Number One Son of Sheen
Emilio Estevez was born in NY on May 12, 1962 and was raised on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Calling it less then the best of neighborhoods would be an understatement: When he was only six, Emilio was mugged by a knife-wielding twelve year old in the lobby of his family's apartment building.
The incident remained clear in Emilio's mind even in 1985, when he described it for a Seventeen magazine reporter. It was, he recalled, exactly twenty-six cents that the robber stole; that's how much he saved up regularly to pay for a hot dog and a cream soda from the street vendor down the block.
As Martin's fortunes grew, so did the family's security — financial and physical. Dad often used to walk Emilio to school, and later enrolled him in a private academy. But Emilio's independent (some might say contrary) streak was already exhibiting itself in the earliest grades. One day he walked out of the private school where classes were conducted in French and he never went back. "I couldn't handle the uniform," was his explanation.
In 1968 his dad was cast in Catch-22 and happily moved the family west. Perhaps inspired by the sea breezes and beach landscapes, the seven year old started to write short stories and poems, because "the spirit moved me." He told one interviewer that this "spirit" gave him more direction than any number of English teachers or writing manuals. "You can be taught within certain parameters," said Emilio, "but I don't think anyone can really teach you creative writing."
Among his first serious attempts was an original episode he submitted (in pencil, on lined paper) to Rod Serling's Night Gallery TV series. Emilio was all of eight at the time, certainly a record of some sort in the annals of the Writers Guild. That slightly premature effort earned him a rejection slip, but did not deter him from experimenting with more of his own projects. By the time he was nine, the precocious grade schooler was well aware of the benefits of writing, directing, and producing his own material.
While off on location in Ireland for Catholics, Martin bought the kids a home-movie-camera set up. When the family came home to Malibu, that Super-8 equipment was all Emilio and his band of beach buddies — Chad and Rob Lowe, Chris and Sean Penn --- needed to begin their film careers. By the time Emilio was thirteen, he had advanced to sound equipment, and his writing became an even more important part of the production. One of Emilio and Sean Penn's schoolmates, Ann Sonnenshein, remembered the group of nascent moguls: "They were really creative about it. I'm not at all surprised that they're all involved in filmmaking today."
Not surprisingly, Sonnenshein still remembers both Sean and Emilio well. After all, she's reminded of them every time she walks into the supermarket and scans the newsracks. "They were 'very Malibu'" she said. "Both were blond and tanned. Sean even won surfing contests in the ninth grade. And he was very active in government during junior high. So was I, and I guess that's one of the reasons we hung out together at school.
Emilio may not be reminded of Ann in every supermarket checkout line, but he too remembers those days. "I was a beach bum," he said flatly. "I went to the beach every day, hanging out with the surfers... the old fifties surfboards — twelve feet long. Made of wood, and with a tail-fin rudder — so big and easy to surf, you could have had a cup of coffee on them."
Sonnenshein described Sean and Emilio as two halves of a whole, buddies to the end. "Sean was very polite, very quiet. He had a sweet demeanor. We lost track of each other during high school. It was a much bigger school. Emilio looked the same during high school, and he even looks pretty similar today from what I've seen of him on the screen. Emilio and Sean had their own friendship. I knew them at school, but didn't socialize with them at home. They were Malibu, I wasn't. Sean... when I hear of his aggression it really surprises me. He changed so much. Emilio seems more consistent."
One thing that certainly has remained consistent within Emilio is his passion for movies and moviemaking. "I love film," he has enthused to reporters. "I see everything; the garbage, the great films, a lot of oldies. I think you can learn even from bad films. You can see how you would have done it differently, to make it better."
At thirteen, Emilio spent some time in Rome when his father was acting in The Cassandra Crossing. He was fourteen when he spent four months with his father in the Philippines during the filming of Apocalypse Now. But even as a teenager, he was an old hand on the movie set; he'd been hanging out around them since he was a tadpole. Martin was always adamant that his movie contracts include six airline tickets to wherever the location was so that his family could spend as much time together as possible.
But it was during those four months of Apocalypse, amid the family havoc of extreme stress and illness, that Emilio got his first acting job. He was only an extra and his turn as a messenger boy ended up on the cutting room floor. But it was a start. And, as it turned out, it was while swigging beer in the seedier areas of Manila that he established a relationship that would lead to his first play; within those dank rooms he became acquainted with the Vietnam vet who formed the inspiration for an original stage offering, written and produced by Emilio in his final year of high school.
The first born Estevez's academic record sports many A's with a smattering of B's and only the fewest C's through junior and senior high. His lowest grades were consistently in math, and once he got a D in English. (But did any of the other kids in that class have a rejection slip from Night Gallery?)
As his over the ears, surfer blond hair gradually became darker and shorter, Emilio found himself acting in most of the plays produced at his junior high school: the Dumb waiter, Hello Out There, Bye Bye Birdie. At the start of senior high he paid a bit more attention to athletics, which widened his circle of acquaintances — or perhaps potential character studies is more accurate.
He ran track ( "so I was in with all the black dudes"), played soccer ("I knew the Hispanics and Latinos"), knew all the surfers ("because I was in Malibu"), and got along very well with the brainy students (because he usually received good grades.) During his final year, he decided he was "too short" to be a sports star, so he turned his attention back to the drama department. But the sophisticated student just couldn't get behind the literary chestnuts that were being mounted by the school that year. Who can get turned on by a high school production when you've been on the set of the latest FF Coppola blockbuster? So Emilio wrote his won play, Echos of an Era, he has pal Sean Penn direct it, and invited classmates to come watch it.
The play was based on experiences of the Vietnam vet Emilio had met in Manila, a soldier who had been badly wounded and left for dead in a field. Eventually, the GI made it back to the US, only to have a very difficult time adjusting to the life he had left behind years before. The story was not unique for it's day, but it was real and it was certainly not the usual fodder for a teenaged playwright.
Schoolmate Cara Poston remembered the play well. "It was definitely the best production I ever saw at school. We were impressed not just with Emilio's acting in it, but by the fact that he wrote it, too."
"Emilio was definitely into the drama department," Poston recalled. "It has never surprised any of us who knew him back then that he would be doing so well today. From seeing his work through school, it was taken for granted — even expected — that he would do very well in acting and in the business generally. Of the three brothers — Emilio, Ramon, and Charlie — Emilio was definitely the most outgoing and the most popular with everyone."
During that period, Emilio also acted in a short film entitled Meet Mr. Bomb, an anti-nuclear parody of the "duck and cover" films of the fifties. Later, when draft registration was reinstated in 1980, Emilio risked a five year jail term and a $100,000 fine when he refused to register, and he was also active in the antiregistration movement. Luckily, there were no negative consequences for him. The court didn't bother to prosecute and his parents were on his side. Sociopolitical activism is another inherited trait in the family.
Although Emilio at one time entertained the "romantic idea" of becoming a foreign correspondent (before his firsthand contact with reporters, that is), he knew he enjoyed being onstage or in front of the cameras just as much as writing. He started going out on interviews and auditions when he was sixteen, and landed his first professional stage role at seventeen, while still a senior in high school. It was a part in Mr. Roberts at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater in Jupiter, Florida, where his dad was also on the playbill. But the cast wasn't to read "Sheen & Sheen"... nor would it until Martin worked alongside another son years later.
Emilio decided to use his family name, Estevez, as his professional tag. After all, he had used it all through high school and it simply felt right. "Besides," he said, "Emilio Sheen sounds stupid anyway. Emilio Estevez sounds more romantic." And there's the fat that the name change set him apart from his father. Emilio has admitted that he was cast in that particualr role through the offices of his dad, buut always felt uneasy about having done so and never wanted to do so again if he could help it.
"That was the only job my dad ever placed me in," said Emilio later. :We were well into the rpoduction by the time I acquitted myself of the sin of casting nepotism."
Back at Santa Monica High, Emilio resettled easily into garden-variety teenagerhood, seasoned actor though he was by now. So much the All-American boy, Emilio earned the title of Prom King ("the most embarrassing moment of my life!") in his final year.
English teacher Berkley Blatz recalled: "Each year the senior class invited one of the male and one of the female teachhers to their prom, and I went that year. Emilio was elected by his peers as the King of the Prom and I played a small role in that drama. I got to place the crown on Emilio's haed. Emilio accepted the honor with good grace, but it wasn't as if he had been campaigning for it. And I don't think he was truly overjoyed about the whole thing. He struck me as being a little bit shy."
What stoodd out most about this fabulously talented youngster? Well, according to Cara Poston, "He was nnoted for having the 'prettiest hair'." Fact is, Emilio's high school years were filled with academic, athletic, professional, and social success. He was the kind of student who always handed reports in on time and did extra assignments. He could hang out with the guys and match them beer for beer, and still be consistently in top shape to win track meets. When it came time for baby brother Charlie to attend Emilio's alma mater, the youngest sibling discovered that it can be tough to compete with a near-perfect predecessor's memory.
After school, Emilio went full steam into actingas a professional. His first movie role was, fittingly, an ABC Afterschool Special entitled 17 and Going Nowhere. Then followed a television role in Making the Grade and, later in 1980, "To Climb A Mountain" with his father -- an episode of Insight, the synndicated TV program produced as a dramatic mini-sermon by the Catholic Paulist order.
