Emilio Estevez hit the big time back in the 1980s with his role in the quintessential 80s teen angst film The Breakfast Club, and it wasn’t long before he starred in films such as of St Elmo’s Fire, Young Guns and Men at Work, alongside the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore and Charlie Sheen.
Making his directorial debut also in the eighties with Wisdom, which he not only wrote but starred in too, Estevez has gone onto direct several television series and films, as well as work with his father Martin Sheen on several projects. Now starring in and directing The Way, Emilio Estevez talks about his inspiration for the story and how his personal background affected him during filming.
When did the idea for The Way first come to mind?
It began when I was in the middle of casting a follow-up to Bobby, which was a big, expansive LA story, which was multi-charactered. Then the funding finally came to a crashing halt around September of 2008, and my father had come here to Spain and walk part of the Camino with my son, and an old actor friend, who ended up in the movie as the old priest with the pocketful of rosaries. So we began these conversations about making a movie in Spain and I began to work on a draft, using The Wizard of Oz as a template.
I began to work on a draft, using The Wizard of Oz as a template...
With Tom as Dorothy …
Yes, Tom is Dorothy; the Dutchman is the cowardly lion; the girl is the Tin Man with the broken heart; I didn’t have my Scarecrow yet, and then I stumbled upon the book written by Jack Hitt. [Off the Road: A Modern Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain], and thought about using a writer with writer’s block, using Jack himself and his experience on the Camino, as the fourth character. He’s our Scarecrow and when we found the hay bales that you see in the movie along the Camino, I decided that that should be where Tom and the others find him. Initially I had been reluctant to talk to anyone about that Wizard of Oz analogy, but it’s very clear and I don’t think it’s a negative.
Why were you reluctant?
When I was doing the press for Bobby, a lot of people said I was aping Robert Altman, and I said, ‘No, it’s Irwin Allen, this is The Towering Inferno or Poseidon Adventure,’ and I got slaughtered. They said, ‘It’s more like The Loveboat!’ [Laughs] The press was not kind, if I’m honest.
You’re making a habit of directing your father: he’s been in three of your movies now …
I know all his fits and phases, like he’s never met a person that he didn’t like, and kindness is an instinct for him. He’ll jump into a crowd, shake everyone’s hand, sign all the autographs, and that’s the wonderful thing about him. But that is also not who this character of Tom is, so I had to keep reminding him that he was not all smiles. Tom is cut off, emotionally cut off, and he can’t be laughing it up with the actors on set. I’d be like, ‘Not yet, it’s too early. We’ll get there.’
You’d have to remind him that the character was extremely conservative and reserved?
I’d remind him: ‘Tom voted for George Bush. Twice!’ Enough said. Tom is emblematic of how America is viewed by the rest of the world — somewhat cut off.
Did you collaborate quite closely with your dad, even though The Way is shot from your script?
Yes, like the river scene is his idea. I was like, ‘This a big deal. If you get killed in the second week of production we have big problems!’ We had to shoot the whole movie in sequence, because we wanted to be true to the landscape of the Camino. The bag gets away, he’s got to get the ashes, save his son, but by the end of the movie it’s all about him and his transformation.
But I also thought that the river scene showed what happens when you don’t embrace community — when Tom tries things by himself, bad things happen. The gypsy grabbing the bag? That was his idea, too, as I was plotting. And then the night of the gypsy sequence shoot, he says, ‘Emile, don’t you think the boy should be up in the window?’ That was a great idea, and things like that happened along the way that he inspired.