'The Way' is a third act from Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez's intertwined lives as father and son
Just a few days after Charlie Sheen was roasted on Comedy Central and gave a composed speech at the Emmys, his father and brother, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, rolled into Boston as part of a two-month promotional bus tour for their new movie, “The Way.’’ The dramedy was written and directed by Estevez and stars Sheen as a baby boomer who walks the famous Camino de Santiago trail from France to Spain on behalf of his late, estranged son who had hoped to complete the pilgrimage. Sheen’s character winds up making some unlikely friends along the way (including a character played by Yorick van Wageningen, a.k.a. Nils Bjurman in the American reboot of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’’) who help him survive the trek.
Sheen and Estevez, who previously worked together on “The West Wing’’ and on Estevez’s 2006 Robert F. Kennedy movie, “Bobby,’’ sat at a table at the Ritz during their Boston visit, giggling and bickering like your average father-son team. Meanwhile, Estevez’s son, Taylor, 27, who’s joining them for their cross-country journey to publicize the film, waited downstairs. Over the past two years, the Sheen-Estevez clan have been in each other’s faces arguing, filming, editing, sharing, sleeping in weird places, and knocking on each other’s doors for brainstorming sessions. Estevez bites his lip when Sheen can’t remember the names of crew members and celebrities. Sheen teases Estevez whenever he gets too serious.
For a family that’s been in the tabloids repeatedly over the past year, their behavior is surprisingly . . . normal.
Q. Nice to meet the family.
Sheen: We’ve got three generations here. [Points to Estevez] His son is the reason for the season. Did you meet Taylor? He’s our tour manager. In 2003, I was between [seasons] on “The West Wing,’’ and he was my assistant. He was 19 at the time. We went to Ireland for a family reunion and then to Spain to do the Camino. I didn’t have any equipment or any specific plan. I had a remote romantic image of doing the Camino without anything. . . . We were in my sister’s apartment in Madrid, trying to figure out how to do the Camino in two weeks. She suggested, “Maybe you should rent a car, check it out for future reference,’’ so we did. We got to Burgos . . . and we stayed overnight in a casa rural, which is like a bed-and-breakfast in the country. This wonderful family owned the place and operated it. We were invited to the pilgrim supper that night, and at supper their daughter, this beautiful girl . . . looked at Taylor, Taylor looked at her, and they fell in love. They’re married and they live in Burgos. That was the seed for the whole picture.
Estevez: It’s four generations. My grandfather . . . living about 80 miles from Santiago de Compostela, my son going to Spain and falling in love not only with this woman but with the country.
Q. When you took a look at the map, how did you decide which of all of these beautiful sites to put in the movie?
Estevez: We wanted it all. We shot a lot of footage. The lab in Spain . . . they said, “You guys are shooting a lot of film,’’ and we said, “Well, how much?’’ and they said, “We’ve actually never seen anyone in our country shoot this much.’’ We shot Super 16, so it was cheaper, but again, we’re in Spain, we knew we weren’t going to go back to these locations.
Q. I can’t imagine directing a parent.
Estevez: Well, it’s the third time we’ve worked together.
Q. Yeah, but this feels very much one-on-one.
Sheen: That’s true.
Estevez: It is more collaboration than anything we’ve done before. The story he told about my son - that was the beginning of it. I was knee-deep in “Bobby’’ when he wanted me to focus on writing the script for this picture. I just couldn’t focus at all. My son was now living in Spain. I began to feel like, if I want to spend time with him, I better figure out how to work there. And what kid doesn’t want to please their parents?
Sheen: (Laughs). And tell them what to do for three months . . .
Estevez: I also live right down the street from him (points to his father) so it was like (makes door knocking sounds), “Hey, I’ve got an idea. (More knocks.) “Can I see some pages?’’ It was like this ongoing, “I’ve got a new idea and I think it’s going to be wonderful.’’ Some of [the ideas] worked, some didn’t. He had a very different idea of the movie. He wanted to stop at churches and - he’s a very devout Catholic, and I’m still . . . my mother likes to call me a work in progress - and so what was interesting was the balance we found. I didn’t want it to be this weepy sentimental journey.
Q. That was my biggest surprise. I prepared myself to see a sad movie.
Sheen: And you didn’t expect to laugh, right?
Q. I might even describe it as a comedy.
Estevez: It’s a road movie.
Q. And the soundtrack: great songs for a road movie. Was that you (to Estevez)? James Taylor, he’s our hometown guy.
Sheen: We went after “Fire and Rain,’’ but he wouldn’t give it to us.
Estevez: “Country Road’’ is better, I think.
Q. And then you had Coldplay.
Estevez: And Alanis [Morissette]. And Nick Drake.
Sheen: I’ve never heard of any of these people. He was listening to them as we were shooting. I didn’t know what he was talking about.
Q. When you go to these screenings in places like Boston, I assume you do something else while the movie is being screened - and that you pop in at the end for the Q&As?
Sheen: Sometimes I go in, in the dark, to see the reactions. It’s just a confirmation, particularly to see young people respond. We knew we had the old crowd, because it’s an old guy walking over the Pyrenees with a heavy bag.
Q. Now I have to ask the awful reporter question. With your family being in the news for the past few years . . .
Estevez: We have? (Feigns shock.)
Q. I actually had a dream about it last night.
Estevez: (Grins.) Which one of us did you dream about?
Q. I had a dream last night that no one knew who Charlie Sheen was and I was running around explaining to people, “He was in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.’ ’’
Sheen: I had a dream about Joe Pesci the other night. (Laughs.)
Q. Anyway, you were making this movie before all of the stuff with [Charlie Sheen] happened. And you’ve made this wonderful family film but it’s also about turbulent family relationships. How has what’s happened [with Charlie] changed your experience with “The Way’’?
Estevez: It hasn’t. And that’s what’s bizarre. . . . When we got closer to the East Coast, the questions began. And that’s either because it’s the East Coast or because the [Comedy Central “Roast of Charlie Sheen’’] was on Monday, and because the Emmys were on Sunday and we walked into it based on the nature of the tour.
Sheen: We didn’t see either one. We were traveling.
Q. Has Charlie seen the movie?
Sheen: He loves it.
Estevez: He does. He loves it.
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.