Tex was to be the first of three movies Emilio would make based on Susan E. Hinton's novels. It starred Matt Dillon, Jim Metzler, Meg Tilly, Ben Johnson, and Bill McKinney; Emilio's role was very small. Just before production on Tex started in Oklahoma in 1981, Emilio also screen tested for another Hinton novel-to-film adaptation, The Outsiders (scheduled to go into production a year later).
Just about any other young actor would have set out for his first movie location with an Instamatic camera, stamped postcards, and a blank notebook/diary. When this film impresario-to-be arrived on the Tex location site, he had his script and all four Hinton novels (including Rumble Fish and That Was Then... This Is Now) under his arm.
Emilio read them back to back, and was immediately "deeply, deeply affected" by the last one, the story of a troubled high school senior. Already looking towards the future, Emilio managaed to option the rights to the novel and, with pal Tom Cruise, wrote the first draft of a screenplay in fourteen days. By January of 1984 he had completed the polished script.
Between filming Tex in late 1981 and tackling his next big screen part in The Outsiders at the end of 1982, Estevez added several more television roles to his resume: an NBC-TV thriller, Nightmares, in which he played a driven video game addict; and an ABC-TV movie, In the Custody of Strangers with Jane Alexander, in which he portrayed a sixteen year old drunk driver who spends six weeks in jail. The latter was well received by the critics and laso featured Martin Sheen.
Emilio has, on numerous occasions, admitted that he's "competitive, stubborn, driven, and a very intense individual". Once his career started to roll, he intended to amke certain that it owuld continue to gain momentum and stature. He made it clear, too, that he had no intention of remaining in famous father's shadow.
At the time, however, Emilio chose to share the small screen spotlight with his father in the ABC-TV movie. A few years later, Emil;io explains his feelings to Sy Richardson: "A lot off people think that my father got this job and ggave me this role. But it was the other way around. I got the part, and I went to my father and asked if he'd do this film with me. And he asked me why. I said, 'I don't know how long either of us will be here, but this is a time that you and I can actually work together, and I would like to share this moment with you.' And my father agreed to do the movie."
Emilio often feels conflict within when analyzing his feelings about following in his father's footsteps. On the one hand, he doesn't want to be seen as a clone of his daddy, or an upstart who has had doors opened for him because of his family connections. On the other hand, he admiores his father's talent and has learned a great deal from him, which he would be foolish (not to mention ungrateful) to deny.
"When you're young, you want to do what your father does," said Emilio. "As I got older, I wanted to make it a reality." And as he got older, he also wanted to separate his reality from Martin's. Calling himself a "stubborn Taurus," Emilio said, "My father's a great man, but it was time to be on my own." And he stated elsewhere, "it's a sensitive subject, being Martin Sheen's son. The more I disassociate myself, the more the public will see Emilio Estevez... Anything I can consciously do to make a separation from my father, I will do."
Although Emilio has "incredible love and respect" for his father, and admitted that "having an actor-father is more valuable than anything that can be taught," Emilio has also stated: "As far as advice from him goes, well, the business has changed so much since the time he started that things don't quite apply. He's into his family and removed from the industry -- and me, I've jumped in with both feet. I guess I'm trying to find a tactful way of saying I don't take his advice."
"I made a conscious decision not to ride on the coattails of my father's success when I started acting... I swore to myself that if I made it it would be through drive, ambition, and hard work. I wanted to know I got it that way and not because of my bloodlines. And I think there's no question why I got where I am today."
The father knows his son well. Martin commented in an interview, "Emilio fought for his independence, and I aappreciate the way he feels. My heart says, 'Do more for him' but I ahve to wait for him to call me. I'd love to work with him all the time."
Think Big, Bigger, Biggest
With the release of The Outsiders in early 1983, Emilio found himself among some of the sexiest young actors on the Hollywood scene, all who have individually gone on to major film success and hearthrob status: Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, and Ralph Machio. None of this was expected back in 1982, however when Tex had not yet been released and S.E. Hinton was a name known only to teenage bookworms.
The movie project grew from a short story written by schoolgirl Susan Hinton in 1965, after a friend of hers was beaten up on the way home from class. It was published as a novel in 1967 with the author using S.E. Hinton as a byline... in case readers (and Viking Press) would be put off by a "mere" girl. At any rate, the book was an immediate must-read for young adults.
Then, in 1980, producer FF Coppola received a letter at his Zoetrope Studios from the librarian of the Lone Star Junior High School in Fresno, CA stating that the faculty and students of her school had nominated him to amke a movie out of this special book. A hand-signned petition from the students was attached. How could he refuse?
The Outsiders is a story of kids from the wrong side of the tracks, the "greasers," in conflict with the affluent "socs" (pronounced "soshes'), a conflict that leads to tradegy of Shakespearean proportions. Emilio played a greaser, Two-Bit Matthews, a role originally intended for Cruise.
"I grew up in a boderline neighborhood," explained Hinton. "I played with the 'greasers; but I got put in classes with the 'socs'". being in the middle helped the author understand both groups. And, given Emilio's ability throughout hhigh school to get along with classmates in every socioeconomic group, it's clear why the story appealed to him.
Emilio also enjoyed his second opportunity to work with Coppola, since the director did not have that much contact with emilio on the set of Apocalypse Now. "Francis ahs children of his own, so he understoodd us," Emilio said. "He let us go on our own. The only direction he ever gave me was, 'We're still rolling --- do something funny.' he pretty much stayed out of the way. He made the film for fourteen year old kids and for nobody else, and that's who it ultimately appealed to -- it had no crossover."
that became painfully clear. For as successful as The Outsiders was in novel form, its movie reviews were mediocre at best. Vincent Canby stated his opinion in The NY Times: "Like Tex, a far more successful, far less pretentiooous film, The Outsiders means to be about the world as it appears to teenagers... it's another of Coppola's inflated attempts at myth-making, it's a melodramatic kid-film with the narrative complexity of The Three Bears and a high body count."
Rolling Stone critic Michael Sragrow felt it "turned out to be a movie that gives adolescence a bad name." And Rex Reed said, "The Outsiders is a pretentious, disjointed tearjerker that takes a simple story (so basic it practically evaporates) and pumps it up to the size and status of Gone With the Wind."
Emilio didn't bear the brunt of these negative reviews; in fact he was hardly mentioned in the majority of press about the film. To make matters worse, another project was not on the horizon. He didn't work for five months after the movie was released.
"I had expectations," he admitted to an interviewer several years later, "just as when I made In the Custody of Strangers and then didn't work for six months. I just copuldn't land a major film. I was depressed with really no one to talk to. The girl I was seeing was in Europe, and my old man was working. I wasn't living at home."
In 19883, Oliver Stone offered Emilio the role of Private First Class Chris Taylor in Platoon, but financing for the rpoject was incomplete. Back in 1983, no one quite understood the importance of Stone's epic production; the Vietnam War was commercial poison, and a topic best left buried. So while Stone continued to pull his financing backing together, Emilio went to work on his next feature project.
Repo Man was an odd duck off a small budget picture, financed in part by former musical Monkee Michael Nesmith and directed by a British lawyer turned UCLA film student nnamed Alex Cox. Distributed hesitantly by Universal, Repo Man cast Emilio as aa young LA punker who becomes the protege of a crusty car repossessor played by cult actor Harry Dean Stanton. Actor Sy Richardson, who was once a repo man himself, costarred in the movie, which garnnered mixed reviews from critics but has since become an extremely popular videoclassic.
"He's a nice guy, Emilio," Richardson said. "He's friendly but distant... I loved watching Emilio work. He's very professional, very intense, but he wasn't arrogant, wasn't egotistical.
"I thhink ninety percennt of this business is being able to go on the set, know your lines, do what you do to the best of your ability, and leave. he was very ggood at it; I can't even remember him blowing a line. Most of us blow a line every now and again, but I can't remember ever seeing him do it. Most of the time he stayed bby himself, like he was always preparing, always making sure that he was on the money. A lot of us want to be here until we roll over and croak, so we're always checking and working and watching."
Despite being older and more experienced in his craft, Richardson found he could learn a great deall from Emilio, who was a natural at both the artistic and logistical sides of his profession. "I watched and listened. And I picked up on his ideas. He would get real quiet and look directly into someone's eyes, and never leave that eye contact -- it's called neurolinguistic programming."
Or more simply, it can be called intensity, a quality that forces your attention on the speaker. Richardson described the first day he met Emilio: "We were in a room with a lonng table, and all the principal characters were sitting there. This young guy started the dialogue. I didn't know who he was; all I knew was that I had never heard an actor read a script as quietly as he read. You could bbarely haerr what he was saying. I was leaning over the table listening to him --- but I realized that, listening to him, I was paying close attention. I could haer the inflections in his voice. I didn't know if I was believing him or if I was just engrossed in hearing him, but it worked."
