Two opposite forces seemed to tug at Emilio Estevez.
Like his dad (Martin Sheen), he’s a serious soul, in search of large causes. Like his brother (Charlie Sheen), he has starred in pop-culture movies.
And then … well, the serious side took over. “To a lot of people, it had seemed like I had sort of dropped off the radar,” Estevez, 58, told the Television Critics Association.
Now, after two-decades, he’s back on view with “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” (shown here), which starts Friday (March 26) on Disney+. It follows a movie trilogy that has also spawned an animated series and the name of a Disney-owned pro hockey team.
Still, this series isn’t sheer fluff. It has something to say, especially about youth sports.
“These kids these days – they have trainers,” said John Goldsmith, who created it with his wife Cathy Yuspa and Steve Brill. “They specialize. They eat salads; they get flexor injuries very early.”
Adds Yuspa: “They’re mini-pros …. Can’t kids play sports for fun anymore?”
The original “Ducks” (written by Brill) followed the usual sports-film form – a rag-tag team becomes a winner. In the series version, the Ducks kept going from there.
“They got better, stronger, faster, bigger,” Brill said. “They got tied into the sports culture.”
Then, after her son is cut, a mom (Lauren Graham) jumps in, to create and coach a team. She finds a shabby rink owned by Gordon Bombay (shown here) – the guy Estevez played in the three movies.
“He’s sort of hiding out,” Estevez said. “He’s eating leftover birthday cake from kids’ parties and leftover pizzas. He’s completely disengaged.”
Even back in his early days, there were signs that Estevez wasn’t your usual young movie star. After being in the photogenic cast of “The Outsiders” (a 1983 Francis Coppola film based on an S.E. Hinton novel), Estevez wrote and starred in another Hinton adaptation, “That Was Then, This is Now” (1985). The next year, he wrote, directed and starred in “Wisdom”; at 24, he was an auteur.
But that’s when the movies he acted in began to take off. There was “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Breakfast Club” and movie series – two “Young Guns” films, two “Stakeout” films, three “Mighty Ducks.”
Later, it all stopped. “I wasn’t interested in acting any more,” Estevez said. Instead, he focused on “films that had more of a social message (and were) very personal movies.”
That’s not as easy as jumping into other people’s films. It took him six years to make “Bobby” (2006), about the day Robert Kennedy was killed; the film lost money. He wrote, directed and starred in it … as he did with “The Way” (2010) and “The Public” (2018). Add in some scattered TV-directing work and that’s been most of the 21st century for him.
Meanwhile, he’s moved further from Hollywood in spirit … and in geography. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the central corridor of the country …. In fact, I have a home in Cincinnati.”
That’s near the show’s core. The 10 first-season episodes were filmed in Vancouver, but set in Minnesota. Brill says the “Minnesota nice” saying is true; Graham agreed: “I’ve been able to experience some of the best of Minnesota – and some of the coldest of Minnesota; I liked it all.”
Estevez echoed that: “There’s just nothing like it – and the Midwest in general. My dad’s from Ohio – Dayton; my mom’s from Cinci (Cincinnati). I just feel so at home in the Midwest – probably more so than I do on either coast. And I think the show speaks to that.”
It also says that Emilio Estevez is back on the radar.