Sheen leads the film with echoes of 'Apocalypse Now,' except where he was once wide-eyed and youthful, his look and demeanor now speak of wisdom and worldliness. It's fascinating to see him several decades later roaming in a foreign, beautiful landscape. Moviefone caught up with the father and son (as well as producer David Alexanian) as they traveled across North America on their 'The Way' tour.
'Tree of Life' recently came out on DVD – do you still speak with Terrence Malick?
Martin Sheen: He won't permit anyone to speak with him. I'm being serious. He is the most shy person I've ever met in my life. He was living in Paris years ago, and we got reacquainted in 1981. One day we were walking down the street and someone recognized me ... and he just kept on going, just kept on walking. He's hopelessly shy. He lives in Texas with his wife, the love of his life, they grew up together ... but it took two wives in between to get back to that. [Laughs] He is one of the most mysterious, wonderful characters. We have never ever discussed films, not any film he's done or he's gonna do. Not ever.
How did 'The Way' come to be?
MS: My father was born just outside of Santiago, so I grew up knowing about it. I always had that fantasy that I would walk the Camino de Santiago. In the summer of '03 when we were on a break from 'The West Wing,' and Emilio's son Taylor was working for me as a young assistant. We were [driving] on the Camino and we stopped at a little restaurant along the way, and Taylor met his future wife -- they're married now. Her mother's name is Miracle (in Spanish), and I thought "Hmm ... there's something going on here." I came home and had some explaining to do about why his son wasn't with me. Emilio picked it up from there and had his own journey with it.
What was it like shooting your father, Emilio?
MS: He didn't shoot me! [Laughs]
Emilio Estevez: We're very close. I live right down the street from him. The film was an organic extension of how we live. I wrote the role for him and I didn't want to do the film with anyone else.
David Alexanian: The audience is a beneficiary of this relationship. He's able to go to places with Martin that I don't think any director have been able to, and vice versa. In the 40 days we had to shoot, I have to say Martin gave a wonderful performance for Emilio. People are responding to it because they can see that it's authentic.
EE: I don't think he's been as good in a film since 'Apocalypse Now.' This was not a gimmick or a gig. We weren't gigging. This was something we took very personally. I was not tolerating any sloppiness from the cast and crew. I constantly demanded that he not fall back on any tricks. [Laughs] I wanted him to stay in character. He wanted to jump into crowds and shake hands, be friendly. I kept having to remind him that this character is not a friendly guy. Here's a guy with a hardened shell around him, and I wanted him to keep up that veneer for as long as possible. Until it was time to crack it, then crack it a little more, and then have him be fully realized and awake before the end of the film.
MS: I wouldn't have been there without him. It was the best part I've had in a long while. It's the first time I've ever had to carry a film since 'Apocalypse.' I'm not a young guy, so I had some anxiety that I couldn't live up to his expectations. Emilio assured me that I was the first violinist and there would be crescendos and valleys, and just to trust him. And I did. Frankly, I followed him across the Camino. I knew he was onto something very, very special.
Any reason for this particular cast of characters (American, Canadian, Dutch and Irish)?
EE: Nobody's pretty in this movie. Nobody is glamorous, nobody's hip. Nobody's cool. Nobody's contemporary. Everyone is wonderfully and beautifully flawed, like everyone in the world. That's why people are connecting to the film. People are beautiful wrecks.
DA: The film and the Camino are trying to celebrate what we have in common, whereas so much of what's going on outside today is we're highlighting differences. Constantly.
EE: A lot of miracles happened during production. They started out as coincidences and then we stopped calling them that because they were truly magical moments. We were warned against shooting in the north of Spain because apparently it rains all the time, and it only rained twice -- and on those two days we were shooting interiors. We were told we wouldn't be able to shoot in the cathedral, and then they ended up letting us film there. There was a screening in Colorado, a 24-plex. The power goes out, except in screening room 22, where 'The Way' was playing. It was amazing, almost meant to be.
'The Way' is already playing in limited release in the US, and has a limited release in Canada starting Nov. 4.
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