Richardson also recalled that even at twenty-one, Emilio was seasoned enough to think on his feet. One ad-lib stands out in his mind, the time when HD Stanton's character, Bud, is giving Otto (estevez) a hard time. The Hard-nosed senior repossessor is explainging to the buzz-cut kid that normally, when someone gets his way, he gets his ehad broken -- or somethinng equally unappealing. With a smirk, Otto takes his beer and defiantly pours it onto the floor as a response. Or so the scene was written. But during one particular take, no one noticed that the prop can of beer had not been set out.
Said richardson, "This time Emilio doesn't have a beer. So he reaches into his pockeet and hands him a dime. Harry Dean just looks at him for a second, because he's waitning for something else, then asks, 'What's this for?' And Emilio cooly says, 'Go call someone who gives a fuck'
"Everyone on the set just died. Alex [Cox, the director] was rolling on the floor. Emilio was really there. They didn't have the beer for him, and he had came up with something, and he sure did, Harry Dean stood there thinking about it for a moment and the burst out laughing. Alex just shook his head and said, 'Boy I wish I could use this!' It was really funny."
It was clear to everyone that Emilio could hold his own ground in his chosen field. It was also evidentt to Richardson that Emilio would become a talented producer-director. "oh yes," Richardson enthhused, "he has a lot of determinnation. I remember, when we finished Repo Man, I asked him what he wanted to do next. Hre said, 'Sy, for the next two to four years, I want to work. I've got a lot of things I want to do, and I've got them all written down. I'm going to do them.' And this kid's been working ever since. He knew in his mind what he wanted to do. Everyone else was talking about taking a vacation for a month, going off to regroup, but he said, 'No, I don't have the time. I have things I have to do by a certain age.'"
Of Emilio the man -- as opposed to Emilio the actor --- Richardson was struck by his spiritual nature and his sincere family-orientation. "Every ttime he sees me, the first thing he asks me is 'How is your son?' This is more important to him than how I am or how I feel. He asks how my son is, how the family unit is because he knows I'm a single parent."
This emphasis on family never seemed to go the other way, remembered Richardson. He didn't recall Emilio ever talking about his own mother or a girlfriend. But Richardson felt that Emilio has great respect for women in general. "One day when we were looping [recording voice tracks], someone came into the room with three or four women. Emilio took note and quietly asked, 'Isn't that guy married?' And just by his asking that, I realized that he has a respect for women. It bothered him to see this guy with these ladies, kowing he has a wife somewhere.
"I never saw a lot of girls around him," richardson continued. "I know he had a girlfriend, and she came to the set once. With most of these young guys, you always see a lot of women around them. Not him. Emilio came to the set to work. He had this big truck, and the day that his girlfriend came around, they sat in his truck and talked instead of going into one of the trailers. I don't know if they sat there so that evrybody could see... Sometimes when guys get their trailers and get the ladies in there, many things can happen. Maybe he didn't want people to think he was doing something."
The charcter of Otto turned out to be one of Emilio's favorite roles. "I played him with a lot of dry, ugly humor, but funny. Look at the world we live in," he challenged a reporter, "it's totally ridiculous. You just have to laugh at every situation life hands you." And although he is not as nihilistic a fellow as punk-rocker Otto (in fact, he had to study then-punk-loving brother Ramon for the right moves), he has since admitted that "I have a kind of nihilistic point of view. I'm into making films that are realistic and not fluff. When you deal with realitiy, you're dealing wiith a lot of serious problems. We could be sitting here now and be vaporized by a nuclear weapon, by accident. That's reality. A man could walk in here and blow us all away with a machine gun. That's reality. Life does not end happily ever after."
After Repo Man, Emilio shrugged aside the depression he had felt earlier. "Deep down," he said, "I knew my life would change. I just had to believe in myself, stop feeling like a loser, and be more positive." The change of attitude worked. Emilio's next film brought him to the attention of fans and critics alike.
The Breakfast Club, filmed in early 1984 for 1985 release, was to be the first of a string of teen movie successes by Chicagoan John Hughes. The director had alreadymade Sixteen Candles to some acclaim, but no one was prepared for the impact of this unusual stage play for a movie. It had a cast of seven main characters and was shot on a single sound stage at an actual high school. The Breakfast Club tells the emotional story of five students thrown together during a Saturday morning detention session, a session that becomes a day of soul-searching and revalation for them all. Ally Sheedy, whho played "basket case" Allison Reynolds, told the unit publicist: "It was a very special experience. We were an ensemble cast who became a very close-knit group. I felt like there was so much warmth and caring that I trusted everyone to open up."
Judd Nelson played rocker John Bender, the disdainful outsider, Anthony Michale Hall was the straight A student,Brian Johnson; Molly Ringwald was the pampered princess, Claiire Standish. Emilio played Andy Clark, a start wrestler who doesn't know how to think for himself.
"I took the role because I never had the chance to play a jock or model son before," emilio explained during production. "I've always played hoodlums. In factt, when I first read the script I saw myself as the punk, John Bender. But then Andy grew on me. He has a lot of turmoil. Everyone rides him. It's an intolerable burden. He really wants to break out but he's conditioned not to. If a wrestler lets down his defense, he loses. So he can't and he won't be vulerable. People say they love Andy but they really don't. He's just a trophhy they can show off."
The lone grown-ups in the cast were John Kapelos, playing the janitor, Carl; and Paul Gleason as the smarmy, unsympathetic "authority figure," the dean of students, Richard Vernon.
Veteran character actor Gleason remembered Emilio as being "very dedicated to whatever project is at hand. During the shooting of Breakfast Club, he played a wrestler, so I'd see him workinng out with weights every morning, sometimes between scenes, and sometimes after work, too. He was really into creating a good sense of reality about the character. And, as if that weren't enough, he was also writing a screenplay at the time. Adapting a Hinton novel, That was Tehn... This Is Now."
"I think the Sheens are a wonderful family," continued Gleason. "I know Emilio and Charlie and think their parents, Martin and Janet, did a wonderful job in raising those kids. Martin is such an honest and sincere man. He's a wondeful actor and as an individual, is very socially cooncsious and involved. The boys have really learned a lot frrom his example.
"During the making of Breakfast Club we all hung around together and I got to know all the kids. We had a lot of fun kibbitzing around. Emilio was the leader of those kids. They really looked up to him. He has leadership quality. He held the most respect. And of course, the girls -- Ally and Molly -- liked him a lot because he's a great guy, a terrific human being. It may sound effusive, but Emilio is really a very, very good guy. He's not a phony. My daughter, Shannon, who was thirteen at the time, was with us on that location. She reacted to his hinesty, too."
Gleason points out the traits that struck him about Emilio: "He's talented; he's gifted. He's lucky enough to have been raised in a wonderful family. And he's worked hard for his success. Best of all, Emilio takes nothing for granted and he's not the kind of young man to be self-destructive. He has a lot of solid self-respect and is not the kind of person to destroy his life and his talent through drugs or alcohol or any other destructive habit. That highly commendable, and very refreshing in this bbusiness."
"Professionally, he's a Renaissance kid," Gleason enthused. "Emilio can work in front of the camera or in many areas behind it. With the success of Stakeout, I think he'll be getting a lot of offers and we'll see more and more of him on the movie screen. It's fun to act, and I think he enjoys that. But he's so talented, he'll be developing his own projects as a director and writer, too. Emilio's very eclectic."
That Was That, This Is It
Susan Hinton wrote That Was Then... This Is Now in 1971; Emilio read it ten years later and was determined to make it into a movie. He actually completed the first draft before securing the rights to the property, so convinced was he that this would be his big screen-writing debut.
By 1984, Emilio's option had run out and he still hadn't secured studio financing for the project. "The other Hinton novels' translations to film were disastrous", recalled Emilio, "and Hollywood was kind of Himton-ed out."
Unable to come up with the two or three thousand dollars necessary to renew his option rights, Emilio found some financial backers in the Midwest to get involved with the project. "They had done a bunch of Chuck Norris films," said Emilio. "It made me a little gun-shy." But it was better than losing the project altogether. How many money-men put up major-league budgets for a twenty-two year old neophyte?
"They went through a couple of rewrites on it -- the producers were acting as writers, and we all know what comes of a script when that happens. It was a bunch of forty year olds writing jokes for teenagers. Stupid. So I rewrote the script while I was doing The Breakfast Club. The producers hated it."
The picture looked like it might not get made until director Chris Cain entered the scene. He and Emilio churned out twenty pages of copy a day, sitting on the beach. They exchanged ideas, and then Emilio would go home and write down the dialogue.
The film finally went into production from mid-July to December of 1984 in Minneapolis/St. Paul area. That Was Then... Thia Is Now is about the growing up, and growing apart, of two teenaged boys -- raised as brothers -- who help each other to survive the tough neighborhood in which they live. Emilio, as the younger brother, plays an alienated youth who is out to destroy himself. The film was finally released by Paramount in November 1985.
Emilio could have had his name listed as associate producer on the project, but decided that "for my first time out, I didn't want to many credits." He stands listed only as star and screenwriter; nowhere in the credits does it hint that he personally gestated this project from the age of nineteen.
"It's taken me four-andd-a-half years to finally get it to the screen," he said when the film was out. "It's been a lot of hard work; a lot of doors have been slammed in my face as far as studios are concerned. But to finally be sitting in thhat screening room and see 'Screenplay by Emilio Estevez' is overwhelming."
