The seeds of the idea for THE WAY, about a man walking an ancient pilgrimage route with his son’s ashes, began years ago when actor Martin Sheen was on vacation with his grandson, Estevez’s son, and he wanted to drive the pilgrimage route of El Camino de Santiago in Spain. Over time, the story changed, but the dedication to making the project remained the same. When I spoke to them on August 29, 2011. they were at the beginning of their American pilgrimage, i.e., the cross-country bus tour promoting the film. After discussing whether or not making the film got in the way of their pilgramage, the idea of which provoked a belly laugh from Sheen, the talk turned philosophical with them both weighing in on humankind’s visceral need for pilgrimage, both religious and secular, as well as why the film, distinctly Catholic in story, is equally compelling for people of every faith. Even those who are, as Estevez put it, “a work in progress”.
THE WAY is the story of an accidental pilgrim whose son’s death is the catalyst for choosing a life rather than living one. The pilgrim is Tom, played by Sheen, a successful ophthalmologist whose years of being at odds with his only son, Daniel, played by Estevez, comes to an end when the latter dies while on the pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. Intending only to retrieve the body and return home, Tom instead makes the life changing decision to take the journey himself on foot as a tribute to Daniel. Estevez directed from a script he wrote based in part on Jack Hitt’s book, “Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain.” Estevez’s previous work in includes the iconic REPO MAN, the equally iconic THE BREAKFAST CLUB, and directing his father in both THE WAR AT HOME and BOBBY, both of which look at the 1960s. Sheen’s work includes playing an metaphorical errand boy in APOCALYPSE NOW, reciting a monologue in Latin directed at God and not without a few moments of recrimination at the deity. Mirabile auditu. As the president we wish we had in THE WEST WING, the president we did have in KENNEDY, and the only American soldier executed for desertion during World War II in THE EXECUTION OF PRIVATE SLOVIK. He has also worked tirelessly for decades, for peace and justice for all in this country including having been arrested more times than he can count for peacefully demonstrating for his beliefs.