The Up Hill Climb to 'BOBBY'
It's never easy getting funds for your artistic political passions. Believe me, I know.
It happened right after midnight in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968.
“Bobby,” the movie by Emilio Estevez, rewinds the hours before Robert F. Kennedy was shot.
The mood. The people. The women and their lives, which includes husbands and
situations of constraint, mixed with sexual stardom, as well as young men dodging the draft by any means necessary, including a marriage of convenience.
Where is Bobby in it all? He is the pulse of the film, the last best hope for the future, which at its center is an American tragedy that doesn't just extend to one man's life being taken, but of the final nail in the 1960's coffin. Tragedy, it is said, happens in threes. Robert F. Kennedy's murder was the end of what might have been and another chapter in the American story, which began with J.F.K.'s death, but then played out through the grueling reality of Vietnam.
Bobby's story is the finale of the 1960s that began with the assassination of a beloved president, continued with
the murder of the giant of civil rights leader of our time, dashing our hopes for change and a new American future that instead opened out on to the willful deceit of President Lyndon Johnson and his Gulf of Tolkin resolution, continued through Richard M. Nixon and Watergate,
which eventually became the seed that led to Dick Cheney's obsession with restoring executive power
that has led to the disastrous unitary executive presidency of Mr. Bush.
Everything about “Bobby” is about the time in which he lived and
died and what his death signaled for America's future. You cannot talk about Robert F. Kennedy without going back and living portions of the time in which he rose, changed and then began to lead.
Estevez plays the husband-manager of a broken-down nightclub singer (Moore).
But Bobby, who's glimpsed in newsreels and heard delivering impassioned civil
rights speeches, remains a bit player in the movie bearing his name.
And this caused no end of consternation when it came to securing financing
in Hollywood. Ultimately, Estevez went abroad to Belgium for the $10 million
necessary to make the film. It helped that Oscar-winner Hopkins, who plays
a retired doorman, committed early. He became “an actor magnet,”
says Estevez. “Word got around town fast, and it became a matter of who
you said `no' to, not who you said `yes' to.”
Still, Estevez got the royal runaround at the major studios. The movie about
Bobby that wasn't really about Bobby was discussed, considered, passed on
— for six years.
He winces as he recalls the “merry-go-round” meetings.
“We'd sit down and the financiers would say, `Well, there's no central
character on which to hang your hat. Who's the star?' I'd answer, `Well, Bobby's
the star.' They'd come back with, `If Bobby's the star, why isn't it a biopic?'”
“No central character”? A biopic? Clueless.
However, the other story of “Bobby” is the passion of the filmmaker, Emilio
Estevez, and all he did to get this movie made. Six years. He would not give
I can relate. It took me years to get “Weeping
for J.F.K.” done. Of course, the script has changed a bit, the sets are gone and the
costume is completely different, but the foundation stays the same. I shared some
of the script earlier this week, to commemorate President John F. Kennedy's
murder. Interest was keen on my show immediately after the previews, even to
go forward to other venues. It needed work, for sure, but compliments
and encouragement were real. However, nobody wanted to actually invest in
it. So, I feel your frustration, Emilio. So when I launch a fundraising
drive for my radio show, you can imagine how much I appreciate those people
willing to invest in my progressive radio venture in the hopes we can get it to satellite or terrestrial radio. It's a different goal, but the struggles are the same.
Emilio Estevez got “Bobby” made through his passions and the marquee
help of Anthony Hopkins. As an aside, wait and watch Sharon Stone disappearing into her character. It's a wonder. But regardless of Hopkins, Stone, Belafonte, Moore, Macy and the serious talents of others, major studios took a pass. It was his
drive and commitment that got the job done. If you want something to manifest your intentions have to be rooted and your energy unending. You also have to be willing to not give up until your dream is realized, even though you could lose everything you own in the process.
Mr. Estevez ended up going to Belgium. What does that say about today's Hollywood? It's a continuing complaint.
But follow the dream we must. If nothing else, it rekindles the passion of the 1960s when anything in America seemed possible. To believe it can happen again is what J.F.K's America, Martin Luther King Jr.'s fight, and Bobby's presidential candidacy were all about.