I had the distinct honor to meet Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez (writer and director) and David Alexanian (producer) this past Friday September 9th, promoting the much-anticipated film The Way that will open Oct. 7. In fact, there were just six of us from the press including local television, radio and yours truly representing KC Studio. I can’t give anything away about the film until it opens, suffice it to say, it will touch you on a variety of different levels, depending on your present personal journey in life.
I asked Martin Sheen what inspired Emilio to write this film, was it something that he taught his son? “No, it wasn’t anything I had taught him; he’s just a great storyteller.” Mr. Sheen’s always had a romantic notion about taking this pilgrimage and his grandson Taylor, lives in Spain, where Sheen’s paternal roots are from. Martin and Taylor decided to rent a car more than eight years ago and drive the 700 plus kilometers. Taylor fell in love and married; this miracle inspired Emilio to write The Way. As Sheen says, “We’re all looking for that transcendent journey into our interior life. It can manifest physically as this film suggests, the same as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King were inspired to explore a focus that carried them through their marches that were so appropriate. Ultimately, our destination is revealed inside each of us that unites the will of our spirit with the work of the flesh. Life is a journey we all must walk, but in doing this film, it is our expressed hope that people understand that we don’t need to do it alone and accept that we are part of a community that is here to help us.”
From Emilio’s perspective, his biggest task was to figure out a way to get his Dad to travel to Spain. It had to be something really dramatic for him to agree to do this film. Taylor was his inspiration. Even though Emilio’s son moved half way around the world eight years ago, his absence inspired him to write this film about the relationship between a father and his son. He said that he’s very lucky to live so close to his parents in California. “If I need help in my vineyard, Dad comes over and helps me and if they need a light bulb changed I’m their guy. We’re a very close family, I am fortunate to have both of my parents. It’s as if we’re still living in the old country-a village lifestyle.” Emilio has said that this film is his Dad’s best work since Apocalypse Now and I asked him if it was because he wrote and directed it and knew how to get the best from his Dad, or is he a tad biased? He laughed and said, “Yes, I do know how to get the best from my Dad. The first thing while filming is that I wasn’t going to take any of his crap, who doesn’t love telling your parents what to do?” Emilio indicated that his Dad wanted to be everyone’s friend from the beginning of the film and his greatest challenge was convincing his Dad to trust him, as the writer and producer; to be a curmudgeon first, to pace himself and in the end, he could be the nice guy. Indeed there were parallels between Apocalypse Now and The Way, both involved four people who didn’t want to be part of this shared journey that came out the other end, as survivors together.
David Alexanian, the producer, suggests The Way is spiritual, and not intended to be preachy at all. David said, “For Emilio this film is about relationships, it’s getting to know ones son regrettably better in death then in life” and the true message is to patch up relationships here and now and not wait, whatever your personal challenges are. This is not a religious film, they do not want to convey heavy undertones or come off heavy handed. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken this pilgrimage over the ages and the cast and crew were very respectful of those individuals that they came in contact with during the 40-day filming. No one has ever filmed a high mass in the cathedral Apostle Santiago in Galicia before. David said, “Our timing was perfect, we arrived at the cathedral and had exactly one-hour to film inside during the mass. That in and of itself was a major accomplishment.”
What a special hour spent with three remarkable men and to see such joy and love between a father and his son. I will leave you with the closing words Martin said to me, “Think about the journey.”