Joe Estevez is the younger brother of Martin Sheen and uncle of Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, but has carved out quite a career in his own right. Starring in well over 150 films, he has a very large cult following, he is a sought after voice-over actor, and has hosted numerous documentaries.
Estevez was born in Dayton, Ohio to a Catholic, Galician-born father, Francisco Estevez, and an Irish mother, Mary Anne (née Phelan). He is one of ten children, nine boys and one girl.
As a child, he lived in the South Park neighborhood of Dayton. During a family trip in April 1959, he participated in the White House Easter Egg Roll and met President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He attended Chaminade High School, a Catholic High School located in Dayton. Upon his graduation, he enlisted and served in the United States Navy.
ECIM: Did you do the voice over for Apocolypse now?
Joe Estevez: I did, I did well some of it was mine, most of it was my brother, speaking of drinking and not drinking. When I was doing that voiceover, that was my last drunk. I was a terrible alcoholic. I auditioned for “One flew over the Cookoo’s Nest drunk. Dog Day Afternoon I auditioned for it drunk. I had a lot of opportunities you know, but I was a drunk. I had done three months of Apocolypse Now drunk, and Francis Coppola, he called me up to San Francisco to do the voice over for it.. And uh, I recorded a little bit in the morning, he said go out and have some breakfast. Anyways, I went out and drank some breakfast; come back and do a paragraph and go out, come back. I was doing ok, until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when I was just, gone. I had some Vietnamese words and I just couldn’t get my tounge around them, I just couldn’t say them. And he got up to my face, nose to nose, and he said, “Can’t you just say the words Joe”, “Can’t you just say the fucking words!” I literally, I felt myself shrink, you know, with humiliation. And that was it, I said, you know, I already pissed away my personal life. That was the last day I drank. I was sorry it had to come to that. They say everyone finds their bottom that was mine.
ECIM: Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, raised to be a factory worker. What was your inspiration for pursuing an acting career?
Joe: It was like with the drinking. If I would have stayed in the factory, I would have drunk myself to death. There was no future. We were raised to be factory workers, my brothers and I. It was the only thing left, the only salvation. I always knew I had a talent for it. There’s this fear of letting go of the factory (and it’s money) It came to a point to where I had no choice. I saw the line, if I stayed there I’d die a hillbillys death.
ECIM: Sort of a second chance.
Joe: Yeah. I had come out to California in ’72. I took a 90 day leave of absence from the factory and couldn’t get the first and last months rent. So I came back out in ’74 and my brother got me an audition as his brother in a movie called “Pretty Boy Floyd”. I got the part of his brother, and did the character, went back to Dayton, closed up shop and brought the family out. The rest they say is “history”. I would say it was the smartest thing I’d ever done in my life.
ECIM: Were your parents supportive of your acting?
Joe: No, no, well my mother died when I was 5 but my father, you know, he was a Spainard and he was a very pragmatic fellow. He told my brother (laughing) he said “An actor! What the hell’s wrong with you, you can’t even ride a horse!” It’s like actors have to ride horses because of all the westerns that were out there. It’s funny because I was thinking about that the other day, and I was thinking, all the stuff my brother did, I don’t think he’s ever ridden a horse. (laughs)
ECIM: Anyone else in the family into the showbiz life?
Joe: We had an Uncle, Michael Phelan who was one of the charter members of the Abby Theater in Dublin. So i think that’s were we got our “chops” from. You know, every Irishman’s an actor.
ECIM: How much more work have you done in hollywood opposed to independent film?
Joe: Well after Pretty Boy Floyd I got other roles, Hatfields and McCoys, Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie: Lady Truckers” You know I was actually doing pretty good, but I didn’t have that confidence. It’s funny, because I probably worked more when I was back here in Ohio, than I did, well, than I am now. I was always doing a play. You know, I’d go to the factory, come home and change my clothes, go to rehersal, do theater. I was rehersing one play while I was doing another. But, you know I was confident back then, you get up here and you think, “Oh, Jesus! The Big Leagues! Anyways, I digress.
ECIM: I just started going to film festivals, and it’s been great meeting people like you, and Robert Kurtzman, I just love it. Do you go to many film festivals?
Joe: Not that many. No, I’m a pretty private person. I have that factory mentality. I like to go to work, come home. You know, when you don’t drink it takes alot of the social life. I go to openings that I really feel I should be there for. I kind of like staying at home, spending time with my wife, I live pretty simple. I like to write, you know I’m basically a pretty simple person.
This is only part of my interview with Joe, and I will be posting it as soon as it is finished. As I sat there talking to Joe Estevez, the biggest actor I have met so far, I was very pleased to be talking to a man so down to earth and humble. Seeing his acting in Gary Jones’ Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan, I was amazed at how he was so passionate and dedicated to his character. We talked like we were old friends and it was great to see how much we had in common, both from Ohio, factory workers, raised three daughters and even had the same job in the Navy! I could have talked for hours more and listened to the stories I wanted to hear from a man so passionate about his craft and his life. I would like to thank Joe Estevez for allowing me to talk with him and share his story.
Stay tuned for part 2 of an interview with Joe Estevez…….