In another innterview at the time, he elaborated, "During the selling of That Was Then... This Is Now, they thought, 'Oh, who is this punk, this little kid -- he's trying to be a writer and an actor.' And at that point maybbe it was a problem for them to see clearly, because I was not an established star. But it's a little easier for them to swallow now. I've got it made and I'm tweny-three years old, and that's proof enough at this point in my life."
Film critic Leonard Maltin described the film in his book-lenngth video guide: "Delinquent kid [Emilio], alienated from society, clings to his relationship with his adoptive brother [Craig Sheffer, in a role originally intended for Tom Cruise] -- and freaks out when the older boy takes on a girlfriend [Kim Delaney], whom he sees as a threat."
"Estevez wrote the script from S.E. Hinton's young-adult novel, but it's intense emotions probably read better then they play out on-screen. A variable film with some strong moments."
That Was Then grossed $7.6 million in it's first four weeks of release, more than repaying it's backers and establishing Emilio as a potential money-maker in thhe movie industry. (One wonders if it would have earned more or less had the film retained the ending Emilio himself wanted for it: a poignant shot of one of the friends left alone on the street.) Said Emilio, "Life is not this joyous thing all the time. Annd for films to portray make-believe happiness is silly." The existingg ending -- with Emilio's character landed in prison -- isn't exactly upbeat, but it does mend the relationship between the two main characters.
That Was Then was a risky first-time screenwriting project for anyone, age notwithstanding and ending irregardless. "It's not a big picture, but it's big in emotional impact," said Emilio. "In it, I examine a very dark side that I think is in all of us, but our consciences keep it from surfacing. The dark side -- that's the difference between going to McDonald's and ordering a hamburger and going to McDonald's and blasting everybody in the place: when people don't look into themselves, they have problems."
Said Emilio, "I could have chosen to play the hero, the guy who gets the girl. But when I read the book, I said, 'This is the guy I want to play,' so I tailor-made the character to me. I was able to infuse all my intensity and humor into one guy which I've never been able to do before."
Having established himself as a power both behind and in front of the camera, Emilio went on to St. Elmo's Fire, a Breakfast Club Goes to College type of screenplay about a group of Ivy Leaguers starting their first year of "real life". Despite two number one soundtrack songs, by John Parr and David Foster, the film was only moderately successful and took a critical drubbing.
Rob Lowe plays an irresponsible, hard-drinking musician who has seemingly forgotten his new wife and baby; Emilio portrays a bumbling but obsessively romantic law student who tracks his older-woman love interest through the rain and snow, to no avail; Judd Nelson is cast as a promiscuous yuppie who thinks marrying Ally Sheedy will calm his libido and changing political parties will fatten his wallet; Andrew McCarthy plays a cynical scribe with writer's block and a fear of intimacy; Demi Moore emotes her throat out as a coked-up, debt-ridden party girl preoccupied with her not-yet-dead stepmother's funeral; Mare Winningham has thee role of a rich, frumpy virgin who does welfare work and has a terminal crush on Lowe; and Ally Sheedy's character (the most level-headed of all) just wants to be friends with everyone and have an architectural career.
The whole project was less a movie than a class reunion. RLowe had worked with ASheedy on Oxford, with Emilio on The Outsiders, and with AMcCarthy on Class. JNelson and Sheedy worked with Emilio in The Breakfast Club. Daytime soaper DMoore was new to the group (although destined to make an impact), as was young film actress MWinningham.
But the fact that the cast was a bunch of buddies who just happened to be actors ended up working against the film. As LA Herald Examiner critic Peter Rainer pointed out: "In principle, there's certainly nothing wrong with ensemble acting, so much the better. After all, St. Elmo's Fire is about friendship. But with so many featured actors in the cast, the film never stops to take in any one of them for more than a few minutes in a stretch... They're like a compendium of every coming-of-age cliche from every-rites-of-passage movie in the last three decades. We can't understand why these friends are friends; the reason they must be together must be because -- well, because they're the Brat Pack."
Chicago Tribune movie critic Gene Siskel was blunt: "rarely has there been agroup of more smug and obnoxious characters in a single film than in St. Elmo's Fire... Jobs, marriage, sex, drug addiction -- it's all too much for these bozos to handle." He also refers to the assemblage as "spoiled brat jerks... if director Joel Schumacher had only cut his cast in half and taken a more critical attitude towards the survivors, then St. Elmo's Fire might have worked as The Breakfast Club five years later. St. Elmo's Fire glorifies it's kids' problems while trivializing their solutions."
In her Glamour magazine review, Charla Krupp felt that the problem wasn't so much the actors, butt the roles they were given to play. It simply was not an accurate portrayal of the lifestyle it pretended to examine. "Yuppies don't hang out in bars," she insisted. "They drink heavily. They must be in control at all times. Yuppies aren't usually cocaine addicts. Cocaine is not a practical investment. Yuppies don't wreck cars and destroy homes. They probably respect possessions and real estate more than anything... Though St. Elmo's Fire portrays yuppies as decadent, immoral bbrats who have no conscience, yuppies will probably flock to the movie. Yuppies are narcissists. To see yourself slandered on screen is better than not seeing yourself at all."
Almosst without exception, the reviews St. Elmo's Fire managed to work the word "brat" somewhere into the copy. Coincidentally, most of these reviews appeared shortly after the NY magazine cover story that featured a shot of the St. Elmo's cast and coined the term Brat Pack -- a sobriquet that has stuck like glue to Emilio (along with Lowe and Nelson and others).
It was during the auditions for SEF that Emilio met Demi Moore; eventually, the two started dating. It was a gradual process. Said Moore in 1985, "We didn't hhave any scenes together in the film. But whenever the cast was photographed together, we just gravitated side-by-side."
In the six months following SEF, Emilio managed to complete three original screenplays. His output was becoming remarkably prolific. He has remembered sitting down in front of his portable computer at one time, with "a title: Wisdom. And I wanted to start with a guy sitting in a bathtub, reflecting onn his life. That's all I had. Three weeks later, I had a first draft."
Wisdom was to become Emilio's debut as a producer-director. But before he was able to secure financing for the project, he had a few other loose ends to tie up. For one, he narrated a social-service picture for Amber Lights, a warning to youngsters about the danger of drinking and driving. Then he was off to Wilmington, NC during the summer of 1985 for work on Maximum Overdrive. This was the directorial debut for another prolific writer (and sometime actor), best-selling horror novelist Stephen King.
The story pits a small group of people at The Dixie Boy Truck Stop, a greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere, against a convoy of malevolent eigghteen-wheelers that have somehow come alive-- along with every other power machine in creation, from lawnmowers to circular saws. Emilio plays Bill Robinson, a parolle working as the diner's short-order cook and the eventual leader and hero of the trapped human survivors.
Stephen King admitted that Emilio was not really his first choice for the rolee. "I waanted Springsteen," he said with a laugh. Seriously, though, it was someone like BSpringsteen that he envisioned. "I needed a combonation of working-class feel and box-office clout. I kept rememberinng Emilio from Repo Man, but I'sd read the stories and didn't want any Hollywood bullshit."
After many discussions with the film's producers, casting agents, and managers, King went with Emilio for the role. "I was apprehensive," said King, "but ten minutes ag=fter we started working together, I knew I made the rigfht choice."
Now, King has said, "I wish I ahd Maximum Overdrive to do all over again. The only things right with that movie -- and there weren't many of them -- I improvised. And Emilio knew that. He was a beginning-director's actor. He would do what you asked him to do. I got used to getting a lot of static from just about everyone except Emilio and Pat Hingle about my direction.
"I guess I wnated, at some point, to be a John Ford and say, 'You do it and you do it this way because I goddamn told you to do it this way.' With Pat, and especially with Emilio, I didn't even have to think that way. If I had been like OStone and relaxed and just said, 'Go ahead, amaze me,' Emilio would have. But I didn't give him enough rope to free himself up that way.
"Since I've been an improvisational writer, I should have recognized Emilio's ability in that way. When I went into this, it was a whole new medium for me and I read about Hitchcock saying that for him the most interesting part of making a film was what went on before. The planning. Making the film itself was really sort of a bore. That's exactly what I wanted. I was scared to death of it. So I did my sixteen hours of work a day bbefore the film started. I came out with something that was like frozen in lucite. It was tough for people to move around. If I had it to do over again, I would loosen up a lot and the film would be better of that.
"Emilio worked so damn hard. It was an education to watch him prepare," King noted. "If he was getting ready for a scene in which he was all pumped up, in a pressure situation, he'd come on the set and simply run around. Get really hot and get all the energy physically flowing. It was no big deal, no Method thing, no 'Get outta here, I'm getting ready to emote,' or any star-time shit. It was just matter-of-fact, "I'm gettinngg ready to work.' He has real good work habits and I respect that."
For Emilio, Maximum Overdrive was a welcome break in a string of dialogue-heavy movies he had done back-to-back. "The script landed on my desk and I said, 'Well, I'll give it a read,' " he recalled. "I'd been wanting to do an action picture for a while, and the script was wild. I saw that I'd get to shoot guns and gernade launchers, the whole thing. I could run, jump, be a hero, and get the girl. Annd I was brroke," he added, practical to the end.
