MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD, SHIA LaBEOUF, and BRIAN GERAGHTY on 'BOBBY' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
November 4, 2006
Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, Bobby explores the lives of a diverse cross-section of Americans and how their paths intersect on the fateful day that Bobby Kennedy is assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in a politically turbulent 1968. The powerful ensemble, peppered with some fantastic performances, includes Anthony Hopkins, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Laurence Fishburne, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Harry Belafonte, Christian Slater, Heather Graham, Joshua Jackson, Elijah Wood, and Lindsay Lohan, among seemingly countless others.
A project with a great deal of emotional investment for Estevez, the film has been in the works for some time. Cleverly, it paints a portrait of Bobby Kennedy not by telling his story directly, but by examining the everyday people whose lives he affected.
In this interview, three of the youngest cast members--Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Shia LaBeouf, and Brian Geraghty--talk about working on the ambitious undertaking.
MEDIA: What was the casting process like for each of you?
BRIAN: [laughs] I was like the bottom of the barrel. I auditioned. The casting directors wouldn't let me meet Emilio. I was like, "Why not?" And then finally I got that breakdown of the cast, and I was like, "All right, that's cool." [laughs] "If they want me, they want me." But I went in and I read for them. I just read three scenes, and I just ended up getting an offer... [jokes] I guess I'm just really talented.
MARY: For me, I got the script pretty much like any other script. And the only person that I was aware of being attached to it at that point was Anthony Hopkins, so automatically you want to be in the film. [laughs] And after reading the script, I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved everything about it. And so I was able to meet with Emilio and just kind of sit down and talk to him about it, and I let him know that any role that was available that would suit me, I would do, no matter how big or how small. And then months passed, and every role was filled with like a huge name, including the role that I ended up playing. And at the last second, that person fell out of it, and they called me to show up to work like the next day. So I was really thrown into it, and it was a total whirlwind for me and a shock. But it was great.
SHIA: I had just finished working on a film in New York called A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, and I was depressed as hell. It was just a tough movie to make. And I came home and I went and visited my dad in Montana...You know, you tell your agent...You make a list when you first start up. You say, "Look, anything with these people, I'm in. Doesn't matter what the script is, throw me. I'm there in a second." And this movie had like half the list on it. So I think I said yes even before I had even read the script or met Emilio or anything. As soon as I heard Hopkins' name, that was just instinctual. You're 20 years old, you want to go play for the All-Star team? Sure. So I met with Emilio. I had already said yes, and I was just meeting with him to feel like, "Yeah, this is pretty cool." I met with him, and there you have it.
Were you in awe at being in a film with so many high-profile actors?
SHIA: Absolutely. I remember our first day, we were at the Ambassador Hotel. We sort of kicked off the whole production, it was the first scene, and I remember saying, "This is strange, man. I don't feel nervous. As big as this sh*t is, I gotta feel nervous. Why am I not feeling nervous?" And then I think Brian kind of looked like, "Dude, look over there." And Hopkins is behind the monitor, and everything just sort of shattered...But then a couple days in, you start hearing things like Hopkins saying, "You know, William H. Macy's in this movie." And William H. Macy saying, "You know, Anthony Hopkins is in this movie." Or Demi [Moore] saying, "Sharon Stone's in it!" And it was just everybody in the same boat. So you felt equal. Of course, [there are] icons, newcomers, legends...It's scatterbrained. But we did all feel like we were on the same team, and we felt equal. So that fear, it was gone.
How did you prepare yourselves for the roles of young people living in 1968?
MARY: In 1968, my parents were actually about the age that I am now, so I definitely talked to them a lot, at least about the assassination and how it impacted them. And it was interesting just to hear how emotional it was for everyone in the country. I think people our age hear mostly hear about JFK and how that affected everyone, and Bobby Kennedy is just kind of skipped over. So it was kind of surprising just to find out how huge it was for everyone. I think it's strange that we don't learn about that in school, and that he's not focused on, that we don't know how significant he was and important he was in the civil rights movement, and so many things that he did for our country, and that he was going to do. And when he was assassinated, so much got thrown off track, and perhaps we wouldn't be in the same place 30 years later that we were then, if he had [been] elected, which is an assumption. So it was interesting just to find out the importance of his life and his candidacy and everything that he could have become.
Do you think your generation today is as politically idealistic as their 1968 counterparts?
MARY: Not at all, no.
BRIAN: We don't have anyone like Bobby Kennedy, really. For our country, that was the last moment of hope. And I think that's Emilio's point of view, too. All these great [leaders]...Martin Luther King and Jack Kennedy, and this was our last one, and now he's gone. And so we didn't know where to go as a country. And I think we're confused as youth today, politically. Because we don't know what to do. We don't know what's right. We don't have these kind of people.
SHIA: I think, then, it was also in our face a little more than it is now. We've kind of outsourced our pain so it's not right in front of us. You had assassination after assassination after assassination...It was huge. It was pop culture. It was involved, whereas now, the deaths are in Iraq--it's way far away from our pop culture. And none of my [generation] is watching C-SPAN. They're watching MTV, they're watching American Idol. More people vote for American Idol than the President of the United States. That statement alone is a scary, scary f*cking reality, man.
In all likelihood, a political assassination in today's environment probably wouldn't have the same emotional impact as those in the '60s. Why do you suppose that is?
SHIA: Then, it wasn't just agreeing with policies. People loved these people, where now, it's just people just agree with their policies. John Kerry, the Democrat side of it, was not what Bobby was. He was a politician. Bobby was a good man. People looked at him like he was a good man. He was a patriot. He didn't kiss kids because the camera was there. It was a different thing. And people followed him. He was a rock star. He was Tony Hawk of politics.
Do you think this film can be a catalyst to motivate political interest in young people?
BRIAN: I think, yeah.
MARY: Yeah. I mean, hopefully, it's sort of inspiring. I think that the youth of America now is very sort of jaded and cynical, and look at politicians as people who can't be trusted, and you can't believe in anyone because everyone has a spin on everything just for political gain. So I hope that we can go back and look and see how it was in 1968, and how young people were idealistic and had hope and had the American Dream, which is kind of gone now. And hopefully it inspires people to try to go back to that in some way, in whatever way we can, [and] to fight for that again.
How would you market this film to younger viewers?
BRIAN: [jokes] I would tell them that Lindsay Lohan is starring in this film...And then after, we'll do a Q&A tripping on acid.