A Discussion with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez

At a recent press conference for the new film "The Way," directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen, our associate editor Kerry Weber had the opportunity to speak with the two men about their highly personal film.  The newly released film centers on the pilgrimage of a lapsed Catholic on the Camino to Santiago de Campostela in Spain, and the creation of the film marked a kind of journey for the father and son as well.  The discussion appears in our online Culture section.

In Oct. 2010, the father-son acting duo of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez were walking from their hotel to the main square in Santiago, Spain, to see the pope. As the pair moved toward the site where Benedict XVI would celebrate Mass, they were stopped by a French pilgrim looking for directions to El Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage path stretching hundreds of kilometers between France and Spain. Little did this pilgrim know, but she had asked exactly the right people. A year earlier, Sheen and Estevez had spent months in the region shooting The Way, a film that Estevez wrote and co-produced, and which tells the story of a father who chooses to walk the camino shortly after his son’s death.

The actors had walked much of the camino themselves, while filming, and Estevez and producer David Alexanian had spent several months traveling the road by car to meet with hotel and restaurant owners and town officials in preparation for the film. In short, Estevez knew the way.

“I said, yes, you make a left and cut through a park, and go down a hill, and you’re going to start seeing signs,” Estevez said in an interview with America and other members of the New York press. Sheen looked at his son with surprise. Estevez recalled his father asking: “What are the odds that a year after we wrapped you’d find yourself here in Santiago giving another pilgrim directions?”

Actually, they were pretty good. Especially, if one considers the connection the men felt to the camino and the respect they both hold for a road that has significant history for Catholics and for their family, as well. During an earlier road trip along the camino Sheen and his grandson Taylor (Estevez’s son) stopped for a meal at a restaurant where Taylor met the woman who would become his wife. And Sheen’s father, to whom Estevez dedicated the film, was from Galicia, Spain, the region that calls the city of Santiago de Compostela its capital.

During the filming, the men made a definitive effort to respect the road and the pilgrims who walked it, while also inviting many of them to serve as extras. The crew was minimal, and they dressed as the pilgrims, filmed from behind bushes on the side of the road and carrying gear on their backs. Their goal, Estevez said, was to capture the true spirit of the camino. “We wanted to honor every region, and we wanted to honor every stop,” Estevez said. “So when real, true pilgrims saw the film they’d say ‘I recognize that.’”

In the film, the character of Tom, played by Sheen, meets a diverse group of strangers, which Estevez likens to the band of travelers in “The Wizard of Oz.” While on a shared path, Tom learns about his son and about himself, alongside the others who struggle to make peace with their own journeys.  

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 Read the rest here.

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Thomas Piatak
6 years 7 months ago
I have had the pleasure of seeing this movie, and it is an excellent alternative to the standard Hollywood fare of sex, violence, explosions, cartoon superheroes, remakes, and sequels.  It is refreshing watching a movie made in response to the dictates of the heart rather than the dictates of Mammon.
Anne Chapman
6 years 7 months ago
I have also seen this movie and plan to see it again this week with a friend who hasn't had the pleasure.  It is a pleasure on multiple levels.
Jim McCrea
6 years 7 months ago
I hope people in the San Francisco Bay Area ignore this smarmy "review" and see it nonetheless:

Crime drama, 115 minutes, Rated NR

When a young man dies accidentally during a religious pilgrimage from France to Spain, his father (Martin Sheen) decides to complete the 800-kilometer hike. Writer-director Emilio Estevez (Sheen's real-life son) has made a sincere effort at a film of spiritual richness, but the movie loses its way with clumsy scenes and canned characters. - M. LaSalle, SF Chronicle
Bill Collier
6 years 7 months ago
Not if only Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez can convince their son/brother Charlie to give the Camino a try...

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