"Besides, when I was seventeen, I read The Shining, and had a lot of trouble sleeping afterwards. I've been a big fan of Stephen's work." Many filmgoers have been fans of King's work translated to film: The Dead Zone (featuring another member of this family), Carrie, Cujo, Christine -- the list goes on and on, and some of the translations have worked. this time, however, the critics panned MO as "stupid and boring."
But Emilio would have done it again, if only because it was during this project that he happened to meet British filmmaker Bernard Williams. Williams would become producer of Wisdom, and Emilio wanted desperately to get his latest screenplay produced.
"I met Emilio in NC while he was working on MO," Williams recalled a year later. "I was producing Manhunter and we met at a paarty at Dino's [de Laurentiis] house. he told me a bit baout his project, but when Gladden [Entertainment Corporation] sent me a script several months later and asked me to take a look at it as producer, I was amazed to discover it was Emilio's screenplay for Wisdom."
A Little Wisdom. . .
Emilio Estevez's trial-by-fire in the film industry was Wisdom, and he certainly gained a great deal of that during its genisis. Although the project was a commercial and critical failure, the fact that a twenty-three-year old could have mounted his own production -- as screenwriter, director, and lead actor -- is startling in and of itself. Not onnly did he put a lot himself into Wisdom, but there was a lot of himself in John Wisdom.
The official 20th Century Fox synopsis of the movie reads: "To some people, John Wisdom is a criminal; to some he's a hero; to other's he's just a man trying to revive the American Dream.
"Society hasn't left twenty-three year old JWisdom many choices. Because of a youthful felony conviction for joyriding in a stolen car, all careers seem closed to him, from law clerk to fry cook. Se he has invented his own jobb: He robs banks, but not gfor the money. And he does so well he's wanted by the police in five different states."
It's easy to see many facets of himself that Emilio put into this character. For one, he has always nutured a love-hate relationship with the spotlight, a spootlight that JWisdom earns through his notoriety and Emilio earned through his birthright. He hhas seen many disputes with the law and authority (particularly on the part of brother Charlie) and he has often felt that he is right and society is wrong. But he still harbors a great deal of respect for civilized behavior. There's a lot of ambivalence about an antihero who is in many ways a hero, as JWisdom was intended to be. And the ambivalence was probably the single most defeating factor in his creation.
"I don't see JWisdom as a role model," said Emilio. "He is someone whoo starts out doing one thing, then gets caught up in being a national public figure. I wanted to make a statement about how crazed we are in this country with movie stars. It's almost a sickness, and I wanted to examine that: how easy it is to be exploited, which is what I thnk happens to this character. He ends up getting exploited.
"Throughout the film, while Wisdom and Karen are on the road living their great adventure, we continually cut back to the parents, and the cop who's chasing him. The three of them are our anchors to reality, a way of saying: 'Exscuse me, it's a very serious thing these two people are doing.' "
In a later interview, Emilio also admitted, "In a way, it's a very subversive film. A lot of people are angered by the message it gives the kids: If you want something changed, then pick up a gun and change it. But if they stay until the end, they'll realize that violence doesn't solve anything."
Emilio's character is a strong willed young man who cannot find a clear direction in his life. "He's someone who got a raw deal because of the black mark by his name that prevents him from getting a job. He had great expectations of himself, and his parents had certain expectations of him, and life isn't going as he planned. So he reaches a point where he says, 'Society's left me no choice but to become the one thing I've really resisted becoming -- a criminnal.'
"But his conscience is too strong to be a criminal against the people, so he decides to become a criminal for the people."
The threads of fact and self-analysis thaat ran through Wisdom gave the screenplay a self-indulgent feel to many critics. Said ET reporter Leonard Maltin, "Robert Wise assisted Estevez on the direction, which is certainly more competent than his wretched script; the film has one of the most self-defeating wrap-ups you'll ever see."
But those compliments about the direction should not be undervalued. After all, as the film publicist reminds us, "At age twenty-three, EEstevez becomes the youngest member of the entertainment community to write, direct, and star in a major motion picture, joining a respected list that includes Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Charlie Chaplin, Alan Alda, Mel Brooks, and Sylvester Stallone." certainly several of these experienced moviemakers had several bombs among them.
Author SKing also developed respect for Emilio's grasp of the craft. "He's tremenndously bright and ambitious young man. I mean that in all the best ways," said King. "Like a lot of people who are in the same situation and who cannot get the shot, their reaches sometimes exceeds their grasp at the start. And get into a situation where you're hot and you're in a position where people are all very willing to give you all the rope you'll need to hang yourself.
"Wisdom had some great things in it. it had a great opening; a greeat come-out; and it had a great idea in the middle. I'm sure there are things he would do differnetly if he had it to do over again. I'm interested in anything that he does.
"Based on that film and on That Was Then... This Is Now, I'd say that he's an exceptional screenwriter," continued King. "That's not to say he's not an exceptional director. We live in an era right now -- in moovies as well as in books -- there's a real bklockbuster mentality. If you can't come out of the stall and make twenty to thirty millionn dollars on a film, your name is mud.
"I wish there were room -- I wouldn't say exactly the old star system, although in a sense that's what I mean -- some room for new people to be brought along and to fail in relative obscurity rather than the cover of People magazine. To be the B-feature on a double bill, tto learn your skills the same way Stanley Kubrick learned his. It's like trying to make movies or write books -- be creative -- in Dodger Stadium."
In many ways, Wisdom stands as aa personal victory for Emilio. He not only brought the $6.5 million project in under budget by $200,000, but he wrapped the production one day ahead of schedule. Major miracles in themselves. And he won the respect and admiration of everyone around him.
"There's been a tremendous cooperation from the crew," producer Bernard Williams said. "Emilio loves people. He shows it every day when he comes to the set and says, 'Hi, good morning.' He makes you feel good, and they respect him. They were pulling for him because they knew he had a tough jobb: Wisdom is an action movie with eighty locations and an eight week schedule. That's a challenge for any director."
Another behind-the-scenes actor echoed Williams's plaudits. Mark Chilingar was Emilio's stand-in and photo double on the movie. (Since it was logistically impossible for Emilio to direct himself, he needed another actor to take his position in front of the cameras when he was behind them setting lineup shots.) "When I first met Emilio at his office at Lion's Gate, it was one of those situations where we both felt we had met bbefore. I was impressed by his friendliness. He's easy to talk to, very approachable," said Chilingar.
"As a director, Emilio was extremely dedicated and every one of us involved liked working with him. He was very personable. Not that he was apt too go off with a couple of guys for beers after completing the day's shoot; he had dailies from the previous day to screen, had to prepare the following day's filming, and spent whatever quiet time he had with his girlfriend, Demi Moore, who was also in the film."
"There were times when he seemed a bit emotionally distannt -- no, preoccupied is really more accurate," continued Chhilingar. "But with all the responsiblities he carried during this project, it was expected and no oone thought less of him because he had a lot on his mind. He was intense in his commitment to the project. Every moment of his time, every bit of his energy, was taken up with work. In spite of all thhatt was on his mind and his status on the project, he was always appreciative of the efforts of everyone around him. He was grrateful, and we loved working with him. regardless of how small the matter, he readily offered a sincere thank-you.
"I made some videos of people behind the scenes and Emilio would often be the biggest clown. He'd joke, he'd laugh. There were times he'd take the video camera -- it was actually his -- and stalk around the set, jumping out at people from behind walls, or coming up from behind them. He was playing Jaws in his stalking." (That movie, by the way, is one of Emilio's favorites; he claims to have seen it more than seven times.)
"There were times too, on the set," Chiliingar noted, "when the atmosphere would get pretty tense over a scene or situation, but Emilio would manage to quickly bring things back into equilibrium. He never made working difficult in any way.
"Occasionally, he let off any brewing steam of his own by being physical. He'd ride a bike around the area for a while, or if a group of extras was playing soccer, he'd spontaneously jump in and kick the ball around. And he always had enough energy to work out with weights during his short lunch break. He's very focused, yet easy going and spontaneous, too."
Even when things were going wrong, as they will in any film, Emilio had a way of keeping the cast and crew at ease. "We were put behind schedule one day," Chilingar remembered, "because a cannon roll (a car stunt involving a car being rolled over after a high-speed chase) went wrong and had to be done again. There were a lot of people standing around waiting. Emilio made it a point of riding his bike around, not only to check with the crew for progress reports, but to chat with the cast, to keep spirits up, and avoid having everyone get grumbly while we're sitting around not doing anything but waiting."
With fans annd onlookers, "Emilio was pleasant, but had to keep things under control. There were masses of people watching the filming at times. He'd wave and smile, but he really couldn't take the time to try to talk to them or siggn a lot of autographs. That would have slowed things down; opened another can of worms."
Because Wisdom was such a monumental project for Emilio, it became a point of Sheen family focus. Both of his parents and each of his siblings made it a point to visit the set several times during the two monnth shoot.
