Emilio Estevez for “Bobby”

As the saying goes, it’s been a long time between drinks, metaphorically speaking. The last major feature that placed him in the director’s chair was the little seen War at Home, and as an actor, despite some brief appearances here and there, it was Mighty Ducks 2 over a decade ago.

One might assume that Estevez, 44, deliberately quit the business, but sitting in a Toronto hotel room on the eve that his Bobby is set to premiere, Estevez admits that his hiatus was not necessarily self-imposed. “It’s been a tough decade, as this is a very unforgiving business,” says a reflective Estevez. “I feel like I’ve been quietly working on these little algorithms in my basement, and coming out with them. In many ways Bobby is the first with four more stories that I really want to tell which I’m going to dig in and make. I think on the heels of Bobby it’s going to prove to be easier to put funding together and bring actors to the table.”

Estevez concedes that in some ways, Bobby, a multi-character drama centred around the night of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, is his coming out party, but the road to Toronto was paved with difficulty. “It’s been very difficult and I’ve been doing everything to make money and trying not to essentially lose my house, from selling artwork, I had a wine collection which I sold, I was signing trading cards to make a house payment, and directing television to keep health insurance alive for me and my kids. I was really doing whatever I needed to do short of pornography to not keep the wolves at the door.”

Estevez says that the experience has made him a stronger person but at the same time, “it would be unfair for me to say that I wasn’t grateful for all of the wonderful things that happened to me in the early part of my career because I certainly was grateful. I think that where we end up in our lives is the sum total of our choices and I made some bad ones, and for whatever reason I was made to walk the plank for those choices more often than others who also made bad choices but for whatever reason were forgiven. For instance, I was saddled with the responsibility of the failure of a movie called Judgment Night, yet Mighty Ducks succeeds and I wasn’t given any credit for that.”

Yet outside of the business, Estevez reflects on a life outside of movies that keeps him strong. “I’ve got two extraordinary children. My son is 22, my daughter is 20, they’re functioning human beings in the world and so that was part of my life’s work. I planted a vineyard on my property and I grow pinot noir. So I make wine and I grow vegetables. My fiancĂ© and I were in Venice and I mean we were literally overwhelmed by the response there of Bobby and not three days earlier we were picking caterpillars off our tomatoes, you know? So I have a life outside of this and I think that’s part of my strength.”

Estevez is proud of Bobby, that attracted quite the A-list cast, including former brat packer Demi Moore, who has a great time as Estevez’s alcoholic, lounge singing wife. She joins a cast including Sharon Stone, William H. Macy and Anthony Hopkins in this tale of a disparate group of characters dealing with their own foibles on that fateful night in the New York hotel that was the setting for Kennedy’s tragic assassination. “A lot of people in this movie are known for saying no as opposed to saying yes and Demi and Sharon certainly says no more often than she says yes, as does Hopkins, so it was great having them on board.”

Estevez says he sees Bobby as a film “influenced by the likes of Grand Hotel, The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, Meteor, and Cassandra Crossing – any of those big sort of yearbook movies. I remember one day going to the movie theatres in Westwood in California and watching The Poseidon Adventure three times in a row without leaving the theatre. So, I see this as an Irwin Allen movie without Irwin Allen, a disaster of the heart, an emotional disaster. We take this hotel taking the whole country and capsize it.”

It is hard to imagine that Estevez made his feature debut some 26 years ago, before establishing himself in such classics as Repo Man and Breakfast Club, both seminal works of the 80s. Brat Packer or not, Estevez still looks back at that period of his career with consistent affection. “I mean there were some terrific movies that came out of that period, movies that are still thought of and regarded 20 years later, and how often do you get an opportunity to do a Repo Man, Breakfast Club or something that people still talk about.”

With Bobby now receiving attention, Estevez says he is back at work putting together four different t projects one of which he hopes to shoot soon. “It is a family film about competitive harness racing, which is a sport that not many people know about it and maybe not many people care about it, but it’s an inspirational sports film which I think is kind of interesting, so we’ll see.”

Yet, what is interesting about Estevez is that he sees directing as “a means to an end. Danny DeVito describes directing as death by a thousand questions and he couldn’t be more right. Not that I don’t love the process, which I do, but it takes its toll.” For that reason, he says, he wants to continue playing the game as an actor. “I mean, the movies that I’m developing now as a filmmaker all have parts in it for me to play so that I keep my hand in all of it.”