Emilio Estevez on ‘Bobby’
Emilio Estevez is very passionate about his new film Bobby, a drama about a group of people living and working at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night Bobby Kennedy was shot at the hotel. At the Toronto Film Festival, where the film was given its North American debut, he and members of his cast, including William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone and Christian Slater talked about the film …
Here is a portion of that press conference.
Question: Do you remember where you were when Robert Kennedy was shot?
Bill Macy: I was a card-carrying hippie in those days, so it’s a little bit of a fog.
Emilio Estevez: I was 6 years old. I was staying with my grandmother in North Benton, Ohio. I heard the news and I recall running upstairs to tell my father [Martin Sheen] the news. He was devastated of course.
Sharon Stone: My father was a very liberal person who taught us ethics and values. It was a heartbreaking family experience.
Question: For those who weren’t born yet or were too young to remember, what do you remember learning about Bobby?
Demi Moore: What was most important [about making this film] was being reunited with his original message. He had an incredible ability to instill a sense of hope and there are some incredible photographs where you really see all lines are blurred—white, black, brown. What’s amazing and why I wanted to be a part of the film was his igniting a sense of a hope at a time when people felt hopeless.
Christian Slater: This movie certainly shed a lot of light on the kind of man Bobby Kennedy was. Other filmmakers as I’ve grown up have shed light on this time period—Oliver Stone, Spike Lee—and now Emilio. That’s the great thing about getting to meet artists. To be reminded of a particular time in our history.
Question: Why do this story now?
Emilio: I originally began to write this story in 2000 and finished it in 2001. Then 9/11 happened and the world turned upside down. I’ve been asked if I’m taking advantage of the current political climate—the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The script is the script. I only changed the length. Sadly the film has become more relevant now [with the parallels to the Vietnam era] and it is not by my design but the design of the current administration. Where we find ourselves now is at a very critical point. The movie forces us to take a look at our inhumanity.
Bobby Kennedy believed that we are all connected. That we are all brothers and sisters and we share the same short moment of life. What we choose to do with that life is entirely up to us. We can touch and inspire people or we can go in another direction. I think the movie explores that. We need Bobby Kennedy’s voice now more than ever.
Question: How did you approach making a film of this size?
Emilio: As a boy I grew up enjoying the films of producer Irwin Allen. Irwin Allen made the great disaster movies, The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno. I remember watching The Poseidon Adventure three times in a row. It was an opportunity to see all of your favorite stars in one film, which I though was wonderful. I’m also a fan of Grand Hotel. In looking at this film, I choose the hotel and the people as being emblematic of the times. It was a microcosm of what was happening in America. We capsized this hotel. This is a disaster movie of the heart. The challenge was getting all these extraordinary talents to join me on this journey.
Question: I understand there was one person who gave you the key on how to tell the story.
Emilio: I was at a crisis myself. I had written 30 pages then I had paralyzing writer’s block. My parents dispatched my brother [Charlie Sheen] to my house. They were nervous about where I was at emotionally. My brother asked to see the pages. He read them and told me [Emilio begins to cry], ‘You have to finish this. You have to do this. This is potentially your life’s work. It will change your life.’
Estevez goes on to explain that he got in his car with his research and traveled north until he came to a ramshackle hotel with no phones. The woman at the desk recognized him. Here the story continues.
Emilio: She asked me what I was doing here and I told her I was writing a story about the night Bobby Kennedy was shot. She said, ‘My God, I was there.’ Her name was Diane. She had worked for Bobby Kennedy, a ‘Youth for Kennedy’ volunteer. She heard the shots, ‘And it was like the rug had been pulled out from my entire generation.’ She had married two boys to keep them from going to Vietnam, and I based the Lindsay Lohan character on her. The writer’s block was gone.