There are a lot of reasons why people know the name Emilio Estevez. Some know him because his father is Martin Sheen and his brother is Charlie Sheen. Others know him for playing the “jock” in “The Breakfast Club.” Still others know him for his work playing coach Gordon Bombay in “The Mighty Ducks” series. Even others know him for the many other films that he's acted in or directed over the years.
However, his new film "The Way" shows a different side of Estevez than many of us have seen before. Written and directed by the famous actor, the film explores the spiritual path of a man who is mourning the death of his own son. I recently had the opportunity to interview Estevez about his new film.
"The Way" features Martin Sheen as Tom, a doctor who has little time to travel with his adventurous son, Daniel (Estevez). However, when Daniel dies suddenly, Tom decides to continue his son’s path and take a pilgrimage from France to Spain on the path known as the Camino de Santiago, otherwise known as “The Way of Saint James."
Estevez told me that the idea for the film came to him from his son. Several years ago, his son was traveling with Estevez’s father in Spain and met the love of his life. His son eventually married the woman he met there and settled down in Spain. With that in mind, Estevez decided to make a movie there so that he could spend more time with his son.
In writing the story, Estevez also wanted to create a film for his Dad. He told me that he wanted to “write a movie and create a character for my father that he would be proud of” in “a film that he would go see.”
The spiritual journey that Tom is on in the film also hit home for Estevez personally. He called the film “an expression of the spiritual path that I’m on,” and noted that exploring his own faith was a “wonderful byproduct” of the process. Growing up, he said, there was little talk about spirituality in his house but a lot of talk about religion. Religion, he said, had a negative connotation for him because of all of the arguments he heard about the subject growing up. In fact, Estevez told me that when his parents got married, his maternal grandmother refused to attend the wedding because Sheen was a Roman Catholic but his wife‘s mother was a Baptist.
In addition to a spiritual journey, Estevez noted that “The Way” is not unlike “The Wizard of Oz,” adding that one of the main characters in the film could be compared to “The Tin Man.” He said that Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), a pilgrim that Tom meets on the path who regrets an abortion she had years earlier, could be compared to that character because of what she lost after the “awful choice that she made.” Through her character, Estevez said, he “wanted to give a voice to the unborn.”
In many ways, Estevez sees “The Way” as “tonic for the soul.” “Pessimism and cynicism are the low-hanging fruit." He said, adding that "they‘re the easy grab.” His film, he noted, encourages people to reach higher on up the tree.
The director hopes that people who are tired of current Hollywood fare embrace his film because its success will be earned through good word of mouth. Estevez said that he’s “disappointed by a lot of stories” that Hollywood releases today and he said that Hollywood is ultimately responsible for the content it puts out. He hopes that people show their discomfort with most current films by embracing “The Way.”
“If you want Hollywood to pay attention,” Estevez added, “you have to support movies like this and not keep going to the crap.”
“The Way” is in theaters now.