Both a member of Hollywood royalty and the Brat Pack, Emilio Estevez had the odds (and the press) against him when it came to forging a long-term career in show business. Yet, though he did become the butt of many jokes, Estevez has had the last laugh: he grew up into a prolific, if not acclaimed, actor/writer/director who managed to sidestep the celebrity pratfalls that befell his family and his Brat Pack colleagues.
Born in New York on May 12, 1962, Estevez is the eldest son of actor Martin Sheen (formerly known as Ramon Estevez) and his wife, Janet. He grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side with his two younger brothers, Ramon and Charlie, and his younger sister, Renée. Though Estevez started attending school in the New York public-school system, he transferred to a prestigious private academy once his father's career blossomed. In 1968, after Sheen landed a starring role in Catch-22 (1970), the family moved west to Malibu, CA. There, the young Estevez began writing short stories and poems. By the time he turned eight, he had already submitted a script to Rod Serling's Night Gallery television series (it was, unfortunately, rejected).
When Estevez was 11, his father bought the family a portable movie camera. Estevez, his brother Charlie, and their friends, Sean and Chris Penn, and Chad and Rob Lowe, used it to make short films, which Estevez would often write. He then began acting in all the junior-high-school plays, including The Dumb Waiter, Hello Out There, and Bye, Bye, Birdie. While accompanying his father to the Philippine set of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), Estevez got his first professional acting role as a messenger boy in the film. His scene, however, did not make the picture's final cut. After returning home to attend Santa Monica High School, Estevez grew interested in sports and did not become involved with the drama department until his senior year. Uninspired by the usual high-school productions, he wrote an original play and drafted Sean Penn to direct it. Titled Echoes of an Era, the story was based on the life of a Vietnam vet whom Estevez met while staying in the Philippines. Around the same time, he landed his first professional stage role opposite his father in Mr. Roberts at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater in Jupiter, FL.
Estevez made his small-screen debut right after graduating from high school. He appeared in the ABC Afterschool Special Seventeen Going on Nowhere (1980) before joining his father in the cast of To Climb a Mountain (1981), an installment of the religious television series Insight. In 1981, after returning from India where he served as his father's stand-in during the taping of Gandhi (1982), Estevez landed his first feature-film role opposite Matt Dillon in Tex (1982). The film marked the first of three adaptations of S.E. Hinton's books in which Estevez would appear. A year later, he starred in Francis Ford Coppola's unforgettable adaptation of Hinton's novel The Outsiders (1983), with Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, and Ralph Macchio.
By 1983, Estevez found himself on the short list of young actors. Oliver Stone asked him to star in his Academy Award-winning Vietnam film Platoon (1986), but the director could not finance the project in time (Estevez's brother, Charlie, took the role five years later). Instead, Estevez decided to play a punk rocker-turned-car repossessor in Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984). Co-executive produced by former Monkee Mike Nesmith, the wacky comedy also starred cult favorite Harry Dean Stanton and was a lasting underground hit. Estevez next gave a successful reading for John Hughes' The Breakfast Club (1985), a film about five very different high-school kids who are forced to spend a Saturday together in detention. Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy rounded out the cast in what turned out to be the quintessential teen-angst film of the '80s.
On the set of The Breakfast Club, Estevez refined a screenplay he had begun writing with Tom Cruise while working on The Outsiders. Based on another S.E. Hinton novel, That Was Then...This Is Now (1985) went into production under the auspices of Paramount and director Christopher Cain, with Estevez as its star. It opened to scathing reviews and little praise for its young writer, but was a moderate box-office success.
Estevez's next role featured him as a recent college graduate opposite Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, and Mare Winningham in St. Elmo's Fire (1985). The film debuted at the same time as a New York magazine cover story that labeled its actors (many of whom had worked together before) as the Brat Pack and elected Estevez as the "unofficial president" of the group. The actor immediately tried to shake the moniker with a part in Stephen King's directing debut, Maximum Overdrive (1986), but the film flopped. He then tried his own hand behind the camera. At age 23, he wrote, directed, and starred in Wisdom (1986), making cinematic history as the youngest feature filmmaker to take on all three roles. The picture, a meandering heist-road film, flopped.
Estevez revived his career with Stakeout (1987), a hit action comedy that co-starred veteran actor Richard Dreyfuss, and Young Guns (1988), a successful youth-oriented Western helmed by That Was Then...This Is Now director Christopher Cain. The actor reprised his Young Guns role as Billy the Kid for its sequel, Young Guns 2 (1990), before writing, directing, and starring in Men at Work (1990). The buddy film, a comedy about two garbage men who become wrapped up in a murder case, also featured his brother, Charlie Sheen.
After an embarrassing turn in the bizarre sci-fi thriller Freejack (1992), Estevez starred as a lawyer who is forced to coach a children's hockey team in Disney's triumphant The Mighty Ducks (1992). He filmed the spoof National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) and Another Stakeout (1993), before coaching the Mighty Ducks again in D2 (1994). Estevez then agreed to make a cameo appearance in the third installment of the franchise, D3 (1996), if Disney helped finance his own picture, The War at Home (1996). Estevez produced, directed, and starred in the Vietnam-era drama, along with his father and Academy Award winner Kathy Bates. Sadly, after premiering at the Austin Film Festival, The War at Home played in only three cities.
In 1998, Estevez made a comeback as the cowboy in the TNT made-for-cable spaghetti Western, Dollar for the Dead. Two years later, he directed Rated X (2000), a Showtime original movie based on brothers Jim and Art Mitchell, the troubled directors of the infamous adult film Behind the Green Door. After casting himself as Jim, Estevez recruited his own brother Charlie to play Art -- a move which gave the heralded film added clout and a moneymaking edge. Its positive press also put both brothers back in the spotlight.
Nevertheless, the actor-cum-director maintained a comparatively low profile over the following half-decade, with only a scant few film appearances here and there. 2005 broke the silence, with the release of the live performance film Culture Clash in AmeriCCa -- a documentary record of an infamously acerbic Hispanic-American comedy troupe (Richard Montoya, Ricardo Salinas, Herbert Siguenza). The picture -- which received severely limited distribution (read: only a few theaters across the country) -- went almost straight to video, and the few critics who did see it scourged it as an insult to spectators and to the film's subjects.
Despite this and other disappointments on the filmmaker's spotty track record, however, expectations soared for his sixth turn in the director's chair -- which also marked his most ambitious outing to date. The massive period piece/ensemble drama Bobby (2006) darkly recounted -- via a multilayered and multi-plotted script and a massive, Altmanesque ensemble cast to rival even Altman's most impressive assemblages of talent -- the events in Los Angeles' Algonquin Hotel on June 6, 1968, the night Robert F. Kennedy was shot. The cast included William H. Macy, Martin Sheen, Demi Moore, Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, and Elijah Wood. Four years later, Estevez returned to direct the reflective adventure drama The Way, in which he also appeared as the son of his real life father Sheen. The film told the tale of a father who travels overseas to recover his estranged son's body after learning he perished while walking the El camino de Santiago, and ultimately decides to complete his son's pilgrimage.