Chilingar recalled: "Janet came by two or three times when I was on the set. And I particularly remeber the day when Martin visited. The two of them came around, and I recognized him as he went by. He's one of my all-time favortie acttors, and of course I wanted to meet him. But I'm also sensitive about allowing other people -- especially someone like Martin who is constantly approached by strangers -- their own room, theirr 'own space,' so I hung back. Eventually, he looked in my direction and just nodded. A little later, he walked over and held out his hand saying, 'Hi, my name is Martin.' He likes to get to know a little of the people around him. He's very outgoing, very friendly and warm.
"Janet is very quiet. Later, in LA, I met her again and was able to talk to her a bit. She's not overtly assertive, but she's approachable. It's very clear that herr family is the number-one important focus in her life. She's very much a strong, healthy maternal influence. I think in somewhat large, busy families, it's often the mother who manages to pull evryone together, reminds individuals that they're a part of a whole. She's a binding force."
Charlie had a cameo role in Wisdom; his video, RPG, was also incorporated into the script. Chilingar described the excitement around the set when Charlie was due to arrive. "Emilio was looking forward to seeing his brother. You could tell he was excited that Charlie was coming in from his work on Platoon. Actually, he had just finished the basic training part -- the real life boot camp part -- of his work on that film and had just a few days of kind of R and R from the Philippines. He could have been concentrating on having a good time while he was home, but he jumped into Wisdom.
"You could tell that the two brothers are tight. They have a lot of respect for each other. After their scenes together they spent the rest of the day together talking and catching up on things. It was obvious that they enjoyed each other's company."
Ramon, who was about to start work on the film Turn Around, also took time to stop by the set of Wisdom before setting out for location. "Ramon was about to leave for Oslo, Norway," said Chilingar. "But he made certain to show his support for his brother's project, too. It;s not as if it's an effort to do that in that family. They are all so close and supportive that it's just second nature to be aware of, and interested in, each other's work.
"Renee came up to Sacramento several times during the month we were filming there, too. Ramon is very proud of his sister, too, often reminding people how talented she is. Renee, like the rest of the family, is very easygoing and down to earth. I can't say enough nice things about them. I guess I'm really prejudiced, but they remind me of my family. We're all very close, too."
Although he admits to a certain personal bias about Wisdom, Chilinngar felt that the film had a lot of potential -- much of it not realized. "It's really a terrible shame that the final product wasn't as great as eveeryone involved had hoped. The final cut was not exactly all that great. There were a lot of things cut out of that film that were really very special. There were wonderful directorial moments, beautiful things with Veronica Cartwright and Tom Skerritt, that didn't make it to final print."
One example that springs to Chilingar's mind is a final phone call made from JWisdom to his mother, played by cartwright. It was a scene the audience never got to see. "The scene was a small set -- supposed to be his mother's kitchen. The script woman, a few cast members and I were watching Veronica in her scene. Every one of us started to cry, it was so moving. But it didn't make the finaal cut."
Mistakes were made, but as brother Charlie noted, "He went out and did it, and that's what's important. Never mind the critics... he had something, and he did something good. I was proud of him."
Another bit of film never seen wasn't so much left on the cutting room floor; rather, it was made an entirely different way because of Wisdom. Emilio was asked to star with Jane Alexander in the arty 1986 film Square Dance, but because he was still working on his own project, he turned it down. The role of the young retarded country boy went instead to old friend Rob Lowe.
Recalled Lowe, "Emilio called me and said, 'It's a great role, and I think you could really shine in it.' So I went over to his house and got the script, then called my manager and said I really wanted to play it. They couldn't understand why I wanted to do it... I did it for myself, to see if I could do it."
Brought up side by side, Rob and Emiliohave seen both their careers and personal lives coexist in a Hollywood symbiosis. In one turn of fate, Rob found himself making love on-screen to the woman who was Emilio's love off-screen at the time: Demi Moore, in Aboutt Last Night...
Lowe told a Playgirl; magazine interviewer thaat he had taalked it over with Emilio before doing the movie. "He was kind of uptight... He said, 'well, what if it was me and your girlfriend?' I said, 'I'd rather it be you than someone I didn't know.' He said, 'Yeah, yeah, that's true. I hadn't thought of that.' It's very difficult going out with anybody in the business, and this kind of thing is the first step tto paying the price. It hasn't affected any of our relationships."
Passing up Square dance gave Emilio the time to step into the film project that turned out to be his most commercial to date: Stakeout, with Richard Dreyfuss. More than one critic touted his performance and noted that he and veteran actor Dreyfuss made a terrific team, even if the story itself was improbable and, according to one scribe, "downright silly." Emilio (Bill) and Dreyfuss (Chris) are plain-clothes Seattle cops assigned to watch the house of a woman whose boyfriend has just escaped from prisonn. In disguiose as a telephone repairman, Dreyfuss becomes the woman's love all the while knowing that his partner is spying on them. The movie combines an action-adventure cop plot with a romantic farce, and became a big hit of the summer of 1987.
"This is actually my first playing an adult," commented Emilio. "A more mature, hardworking member of society." In his usual workaholic manner, Emilio went overboard to assure the authenticity of his character, studying the daily routine of undercover police firsthand. "I trained with the Crime Impact Team, a group of police officers who are members of the Sheriff's Dept. in LA County. I did ride-alongs, sat in on briefings, and participated in several stakeouts and high-speed pursuits. Seeing them in action and witnessing what they have to put up with, how they deal with people, gave me a greater appreciation for the police officers."
Emilio's performance in Stakeout caught the attention of an old acting buddy of his father's, Zooey Hall. "I've seen Emilio in a number of things, and in Stakeout, Emilio really established a great rapport with RDreyfuss that made it one of the nicest things I've seen Richard do in a long time. And it's all Emilio doing this, not his father. He has his own talent. Of course, Martin raised a nice group of individuals!"
Brat Pack Flack
In the sixties, the Hollywood hierarchy seemed ruled by a group of super-entertainers who dubbed themselves the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Deaan martin, Peter Lawford, and --honorarily-- Shirley MacLaine. They drank together, partied together, and made movies together, and they were proud of their clubby appellation.
In 1985, New York magazine writer David Blum authored a cover story, originally intended as a piece about Emilio Estevez and St. Elmo's Fire, in which he dubbed a selection of the day's rising young stars as "Hollywood's Brat Pack." The phrase stuck, and opened up a can of worms for both the writer and the chosen actors.
what made a Brat Packer? Its enrollees were all under twennty-five. They were hip, slick, and cool. They dressed in trendy clothes, including designer tee shirts. They found screen success almost overnight, having endured neither college matriculation or years of acting school. They liked wine, woman, and song. They liked one another. The common sin of these usually well-heeled, often-second-generation industryites was that they never paid any dues, by Blum's definition.
The cover story, which indicated that "everyone in Hollywood differs over who belongs in the Brat Pack," pinpointed Emilio, fresh from SEF, as the "unofficial ringleader" of the group. Other charter members included: Tom Cruise (whose credits at the time featured The Outsiders, Taps, and Risky Business); Rob Lowe (The Outsiders, Class, The Hotel New Hampshire, and St. Elmo's Fire); Judd Nelson (Making the Grade, The Breakfast Club, and St. Elmo's Fire); Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, Taps, and The Falcon and the Snowman); Matt Dillon (Tex, The Outsiders, and The Flamingo Kid); Nicolas Cage (Racing With the Moon and Birdy); and Sean Penn (Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Falcon and the Snowman, and Racing With the Moon).
The magazine feature seemed to scorn the young actors' affluence, carefree attitudes, and talents. It noted that Emilio, often willing to pick up the tab for his pals, went to some lengths to avoid paying a six-dollar movie ticket. It disapproved of his easy success both in his career and with woman; he earned a frown for having picked up a Playboy centerfold model at the Hard Rock Cafe during a night out with the guys. Worst off all, Emilio seemed pleased to get into nightclubs ahead of the line of noncelebrity patrons.
The idea of being put into a clique is not in and of itself an affront to Emilio (or Charlie, who soon became an accepted Brat Packer, Jr.). After all, they named themselves the Point Dume Mafia when they and their friends and neighbors (ironnically, friends and neighbors who are today full-fledged Brat Pack innitiates) were out making their Super-8 extravaganzs. That self-styled group of hellraising filmmakers included Emilio, Charlie, Sean and Chris Penn, Rob and Chad Lowe. But Emilio is bound and determined to separate himself from the clique that was picked for him: Never refer to him as a member of the Brat Pack within earshot. He calls that "a ridiculous label conjured up to try and sell magazines."
Supposed Brat Pack fellow Sean Penn -- who has since graduated to the ranks of Hollywood's Bad Boys, up there with Robert Mitcum and Montgomery Clift -- claimed that no such pack ever existed because, quite simply, as he said, "Ultimately, everyone is too much out for himself to be part of a real group." He also blasted the articlee that coined the phrase when he told American Film magazine, "All it is, is a condescending load of... Sometimes writers, like actors -- like anybody -- do their work to impress three or four of their cool friends."
I don't like being considered a part of a Brat Pack," RLowe told movie critic Gene Shalit on the Today show. "It signifies that we're a group, but we're not." He simultaneously exemplified the title, however, by insisting on-air that "I learned to act on the big screen. I was never a spear carrier. I was always the star. Always."
