“The Way is personal.” This line from the film The Way,
written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father,
Martin Sheen, says something about the individual nature of
the path that any of us are on in life as we consult the guide
books, follow the trail, stray along the way, encounter happy
accidents and purposeful detours, and meet and hang with
our trusted and aggravating companions. The film The Way
is a sweet and poignant tale of the spirit in the everyday, the
solace in the simple moments.
In this dramatic feature, we follow the story of Tom,
played by Martin Sheen, as he is called to the Spanish-French border town of St. Jean Pied de Port to collect the
remains of his adult son Daniel (played by Emilio Estevez).
Daniel died in a storm in the Pyrenees on his first day of
hiking the historic pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago, or
the Way of Saint James. For centuries, pilgrims have walked
from St Pied de Port 800 km to Santiago de Compostela,
where the relics of Saint James are kept in a cathedral. People walk alone or in groups, seeking health, God, forgiveness, the culture of northern Spain, miracles, or any number
of other answers of the spirit. The footsteps and handprints
of centuries of pilgrim’s progress make their mark in the
movie, as the team filmed The Way along the actual Camino
trial across Spain. Martin Sheen’s forty-year Yoga practice
figured into the filmmaking process: It was Yoga practice, he
said, that afforded him the ability to walk the trail, through
valleys and over mountains.
The Camino is a mountainous metaphor for the road we
walk every day searching for what is beneath our feet and
already in our packs. For the father-son team involved in the
film, these connections run deep as there were parallels in
their lives on-screen and off, across continents and consciousness. Before heading out on a cross-country bus tour to promote the film, Emilio Estevez took some time to talk to LA
Yoga about the pilgrimage that led to the film.
Felicia Tomasko: What inspired this film?
Emilio Estevez: The Way is inspired by travels with my
son, my father, and my grandfather. The whole story of the
film is about this reconnection of generations. At the turn of
the twentieth century, my grandfather left Spain and one
hundred years later, my son has returned to Spain, married,
and hopefully will have his kids there.
FT: Was journey of the film a surprise?
EE: On some level yes, but we end up where we are supposed to be. Some call it faith; I like to call it providence.
There is some divine intervention at work in all of our lives.
Whether we choose to ignore it or embrace it is the question.
When we were in production on the film in the fall of 2009,
my sister – who has been working alongside my mother archiving all of the family photos – came across a series of photos that were taken in the north of Spain in 1969. She sent me
a photo of me standing in my grandmother’s vineyard.
I started to weep; seeing that photo made sense as to why I
had arrived at this place in my life.
I had spent the past seven years turning an acre of land
in Malibu into a vineyard and micro-farm. I don't have any
skills in terms of planting or any background in agriculture.
I was drawn to the land, drawn to this idea of being self-sufficient, of making my own wine, growing my own food,
having bees for honey and worms for soil. It all felt so familiar to me. When we were scouting in Galicia [in Northwest
Spain] in 2009, I was struck by how similar the backyards
there looked to the backyard I had created at home: small
vineyards, micro-farms, chickens. The people of Galicia were
cut off for so long that they had to be self-sufficient. It was
easier for my grandfather to get a boat to Argentina or Cuba
than it was for him to drive to Madrid.
Malibu is different, but by the same token when we look
at what is happening to our food sources, a lot of questions
are now raised about what is organic and what is not. I know
what is coming out of my own backyard; I know what is in
the soil and the origin of the seed.
FT: It sounds like the process of making this film reinforced your connections across continents, members of your
family, and even time. What was the story you wanted to
tell in the film?
EE: I think the film speaks to the idea that ultimately we
need community and we need each other.
With all the instruments we use now, whether we’re talking
about cell phones or computers, we have lost some of that
face-to-face connection. It’s easier now to text or email someone than to call and a phone call today is almost equivalent
to sitting down and writing someone a letter. We have lost the
idea of community.
In Spain, though, the Slow Food movement has never left.
In the regions of the Camino, you sit down at the table at 2
P.M. and then you don't get up until 5 P.M. There are three
hours set aside for the siesta, the meal, and the community or
family. We have moved so far away from that. We have become more disconnected than connected, which is the irony
of all of these devices for connection.
FT: If the film is about connection, how did filming The
Way reinforce community in your life?
EE: I live down the street from my parents, so I’m very close
to them. I was physically closer to my son, but then he moved
to Spain and has been living there for the last eight years. He
and my father Martin did part of the Camino. One of them
drove while the other walked. They stayed in an albergue,
a hostel usually for longer-term housing that is a bit off the
camino. My son met the daughter of one of the innkeepers
and fell in love. He came home that summer and announced
he was going to move to Spain and give that relationship a go
and he has been there ever since.
My son and Martin were both the initial inspiration for
the film. Martin kept nudging me to write a movie that takes
place in Spain; ultimately we all want to please our parents,
so in the summer of 2008, we began putting the screenplay
together. It began with a series of conversations between >>