It's tough enough for any filmmaker to cut scenes from their movie, so you can just about imagine what it was like for writer-director Emilio Estevez to slice scenes from his new drama "The Way," considering the film stars his father, iconic actor Martin Sheen.
And while Estevez kept a pivotal scene in "The Way," where he had to plunk his father into some swift rapids, Sheen couldn't resist having fun with his son over making other cuts.
"Oh, there are scenes that I long to have in the movie that are floating down that river," Sheen paused, before adding with a laugh, "that I risked my life to shoot that scene in."
Estevez said while it's painful to make edits to your own film, it's a necessarily evil of being a director. And for "The Way," he was faced, apart from evaluating shots involving his dad, with the difficult decision of editing shots of beautiful scenery from location shoots in France and Spain.
Filmmaker Son Directs Iconic Actor Father In Personal Drama
"We brought an editor in, Richard Chew, who said, 'That's a beautiful shot -- why are you holding on to it for 15 seconds? It's still a great shot at 7 seconds. Don't lose the shot, just lose the indulgence,'" Estevez recalled.
Finding 'The Way'
Sheen and Estevez traveled together across the U.S. on a bus tour recently to tell their stories about the making of "The Way," a deeply personal story about a father, a son and pilgrimage that brings them together in spirit.
"The Way" follows Tom (Sheen), a California ophthalmologist who is shaken to the core when he's called to France to collect the remains of his estranged adult son, Daniel (Estevez), a hiker killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago -- a spiritual path to Spain for pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds -- also known as The Way of Saint James.
But instead of returning home, Tom suddenly decides to finish the historical pilgrimage on Daniel's behalf. Although he's reticent to the attention of other pilgrims -- including a jovial Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), a jaded Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irish author (James Nesbitt) suffering from writer's block -- Tom's life eventually becomes impacted in ways he never could have imagined.
While the events at the beginning of the film are tragic, Estevez, 49, noted that the death of his character in "The Way" was necessary if he were to move the story forward.
It also allowed Estevez to craft "The Way" after "The Wizard of Oz," as Tom is subject to a traumatic event that will introduce him to characters that metaphorically, resemble a Cowardly Lion, a Tin Man and a Scarecrow.
"Not to undercut the emotional weight (of Daniel's death), but we really needed a devise to get Tom to Spain. An emotional tornado is essentially the device," Estevez said. "It had to be something enormous and calamitous, personally for him -- and the death of child would do just that."
While "The Way" was inspired by a real-life loss on the Camino, Sheen said the story has a positive upside.
While Sheen was on a break from "The West Wing" after the 2003 season, the actor and his grandson, Taylor Estevez (Emilio's son), squeezed in enough time to drive the Camino.
During a stop at the Spanish village of El Molino along the way, Taylor Estevez met his future wife, Maria, and the idea for the film was essentially born.
"Maria looked at Taylor and Taylor looked at her, and they've been in love ever since. They're married and he lives there," Sheen explained. "So I came home and said, 'Hey, this miracle happened on the Camino.' So, Emilio, in fact, lost a son, not tragically, of course, to the Camino. If he wants to see him for any length of time, he has to go to Spain."