Lowe continued to jostle the sleeping dog when he vented his anger at the Brat Pack label and the man who coinned it in a Chicago Sun-Times interview: "DBlum burned a lot of bridges. He burned people early in their careers. He took on the wrong people, though. He's not Hunter Thompson or Tom Wolfe; he's DBlum living in a cheap flat." The sad fact is that some members of the Pack will insist on proving the name appropriate. Sean Penn spent time in jail in 1987 for only the last in a long line of physical attacks on everyone from photographers to friends of his wife to, in this case, a movie extra. Even young Chad Lowe, Rob's baby brother, proved you don't have to be a Pack member to be a brat. He was rapped by NBC studio executives in early 1985 when, after taping six segments of their midseason sitcom entry, Spencer, he left the title role. "Lowe's managment people decided to build him up as a Broadway star and suddenly TV was beneath him. The network spokesperson added that part of the problem might have been that Lowe's best friend, Sean Penn, was a big movie star.
At the time, Chad was all of sixteen, a minor who required a guardian on the set. Sometimes big brother Rob, then twenty, would be the setsitter.
Now Charlie Sheen "became a junior member of the Brat Pack by association only," according to journalist Tom Green in a 1987 Cosmopolitan magazine article. But in the same article, Charlie himself rebutted, "I've never been a Brat Packer and I've never been a teen idol and I'm very fortunate." Millions of young women would summarily refute the "never have been teen idol" part of that statement.
Chris Penn appears to be the only one of Emilio's childhood pals to evade the PPack pigeonhole. So far, he hasn't been accused of any brattish behavior in print, and even though he took up where his big brother left off in Wild Life, the sequel to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, he's managed not to be preceived as followingg in Sean's footsteps. "I am Sean Penn's younger brother, but that doesn't mean I'll ride on his fame," he told Newsweek magazine. "We're as close as two people can be, but we're also as differnet."
The Brat Pack incident turned Emilio into an adamannt antagonist of the press -- especially the so-called celebrity press. But his wary attitude toward reporters had, in fact, been formed long before the NY magazine story had been written. His Repo Man costar, Sy Richardson, was quite impressed by Emilio's handling of journalists when the pair did a publicity tour for that film bback in 1984; "We were in Chicago one time," said Richardson, "and about six guys from different newspapers and television stations were there interviewing him. Emilio would answer their questions to the point. He'd never give aanything more; never take anything away. If they asked a question that only required a yes-or-no answer, that's all he gave them: yes or no.
"I questioned him about it," Richardson recalled. "And he said, 'Why? Because if I give them more than they want, they will take it and change it their way. If I give less, they will add to it to make it make sense to them. So I listen very carefully and answer their questions to the point. This keeps me out of trouble."
After the Blum article, Emilio became vehement and vitriolic in his denunciation of liberties taken by the media. Blum, he felt, had personally betrayed him. "This writer came in from NY. He spent like three days with me, questioning me; we talked about all kinds of things, we got into a lot of areas. I took hiim out with the guys one night and that's all he wrote about -- this one night out with the guys -- from a very catty point of view. He made us sound like a bunch of arrogant pricks!
"Sean wasn't there -- but this guy made a lot of digs at all of us which made me a little guarded around the press," he understated. "Another thing this article tried to point out is that we're a bunch of backstabbers; that we are very competitive amongst ourselves. It's just the opposite. We are very, very supportive of each other, extremely supportive.
"If Sean sees me in a picture, he'll call me up from the theater and say, 'Hey, man, I've just seen your movie.' I saw Falcon and the Snowman and he was brilliant. I called him up and saiid, 'Hey Sean, you're happening!' We are strangely uncompetitive." (This is obviously a topic that the don't-call-them-Brat-Packers haven't discussed together at length!)
A few weeks after the above comments, Emilio was still hot under the collar about the Blum article. He voiced his anger in yet another interview: "It had started out as a profile of me and turned into a young actors piece, so a lot of us were lied to. Until two weeks before it hit the stands, they still maintained that it was a profile of me. You know, you've got to laugh about it. It was silly. The writer's jealousy came out -- more than anything else his jealousy really came out. He did a hatchet job on us, that's what he did. He was privy to something I guess every young writer would want privy to, but he abused the privilege.
"As a result," he went on to tell Film Journal reporter Elizabeth Gordon, "all journalists that want to talk to these young actors are going to suffer from this one guy... You'll only know about me professionally and that's it. I'm not willing to share myself on a personal level with any journalists, probably for the rest of my life, because I've been burned so badly."
How has the man who started this whole brouhaha, DBlum, reacted to the furor he unleashed? Mostly, he stands his ground. two years after the original story appeared, he found himself bylining a piece in the LA Times Sunday magazine entitled, "The Brat Pack Strikes Back: Why One Writer is Weary of His Words." He explained: "The whole thing began as a profile of a nice guy named Emilio estevez, and it would have stayed that way were it not for two things. First, he insisted on getting a free pass to... a movie, when tickets only cost six dollars. I thought that was a bratty thing to do. second, he kept telling me about all of his movie-star friends and how they like to hang out together, drink beers, party hearty -- that sort of thing. He offered to take me out with them for a night on the town and I accepted."
Blum partied hearty with Emilio, RLowe, JNelson, and Jay McInerney (author of Bright Lights, Big City, later a film vehicle for another young actor, Michael J. Fox). They hung out until the wee hours of the morning. The next day, still recovering from a hangover he drove aalong Sunset Blvd, Blum remembered a journalist-friend refering to himself as a member of the "Fat Pack" after going from restaurant to restaurant on assignment. "Suddenly the phrase "Brat Pack" came to mind," said Blum. "I wouldn't call it inspirationexactly. I did think it was pretty clever."
Blum felt it was a reasonably accurate description, along with a smart turn of phrase. Even though these were people he had "gotten to know ever so slightly through my reporting, they had been acting like... brats. Which is not to say that I would not have acted precisely the same way if I were twenty-three years old, famous, and rich," Blum admitted. "But these guys definitely fit the bill. They would disagree with my assessment, but the fact is, I do have one thing they don't. A job at a magazine. And that entitles me to freedom of the press."
Not all other members of the literary estate were to uphold Blum's rights in this matter. He was, he remembered, a bit shocked at the response of Time magazine critic Richard Schickel, who publicly blasted him on the Donahue show (along with some guests on the podium). Schickel said, "I really thought that was a scurrilous article... I really think this is kind of scuzz journalism..." and offered to apologize to the actors on behalf of his profession.
Blum pointed out, "Schickel was referring to the fact that I had supposedly told the gang of actors at the Hard Rock Cafe that everything was off the record. That isn't true."
Schickel's critical colleague, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, is a bit more sympathetic to Blum's original manuscript: "The article was well written. Beyond looking at those individuals named in the article, I think the value of the article -- beyond the sloganeering -- was the question raised. How well-trained are these young people who are making big sums of money to star in pictures? That's a very valid question.
"Look who came to starrdom in 1987, just two years later -- Dennnis Quaid, who is thirty-three; Kevin Costner, who is thirty-two. These men have put in some time. Quaid told me that the reason he feels he's not likely to blow up under pressure of his newfound success is that he is relatively older than some of these young actors who had trouble adjusting. I believe that's probably true. There's a lot of seasoning that has gone on. With some -- not all -- of these young actors, a sort of cult sprung up around some with less experience than we're used to. I'm sure a lot about the business, including the press, shook them up."
And, Siskel noted, Emilio didn't really ddo a bad job of defending himslef against the accusations of the article at the time. "A lot of kids got a smack in the face with that article. And at the time, Emilio had to deal with that subject."
Today, DBlum -- who makes a point to define himself as "a reporter, not a critic" -- says of celebrity innterviews: "Generally, the journnalist-actor relationship serves two purposes. The actor is seeking publicity; the journalist tries to get as much time and insight into that person as he can so he can write an informed article. It's a calculated tradeoff."
Back in 1985, Emilio believed the interview that Blum was going to write would focus only on him. Blum agreed that was his original intention: "I originally set out to do it that way, on Emilio only. He graciously allowed me a lot of access to him and his friends. I decided that, at the end of my reporting, I had a story far more intersting than the one II had originally set out to do. I felt it was far more appropriate to write that story tan merely the interview. that's what I did, and I still feel it was an appropriate decision. Obviously, some poeple do not."
As to the reaction his famous feature evoked, Blum said, "Because they are in a position to reach far more people than I can, perhaps they ultimately had the advantage. But I'm glad they had the opportunity to speak out. That's what the press offers. It's been an interestinf dialogue!"
Blum continued, "Is a journalist bound to report the story he was snet to get, or report what is, in fact, the story as it reveals itslef? I believe it's a journalist's responsibility to provide the latter. Otherwise, reporters are merely delivering the preconcieved notions and theories developed by editors and press agents. I am a reporter of my observations. And that's what I did, and continue to do. At the time of the Hollywood Brat Pack feature, I reported about a specific group of actors who I specifically named at a specific point in time. Unfortunately, I happened to coin a phrase that has come to mean any number of endless things over which I have no control."
