Family and Faith: Emilio Estevez on The Way
From Clash, April 2011
Directors usually have one of a handful of stock answers prepared when asked about their inspiration for their latest movie. Emilio Estevez bucks this trend when discussing his new movie The Way, which follows American doctor Tom (played by Estevez’s father Martin Sheen) as he embarks upon The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to honour the memory of his recently deceased son.
Sheen and Estevez’s son Taylor first travelled the route when Sheen visited Spain during a hiatus from The West Wing. Taylor fell in love, married a local woman and relocated to Spain. For Emilio Estevez, it offered him the unique chance to spend time with his son and pay tribute to his father during the course of making a movie.
“My father, for every Badlands or Apocalypse Now, there were fifty bad movies,” says Estevez. “I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, but my Dad made economic decisions that were driving those choices. I know more often than not, that he did bad movies because he had a family to feed. They weren’t career choices. So I’ve always felt like I wanted to give back something and I wanted to make a movie for him that would celebrate his talent.”
The Way presented Sheen with two distinct challenges. The gregarious actor not only had to battle his own personality to play his such a restrained character, but he also spent forty days filming which involves him running over the Pyrenees with a huge backpack and engaging in stunts in cold rapids.
“He’s got a quiet dignity about him in everything that he does,” continues Estevez. “Whether that’s recognised by the director he’s working with or not is another story. Francis [Ford Coppola] recognised it, Terrence Malick certainly recognised it as did a few others, certainly on The West Wing. In film, I felt he needed to be celebrated.”
Like Estevez’s previous directorial film Bobby (an account of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy), The Way tackles weighty topics; grief, love, loss, community. What would the young Estevez – star of The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire and Young Guns – think of his subsequent work?
“Recently I came across an article that I had done for the LA Times in 1984/85. I talked about my desire to be a story teller, to be lucky enough one day to direct, to write screenplays. So I think the young self would be very pleased with how this has evolved.”