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Emilio Estevez on ‘The Public’

Emilio Estevez on ‘The Public’

Writer, director and star Emilio Estevez is said to achieve a career high with 'The Public', an empathetic look at homelessness, concentrating on a rousing, inspiring story.

Emilio Estevez on ‘The Public’

There’s a scene in Emilio Estevez’s new film, The Public, where he gets sucker punched by a young homeless man. The violence is unexpected and Estevez’s character, a mild-mannered librarian, takes it hard. When I ask Estevez about it, he laughs. “My son, Taylor was my stunt double,” he tells me. “Luckily we only had to do two takes.”

The Public is set during a freezing Cincinnati winter when the city’s homeless population are dying from the cold on the street at night, due to a lack of shelter. A group of homeless men who hang out all day in the city’s public library, decide to stage a sit-in and barricade themselves in the library for the night. After initial reluctance, the librarian, Stuart Goodson (Estevez) decides to support the men and champion their cause. MiNDFOOD chatted to Emilio about his new movie.

What’s The Public about?

It takes place in a library where we come to understand that the location represents important intersecting themes like climate change, homelessness, the opioid crisis and the militarisation of local police. It’s about how we care for those who can’t care for themselves. My takeaway from the film would be that we all go through a certain amount of trauma, no matter what side of the desk we are on.

How challenging was it being writer, director, producer and lead actor of this film?

I enjoy acting and being on the set – but being director is death by a thousand questions (laughs). There’s no chair for you to sit in, no trailer… it’s non-stop. I love that level of intensity; we only had 22 days to shoot the film. As a writer, I’ve been working on this film for over a decade and so I knew the material very well.  I would not have taken on this many roles had I not.

What’s the relationship between libraries and the homeless in the US?

On any given night, there are 57,000 homeless in Los Angles. In many cities in America, libraries have become de facto homeless shelters. If you think about it, it’s the one place where there’s no expectation of a monetary exchange – there is nothing bought or sold.

Emilio Estevez on The Public

Do you use libraries yourself?

I love libraries – as a writer, I am often doing research in libraries – there’s just something about the space and the access. I read a lot. At 10 years old, my parents would drop me off and I’d be left to disappear in the stacks and have a place to satisfy my curiosity. I was a bit of a nerd and a member of the Science Fiction book of the month club and I when the book came out every month, I’d devour it and say, “What’s next?” I’d go down to the liberty to find more books.

What response have you had to the film in the US?

I showed the film to the American Library Association in New Orleans. The very first question afterwards was, “How did you get us so right?” That was the most gratifying moment of the whole experience; that the librarians felt heard and seen and understood. And the same with homeless individuals and advocacy groups we showed the film to. They saw themselves on screen – and these are people who hardly ever feel heard.

Watch ‘The Public’ trailer

The Public, starring Emilio Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater & Taylor Schilling. Released nationally in Australian & NZ cinemas August 1.

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