Emilio Estevez on
Career and His Latest Film "The Way,"
Starring His Dad, Martin Sheen
Director/Writer Emilio Estevez on location
in Spain where he shot "The Way" co-starring his dad, Martin
Sheen. Photo: David Alexanian
milio Estevez is the eldest son of movie icon Martin Sheen. He has three
siblings, one of whom is Charlie Sheen. Estevez has piled up a long
list of acting, writing, and directing credits that go back to 1980.
Although he really lit up the screen for the first time as the punk
rocker Otto in the cult classic "Repo Man," one of his most
memorable roles is that of Andrew in John Hughes' seminal film, "The
Breakfast Club" in which he co-starred with his fellow "Brat
Pack" members Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, and Ally Sheedy.
In that same era, Estevez co-starred in Joel Schumacher's "St.
Elmo's Fire" with other fellow brats," Demi Moore and Andrew
McCarthy. "The Brat Pack" was a nickname given to a group
of young actors who appeared together in teen-oriented coming-of-age
films in the 1980s. As a result of his work, Estevez was listed in Screen
World Magazine as one of twelve "Promising New Actors of 1985."
Since those early days, Estevez has co-starred in a
bunch of films including "Young Guns" (I and II,) "Stakeout,"
and "The Mighty Ducks." He also appeared in many television
shows including "Two and a Half Men," "The West Wing,"
and "The Wonderful World of Disney." Estevez has become a
respected writer/director having written and directed the award-winning
film "Bobby," a portrait of Robert Kennedy. The film starred
Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, and William H. Macy. Following the screening
at the Venice Film Festival, "Bobby" received a long, standing
ovation. He also wrote and directed "Men at Work," in which
he co-starred with his brother Charlie.
Estevez's latest film is "The Way," an inspirational,
poignant film, beautifully written and directed, and stars Martin Sheen
as Tom, an ophthalmologist who lives a very cushy, insulated California
life. While playing golf, Tom receives a call that his son, played by
Estevez, has been killed in the French Pyrenees while attempting the
famous walk - The Camino de Santiago. Also known as "The Way of
Saint James," this historical pilgrimage has a number of starting
points including beginning in the France and ending in Spain at the
Cathedral Santiago de Compostela where a certificate of completion is
issued. Tom goes to Spain to claim his son's body, but instead of returning
home, decides to honor his memory by doing the trek, leaving his son's
ashes along the way. Estevez assembled a wonderful cast including Deborah
Kara Unger, James Nesbitt, and a most delightful Yorick van Wageningen
as the young trekker from Amsterdam.
The following interview was conducted in the Tavis Smiley
Green Room and has been edited for print purposes. The fascinating Martin
Sheen portion will be published separately.
How much did you know about Spain before your movie
and how did the locals react to your filming?
Emilio: It's interesting in that we don't know that
much about the culture in Spain. We know a lot about the Italian and
French cultures - their food and wine and even the Greek and British
cultures, but Spain has remained somewhat of a mystery. Probably thanks
to the reign of Francisco Franco, they kind of built a wall around themselves.
When we were filming, we tried to get support from local businesses
by telling them that we were making a movie and were going to put their
bodegas (stores) in the film showing their food and a bottle
of wine on the table. Since they don't understand marketing, they would
respond by saying that people already loved their food and why would
they want to be in a movie. It's really beautiful when you think about
it because they're not exploiting themselves.
What's the genesis of "The Way" and why
did you want to make this movie?
Emilio: It started in 2003 when my son was working as
my father's assistant on "West Wing." He went off to Spain
with two other people, including Matt Clark, a long-time friend of my
father's. They were woefully unprepared to do the pilgrimage - no backpacks,
no walking sticks, no proper shoes, and no sense. They arrived in a
town called Burgos, a beautiful city on the Camino. They checked into
a pilgrim's bed and breakfast and sat down for supper. A gal came in,
took a look at my son, and they fell madly in love. Eventually they
married and my son has been living in Spain for over eight years. We
like to call that the first miracle on the Camino. I thought that if
I wanted to spend time with my boy, I'd better figure out how to work
in Spain because it didn't look like he was coming home any time soon.
That's when my dad and I began a dialogue on what a movie could look
like. We tossed around some ideas, none of which were particularly interesting.
