Thursday, December 01, 2005

Martin Sheen To Be in Film about Robert Kennedy

Reuters reports that Martin Sheen is in talks to star in a film with an all-star cast about the assassination of Robert Kennedy written and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez.

From the New York Times:
"Over Sunday dinner at his home last spring, Martin Sheen, the star of "The West Wing," casually mentioned to his wife, Janet, and son Emilio Estevez that he had been lobbying members of the Los Angeles school board to proceed with the demolition of the old Ambassador Hotel, where Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 on the night he won the California presidential primary.

Officials were planning to replace the long-shuttered grande dame of Wilshire Boulevard with a school big enough for 4,000 students, many of them immigrants and minorities, who would otherwise have to keep riding buses across town. One of the project's backers was Ethel Kennedy, the senator's widow, who saw it as a fitting tribute to her husband. So she asked her friend Mr. Sheen - who has played Robert Kennedy in a mini-series, narrated a collection of his speeches, and done voice-overs for a number of Kennedy-family productions - to make some calls on her behalf.

Mr. Sheen had been only too happy to oblige, he told his family over dinner.

To which they all but choked on their food. As Mr. Estevez reeled, he recalled in an interview, his mother snapped at his father: "Are you insane?"

Mr. Estevez, as Mr. Sheen knew, had been plotting for several years to make an independent film he had written about the day Robert Kennedy was shot. It was to take place over 16 hours on June 4 and 5, 1968, entirely within the Ambassador. And he was desperate to film his movie there before the hotel was razed.

By now, of course, Mr. Estevez, 43, who came of age as a Brat Pack star in the 1980's, can see the humor in it: the interview was on the set of his movie, "Bobby," and his father is among the cast members; Mr. Estevez was even able to shoot a few days at the Ambassador, 48 hours ahead of the wrecking crew, before shifting locations to another faded hotel dressed to look like it. The Ambassador, with its Cocoanut Grove nightclub, was the Waldorf-Astoria of the West Coast, a palace and playground for movie stars, presidents and kings. If the school district's contractors are busily erasing a tremendous chunk of this city's glittery history, Mr. Estevez is seeking to revisit and preserve one of the darkest days in Los Angeles's past.
The inspiration for Mr. Estevez's project, given his father's ties to the Kennedys, is a bit unexpected. He says that Robert F. Kennedy meant little to him growing up; he was only 6 when Kennedy died. But Mr. Sheen told him how the senator once shook young Emilio's hand at a Manhattan political rally. And when Mr. Sheen drove with Emilio from Mexico to Los Angeles in 1969, their first stop was at the Ambassador Hotel, to pay their respects.
The Kennedy clan is aware of "Bobby": both Mr. Belafonte, a member of the R.F.K. Foundation's board, and Martin Sheen said they had assured the Kennedy family that the movie was intended as a homage. But Mr. Belafonte said he would not vouch for it to Ethel Kennedy "until I've seen the edit."

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