In a Vanity Fair magazine interview with Sean Penn, writer James Walcott noted, "It's remarkable how thick the movies are now with blood brothers... acting has become a guild for male hormones and bonding rituals." He also noted that Penn is close friends with Emilio, and Timothy Hutton. The term Brat Pack is used without definition; it no longer needs one.
During the production of Thhe Breakfast Club, costar PGleason remembered, "I know he doesn't like the label of being a member of a Brat Pack, and he's certainly as far from any brat as you can get. But, one day he said I was an honorary member of the Brat Pack. I take that as a compliment!"
SKing recalled his work with Emilio on maximum Overdrive and defended him: "We ain't seen nothing from that kid yet. that kid's going to be big. really big. I still sall him kid. well, he don't act like no kid, or think like one neither. You know all this Brat Pack bullshit? I'll tell you, I'd pay a million bucks for each of my kids if I could be garaunteed that they'd turn out like Emilio."
With the issue of Brat Pack aside, the press continues to be a mystery -- and worse -- to Emilio. He'll never forget a luncheon date with gene Siskel. Emilio said, "Five minutes into the lunch, he [Siskel] says, 'Estevez, the press is not your friend.' I lost my appetite. I don't know why people want to put oout such bad energy. It's not the way I choose to relate to the human race."
GSiskel remembered the 1986 interview in Emilio's Chicago hotel suite, but was unaware of Emilio's later comment about it. When reminded of his own remark aabout the press, Siskel acknowledged, "I would have said that to just about anyone. At the time, I was talking as a forty-one year old journalist to a twenty-three or twenty-four year old actor. I was reminding him not to be naive about the press.
"As a member of the press for nineteen years, I don't see my role as the actor's 'friend.'That's just the way things are," observed Siskel. "I've written movie reviews, interviews, trennd stories. I'm always functioning as a critic, be it in an interview, movie review, or even as the subject of an interview. A reporter reports, as objectively as possible; a critic offers an opinion. Friendship is irrelevant. There's not an actor who is a 'friend' of mine. When I get sick, they don't call. A friend would.
"When it's functioning well, the press is trying to accurately describe what went on. In the case of the performing arts, criticism -- ideally -- is the expression of one's opinion in an effort to, possibly, better the medium. That's not to say that if the press is not a friend, it is, per se, an enemy."
Siskel actually is fairly positive about Emilio personally, and remembered being glad that he "has never done a sequel. I like a lot of work that Emilio has done. I think that proves he's an actor into his profession for more than the money. He wants to do a good job."
Emilio is not the only family member Siskel has interviewed. He did a lengthy interview with Martin. "He's very thoughtful; a fine, great actor. Dealt with the issues raised and answered the questions honestly and not always in his favor. I found him to be always interesting; almost as interesting off0screen as on, and that's a compliment to him."
Emilio's avoidance of the press is not based on a thin-skin sensitivity towards professional criticism. Clearly, he feels there are simply areas of an actor's life that should remain private even when an individual has chosen a public position for his career. In 1985 when Emilio was hit with a paternity suit, an inquiring columnist was told by Emilio's press representitive that "she was not free to comment on the situation." To Emilio, it was simply no one's business but his own. (Charlie carried the idea one step further, when he actually called a gossip columnist at her home -- at 6 am! -- to dispute the facts of an item that had run in the press linking him and actress Daryl Hannah. Not only was it no one's business but it wasn't true, and he wanted to know where she got her information.)
Another time, during his romance with actress DMoore, Emilio found himself grudgingly admitting, "I don't really want the press to know about us, but they do -- and I'm really not ashamed. I love her."
Still another reporter raised his ire when she called to do a fact verifacationn that his relationship with Moore "blows hot and cold." At the time he told the reporter that " 'she is the love of my life and always has been.' So they put it as on-again-off-again... I lead a very private life in LA since that article."
His desire for privacy also led him to invest a portion of his film earnings in a chunk of secluded Montana real eastae, which will have the added advantage of giving him private slopes for his favorite hobby, skiing.
The Loves of His Life
While the Brat Pack has a reputation for loving 'em and leaving 'em -- and both Charlie and Emilio have been seen dating (or voiced the desire to date) some of the most beautiful women that ever graced the cover of a magazine -- the fact is that Emilio has always tended more towards his father's singleminded monogamy. Emilio is more serially monogomous, however, and his definition of monogamy doesn't always include matrimony.
One of Emilio's first loves was a Wilhelmena model, Carey Salley, whom he dated for more than three years, starting before he was twenty years old. Shee was long and lithe with a mane of dark brown hair. They had their pictures taken together and displayed in People magazine; they were inseperable. He spoke publicly of his love for her. He had two children with her.
Then, at the audition for SEF, he met sultry-voiced, smoldery-eyed actress Demi Moore. And it was Demi that almost got him to the altar.
By August of 1985, a Hollywood trade publication had noted that "youngsters DMoore and EEstevez are 'kinda engaged,' which means they won't set a date for some time." A few weeks later, a date was not exactly set, but a time frame was established.
According to a friend of Demi and associate of the Sheen family, "I remember running into them at Helena's [ a private dinner club in LA] one night, just a few months after they met. They were glowing. Demi was so exciited and everything was going just great in Demi's life. They were in love and already talking about marriage, looking at houses. The wedding was going to be around Christmas the following year."
The couple told real-estate magnate Jim Fox that they wanted to use his beachfront mansioon as the site for the nuptials; invitations were set for printing and stated December 7, 1986 as the wedding date.
However, in the next fifteen months, although Emilio had insisted several times to the press that Demi was the love of his life, a lot happened. For Demi, One Crazy Summer and About Last Night... happened, propelling here into major star status. For Emilio, That Was Then... This Is Now and Maximum Overdrive happened; and, for both them, Wisdom. That's a lot of work, pressure, and stress for little over a year, and particularpressure when the pair is working together on one movie.
But the relationship survived all that. what it did not seem to be able to survive was the reemergence of CSalley.
In the autumn of 1985, celebrity attorney Marvin Mitchelson served Emilio with a $3 million paternity suit that also asked $15,000-per month child support (in lieu of the much smaller amount Emilio had already been paying for the previous sixteen months) for his client, CSalley, whose son Taylor Levi Salley had been bornn on June 22, 1984. The suit also included stipulations regarding the child Carey was expecting, and later delivered: a daughter, Paloma Estevez, on February 18,1986.
Mitchelson told a Hollywood columnist that Emilio and Carey "lived together on and off for years; he left her for DMoore, is my understanding... Estevez is not denying paternity of Carey's baby or the child she's expecting -- but we've filed a petition to establish paternity officially."
According to one of Demi's girlfriends, "I wasn't even so much the kids that added to the problems in the eventual breakup between Emilio and Demi... not of themselves.
"Emilio had to spend a lot of time with his kids and Demi didn't really want a ready-made family, especially with the children's mother so prominently still in the family,too. All the kids -- including Charlie's little daughter, including their mothers -- all get together around the holidays. Christmas is a real big deal at the Sheen household." As the date for the wedding got closer, the holiday atmosphere around the homestead "reminded Demi of the yaer before," said her friend. "Everyone had been together and there was Carey with one baby in her arms and another on the way. this yaer they'd all be together again... and sshe realized she'd have to live with that situation every holiday for all the years to come. the bottom line was that she didn't want to deal with that.
The invitations were out and gifts had started to arrive. But the packages were returned and the wedding was cancelled. Demi and Emilio had been living together for quite some time by then, and had even bought a house together on the beach for about a year before."
Yet the couple did not totally scrap the marriage plans for several months. In fact, they shrugged off the "postponement" of arrangemnets as being due to their conflicting schedules. He had commitments to postproduction work for Wisdom, and Demi was involved in a stage role in NYY at the time. Later, in a January of 1987 interview, Emilio told reporter Dianna Haithman, "We're both kind of strung out, and we want our wedding to be special. Even if we elope, we want it to be a special day, not just squeezed in."
This was to have been Emilio's first marriage, of course, but such was not the case with Demi. As a teenager, she lived for two years with rock musician Freddy Moore, and married him when she was nineteen. They met when she attended a concert by his pop-rock band, Boy. She wrote songs with Freddy and they appeared in the low budget movie, Parasites, together. Their marriage lasted almost two years and they divorced while she had a leading role on television's daytime soap opera General Hospital.
Being all too aware of Emilio's past was one reason that Demi broke up with him in the spring of 1987. But it's possible that Emilio never knew about Freddy; when Demi married televisionn star Bruce Willis after a whirlwind romance in 1987 -- only a few months after the split with Emilio -- she declared on her application for a marriage license that it was her first marriage. She became Mrs. BWillis in a Las Vegas hotel suite on November 22. Mrs. Freddy Moore became banished from memory.
In the ensuing months, Emilio kept a low romantic profile. Lately, however, he's been linked with several ladies, including model Marla Hansen, who made headlines several years ago when she became the victim of a razor-wielding attacker in NY. But frineds and associates insist that "he's just dating and is definitely not involved with any one lady."
Wife and family, though, are definitely in Emilio's future plans. He told a reporter in a 1985 interview that "I'll have at least four kids." With half his goal already reached, he has made a good start!