Then it dawned on me that I kind of lost my son in Spain and that was
the hook that the story needed. It became the impetus that my dad's
character needed to go to Spain and reluctantly immerse himself in that
country and have a "stranger-in-a strange-land, fish-out-of water"
experience. So that was the beginning and I began to write and create
the character of Tom for my dad.
L-R: Martin Sheen takes direction from his son Emilio
Estevez during the filming of "The Way" on location on The
Camino de Santiago walk in Spain.
How closely did you work together in developing the
Emilio: It was a real collaboration between the two
of us. We worked together around seven times in the past and this is
the third time I've directed him, but this is the first time we've worked
together from the beginning. I wrote the first 15 pages and gave them
to my dad. He said he thought the movie should open on a golf course
and I agreed.
What were some of the difficulties in shooting and
Emilio: You talk to your agents and managers, but with
a movie like this, you just see their eyes glaze over. They really couldn't
get their minds around it because there's no CGI (computer-generated
imagery) or overt sexuality, and there wasn't a bunch of young people.
The story wasn't doing something that was particularly interesting to
the "suits" in this town. My dad and I both have Irish citizenship
so we can work as EU citizens. So my producer, David Alexaney, and I
went to Spain to try to find some believers and found a Spanish partner.
We hired an entirely Spanish crew. When we interviewed them, we asked
two questions: Are you fit and how is your English? They all said "fine"
to both, but when we started filming, we found that wasn't necessarily
the case. However, it turned out to be one of the most extraordinary
film crews I've ever worked with.
L-R: Martin Sheen and Yorick van Wageningen, take
direction from Emilio Estevez.
What was your shooting schedule like?
Emilio: We shot in sequence starting in France and shot
900 kilometers along the way? We wanted to honor every single region
and really you could point the camera in any direction and get something
gorgeous. There was truly an embarrassment of riches.
Did you actually do the entire walk and how long
did it take?
Emilio: The shoot was 40 days and that's about what
it takes the average person to complete the walk and that's moving at
a good pace. That's averaging 25-30 kilometers a day, which is very
fast. In the interest of budget and shooting schedule, we had to drive
most of the way.
What kind of reaction have you been getting to the
Emilio: We've screened the film for around 40,000 people,
with some audiences as small as 250 and some as big as 3,000 and are
encouraged by what we're seeing. The reviews, particularly for my dad,
have been lovely. Our challenge now is to get people to the theatres.
L-R: Martin Sheen, Yorick van Wageningen, and director
Emilio Estevez take time out from one of the many wonderful eating scenes.
After seeing "The Way" I'm sure people
will be moved to do that walk, but the idea of carrying a very heavy
backpack might be daunting. Is there another way of making that pilgrimage
from the Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the final destination in Spain?
Emilio: A guided tour with a group is available in which
you carry a light daypack filled snacks and water. The heavier gear
is sent ahead in a van. You get to experience the wine and the food
and all the other stuff without the burden of carrying a heavy backpack.
It's really fabulous.
I know you have to leave so we'll talk about your
role as a vintner at your vineyard, Casa Dumetz another time.
Emilio: Quickly, we just bottled our Syrah and our Grenache
and my gal made a pink sparkling for the first time called "Sonja's
I look forward to a tasting. I have just one more
question. You were quoted as saying that you wanted to become successful
through drive, ambition, and hard work and not because of your bloodline.
Since your days as a member of The Brat Pack you've built up an impressive
string of acting, writing, and directing credits. What are your thoughts
about your work?
Emilio: I started out as a storyteller. When I was seven
years old I submitted a story to NBC-Universal. It was a movie-of-the
week I had handwritten in pencil. It was rejected, of course, which
it should have been, because it was awful. Then in the sixth grade I
wrote a play about George Washington and the school put in on for Washington's
Birthday. I played the narrator. When I was at Santa Monica High School,
I couldn't get cast in any of the school productions so I thought the
hell with it, I'm going to write my own play, which I co-wrote with
my friend Lee Arenberg. So in terms of ambition and drive, that has
a different meaning for me. It's always been about the work and that's
something I learned from my father. The money will come, although I'm
still waiting for that, and the stardom will come. All if it will come
if you dig in and just do the work.
You've used your genes well.
Emilio: Thank you so much