Emilio Estevez says Laurence Fishburne saved him from drowning

Written by on May 4, 2023

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Actor Emilio Estevez spoke out about his decades-long friendship with Laurence Fishburne and how the “Matrix” star saved him from drowning. 

Estevez recalled the moment during an appearance on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” Tuesday along with his father, actor Martin Sheen, People reports. Estevez nearly drowned in a river in the Philippines during the production of the 1979 Vietnam War movie, “Apocalypse Now,” which Francis Ford Coppola directed.

Fishburne had a supporting role in the acclaimed film. At the time, he and Estevez were both teenagers and had known each other for only a few days when Fishburne suggested that they take a boating trip together.

Red Carpet Premiere
Laurence Fishburne attends the red carpet premiere and party for Peacock’s new comedy series, “MacGruber,” on Dec. 8, 2021at California Science Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

“So we were out on this boat together and we started getting too close to the shore and I said, ‘Well let me jump out, I’ll push us offshore,’” Estevez recalled. But when he jumped into the water, Estevez began to sink in what he described as “quicksand mud.”

“I saw Fishburne looking at me just saying, ‘Grab my hand!’ He pulled me back up onto the boat,” he continued.

Sheen told Hudson that he did not know about the near-fatal drowning until decades later when he and Estevez wrote a memoir together, People reports. “I found out about this incident when I read the book,” Sheen said, adding that he called Fishburne to “thank him for saving my son’s life.”

Sheen also spoke about the incident during a 2012 interview. Estevez said he and Fishburne “were bonded ever since.”

Fishburne has said Estevez saved his life, too. “Just by virtue of the fact that we were friends because there were no other 15-year-olds around,” the actor told Vulture in 2020. “Having the company of somebody who was my own age and male and from America was also a lifesaver for me.”

Meanwhile, according to Military.com, 82-year-old Sheen struggled with alcoholism during the filming of “Apocalypse Now,” a film that the U.S. military didn’t support because of its plot, forcing Coppola to turn to the Philippine Army for helicopters and pilots. Sheen portrayed Capt. Benjamin Willard, who was tasked with tracking down and killing a rogue officer.

The veteran actor suffered an emotional breakdown on set, just as his character did in one particular scene, but he persuaded Coppola to continue filming. Sheen’s drunken breakdown made it into the final cut of the film.

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“I had done that scene at bars. I had done that scene at home,” Sheen later said. “I had to come to grips with it. I had to exorcize that out of myself.”

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