The birth of “Lord of the Rings” star Sean Astin in February 1971 was hounded with a lot of rumors because his famous mother, award-winning actress Patty Duke, had an interesting love life. She was in a relationship with three different men within a span of a year before giving birth to her son.
Duke raised her firstborn to believe that his father was “Addams Family” star John Astin, who married the actress in 1972, a year after the birth of Sean. However, she was in a secret relationship with him long before they got married. They couldn’t reveal this fact to the press as John was still married to Suzanne Hahn and was waiting for their divorce to be finalized.
After that divorce, Duke and John had another son together, Mackenzie Astin, who was born in 1973. Duke also adopted John’s three sons from his first marriage. However, their married life also ended in divorce in 1985, when Sean was 14 years old.
Sean was at that age when his mother told him that John was not his biological father but Desi Arnaz Jr., the son of Hollywood legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. However, Desi Jr. was only 17 when he dated Duke, who was 23. Their love story was tabloid fodder, especially after Ball was openly against her son’s girlfriend.
Duke turned to Michael Tell, a promoter and publisher who was subletting her apartment, for help. He proposed to marry her so that the press would stop hounding Duke about Desi Jr. and she went along with the impulsive plan. However, their marriage lasted just 13 days and they went through an annulment just as Duke and Desi Jr.’s relationship fizzled and she had already started an affair with John.
Patty Duke, Sean Astin (2004), (David S. Holloway/Getty Images)
Sean then built a good relationship with Desi Jr. after what his mother told him. Then a budding young star himself courtesy of the cult film, “The Goonies,” Sean regarded Desi Jr. as his second dad but still maintained a high regard for John, the man who raised him like his own son.
However, when Sean was 26 years old, a relative of Tell told him how much they were alike. Confused, Sean decided to take a paternity test to finally have the answers to the mystery of who his real father was. John, Desi Jr. and Tell agreed to submit to the DNA test as well so they could all find out the truth as well.
“If you want to know who I am, John Astin is my father, Michael Tell is my biological father,” Sean revealed in 2021.
The actor also said that he has a good relationship with his biological father, whom his other dad, John, described as a great guy. Sean is OK with having three father figures but his mother doesn’t fully believe in DNA tests. Regardless, Duke said she respected the truth her son uncovered through science.
Meanwhile, Sean’s childhood and paternity might be far from conventional but he was determined to build a traditional family when he got married to Christine Harrell in 1992. Together, the couple raised three girls — Alexandra, Elizabeth and Isabella. His eldest is following in his footsteps and had a small role in “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” She also starred in “Bad Kids of Crestview Academy.”
Duke passed away in 2016 at the age of 69. Sean was only 10 years old when his mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental health disorder. Her son founded the Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative following her death.
Sean Astin (2019), (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Sean Astin’s real-life paternity mystery is almost like a story from the movies, isn’t it? What can you say about his discovery? Do you know someone with a similar life? Pass this interesting tale to someone you know!