In what constitutes their most deeply personal work to date, the father and-son team of veteran actors Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, takes audiences on a soul-searching journey, to be clear, not exclusive to people of faith. Brilliantly directed by Estevez, ‘The Way,’ explores real questions about purpose, significance, and the need for real life connections— not by affording all the answers—but gently leading audiences down a path of personal introspection, a rarity (seldom found these days) in the world of cinema. Beautifully filmed on location on the genuine Way of St. James (the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela), The Way is understated and unpretentious but profound in its reach, taking us each on a personal tour of what life could be. Here we caught up with the father and son team to explore the personal lessons learned along ‘The way.’
What was it like working with Emilio, this time around?
Martin Sheen: I have never done a project that I’m more proud of. It’s the first time in more than 30 years that I have had to carry a picture, and as you know Emilio wrote it for me, and I couldn’t be happier or more proud of what we are presenting. For myself, (this film) is a reflection through a character that prior to this I would have never been able to play, but Emilio tells me that it’s more about me than anything I have played in quite sometime, and I would have to agree.
What was the most transformative aspect of this experience?
Martin: This project continues to change us. We are now on an American pilgrimage if you will, on a 35-cities bus tour across country (for about eight weeks), which began in San Francisco. From the making of the film to the bus tour, the whole journey has been a confirmation of what we started out to create nearly four years ago, and that is, a return to what’s lacking these days—faith, family time, meditation and a moment to communicate.
Earlier in the film, there’s a scene where Daniel speaks to his father about the idea of choosing a life versus living a one. Could you elaborate on this?
Emilio Estevez: For me it means being in life and being involved, jumping in and being open to the possibilities, whether it’s a journey, whether it’s a faith conversion or reconversion, no matter what that is, we should be open to the possibilities. We often get stuck in our routines. And it oftentimes looks hopeless to try to break the chains of those routines. We all have these devices that force us to look down, whether it’s the iPods or
the iPhones or the cell phones or the computers, we are looking down and have stopped being tourists in the world. But if we were to step outside of ourselves and become tourists in the world and live in wonder again and look up, we would then begin to reconnect with people and places and the world around us. I think what Daniel is saying to his father in that scene is, “You have got to wake up, you have got to get outside of yourself!”
From ‘Bobby’ (your last film) to the making of this film, how have you evolved as a director?
Emilio: When I was a younger director, I don’t think that I would have been as open to the gifts that were shown to us along the way. I would have looked at those as interferences ruining my shot or my original vision. My approach to this (film) was to be as free and as open as possible to the possibility of anything happening, and because we were shooting in sequence it informed not only the characters but also the evolution of the film. If it rained, well then, in the next scene we would all be wet. If Martin pulled a hamstring in the river then he’d be limping in the next scene. So it was a wonderful luxury to be able to shoot in sequence like that.
Emilio on directing the film…
With The Way, we needed to get to Santiago de Compostela. But for me, it was in fact the journey not the destination that interested me. We were open to everything. And by that, I mean we were warned against shooting in the north of Spain because everyone said it was going to rain every day, and we were not going to make our 40-day schedule (it ended up raining twice—and in those two days we were shooting interiors!). Yeah, it was a challenging shoot from the beginning, but all the way from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the ocean, the journey was filled with gifts and miracles.
Martin on the film’s theme of community…
Well, these days a lot of people have had a lot of things ripped away from them. People are having to deal with living with a lot less, moving in together, sharing meals again and reconnecting to their faith and to their communities, and it’s happening out of necessity. The film is really a reflection of that, and its tagline says it all: “Life is too big to walk it
alone.” which is really the theme of the film—that we are all connected.
What do you hope audiences come away with from watching the film?
Emilio: There are a lot of lessons in this film. Lessons about being a father. Lessons about listening. There’s a very strong pro-life message, which gives a voice to the unborn through the character of Sarah, who made this terrible choice and who’s left with a hole in her heart. Along this journey there are a lot of wonderful lessons to be gleaned, but after all, it’s still a road movie and there are also a lot of laughs–along the way.