological father, maybe Michael Tell was.
His Life Was Great, Should He Really Risk Changing Things?
Sean Astin may have grown up not knowing who his biological father was, but that didn’t put a damper on his life. His acting career continued to grow, he was happily married to his wife, Christine Harrell since 1992, and although he didn’t know who was his birth dad, he had grown up with a father figure in both John Astin and Desi Arnaz Jr.
Should he really keep pushing to figure out who his biological father was, or just leave it alone?
Sean Decides To Take A Paternity Test
Sean Astin decided that was enough was enough. He wanted to take a paternity test and have his question answered by hard facts. Thankfully, all three of Sean’s possible fathers agreed to submit a DNA test so he could figure out the truth.
John Astin, Arnaz Jr., and Michael Tell all took the paternity test to find out which of them was Sean’s biological son, 25 years later. Sean was ready to learn the truth.
Michael Tell Is Sean Astin’s Father
After all of these years, a DNA test concluded that Michael Tell, a complete stranger to Sean, was his father. Everyone was stunned, including Sean’s mom, Patty Duke. The couple had only married as a publicity stunt and didn’t keep in contact, but Michael was in fact, Sean’s father!
Seeing Sean and Michael side-by-side, the resemblance between the two is clear. While it took 25 years to find out the truth, Sean was finally content knowing who his biological father was and looking forward to getting to know him.
Finally, Patty Had The Answer, Too
Not only was it important for Sean Astin to know who his biological father is, but it was something that had been haunting Patty Duke for 26 years, too. It’s hard to fathom carrying on with life without knowing the truth about such an important matter.
The actress had a lot on her plate already. Since the late ’80s, Patty had also been open about her bipolar diagnosis. She became an advocate for increased research and funding for mental health.
Patty Doesn’t Fully Believe In The DNA Test
Patty Duke stated that she has her own beliefs as to who the father of Sean is, no matter what the DNA test says. While she supported Sean looking for answers for his own needs, she never believed that a DNA test would give them the closure they were looking for.
Patty said, “I don’t buy that test. I can support his truth as long as my truth, if not supported, is respected. I have told him I know what I know to be true.”
Sean Was Okay With Having Multiple Dads
While it was a confusing time for Sean growing up, not knowing who is biological father was and having different men step up to take on the role, but he took it in stride. Sean always kept a positive attitude and made an effort to have a respectful relationship with each of the men who could have possibly been his birth dad.
Sean describes Arnaz Jr. as his godfather with whom he has a “powerful love bond.” After finding out that Michael Tell was his biological father, Sean says that he’s happy with the news and says that although he didn’t know him growing up, Tell “turned out to be a great guy.”
Sean Created His Own Family
Some people might wait their entire life to have the answers about their family revealed to them, things that relatives aren’t ready to divulge. But Sean recognized the importance of identifying his biological father, and never stopped digging for the answer.
Throughout the process, his maturity and respectful manner are what gained him not one, but three father figures to look up to and bond with over his lifetime. He brought people together and created a pretty incredible extended family.