Martin Sheen, plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking The Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James.
Driven by his profound sadness and desire to understand his son better, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage, leaving his “California bubble life” behind.
Armed with his son’s backpack and guidebook, Tom navigates the 800km historical pilgrimage from the French Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela in the north west of Spain, but soon discovers that he will not be alone on this journey.
While walking The Camino, Tom meets other pilgrims from around the world, all broken and looking for greater meaning in their lives: a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen) a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irish writer (James Nesbitt) who is suffering from a bout of “writer’s block.”
From the hardship experienced along “The Way” this unlikely quartet of misfits create an everlasting bond and Tom begins to learn what it means to be a citizen of the world again, and discovers the difference between “The life we live and the life we choose.”
“The Way” was filmed entirely in Spain and France along the actual Camino de Santiago.
ABOUT THE WAY
The Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James is a spiritual journey that pilgrims of all faiths and backgrounds have traversed for a thousand years. The pilgrimage originally began at one’s doorstep, though modern trekkers today would find that rather difficult, particularly American pilgrims needing to cross the Atlantic. While there are a number of established routes leading to Santiago from all directions, the most popular is the Camino Française, which crosses the Pyrenees Mountains along the Spanish-French border starting in St. Jean Pied de Port.
This Camino route covers 800 kilometers that traverses an idyllic northern Spanish countryside. By following the yellow painted arrows marking the road, a pilgrim can expect to walk 12-15 miles a day to reach the next town for the night. At this pace, a pilgrim can reach the Cathedral de Santiago in 6 to 8 weeks time to attend the Pilgrims’ Mass held at noon each day. Some take more time, others less. Some choose to travel by bike, and some have done the Camino on horseback. Along the way travelers encounter albergues, refugios and casa rurals that cater specifically to the thousands of pilgrims of all ages that take this journey each year, immersing themselves in the local food, culture and history dedicated to this experience.
Pilgrims walk the Camino for various reasons. Some to seek penance, others enlightenment, and still others for a sense of adventure, yet all progress toward the Cathedral in Santiago where it is believed the remains of the apostle St. James are held. Most pilgrims choose to carry a scallop shell with them to symbolize their journey in honor of St. James. According to legend, scallop shells are said the have covered St. James’ body after it was found on the shores of the Galician coast. Another, perhaps more useful symbol is a walking stick to aid a weary pilgrim on his or her journey. Pilgrims also carry a Compostela, which is a passport that is stamped at each important stop highlighting the completion of the journey officially recognized with a special certificate at the passport office in Santiago.
Regardless of whether a pilgrim’s journey begins for religious, spiritual or cultural reasons, the meditative nature of the Camino offers the perfect landscape in which to dedicate contemplation. Pilgrims follow the path amidst the villages, towns, rivers, mountains and fertile valleys that have changed the lives of millions of pilgrims who walked before them. This year of 2010, a holy year for St. James on July 25th, 200,000 people are expected to make this trek following these well-trodden footsteps of history, paving the way for the millions of footsteps to surely come after them.
WHY THE WAY
It had always been Martin’s dream to walk the Camino de Santiago. After having the privilege of holding Mother Theresa’s hand, sitting with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, visiting the holy shrine at Lourdes, and making a film in Medugorje, his next wish regarding his faith was to visit the Cathedral de Santiago by way of its namesake pilgrimage. He was in the middle of his 7-year tenure playing U.S. president Jed Bartlett on the West Wing when he seized a tiny window of opportunity to realize his goal, at least in part.
After attending a family reunion in Ireland in the summer of 2003 that celebrated his mother’s lineage, he had a moment of inspiration. He convinced a few family members to fly to Spain in honor of his father’s heritage as well by touring the Way of St. James toward Galicia, his father’s homeland. Unfortunately, seven days was all Martin had before needing to return to work in Los Angeles. Knowing this wasn’t enough time to walk the Camino, he pushed forward presuming it was now or never.
Upon landing in Madrid, he rented a car with friends and family and set out on a northern path toward the nearest Camino town of Burgos to visit the famed Burgos Cathedral built in the 13th century. From there they hugged the Camino west as best as possible via major highways, detouring at important locations to walk a bit each day. By the end of their trip they arrived in time for the Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral de Santiago. The beauty of the northern Spanish countryside proved too magical to experience in such a short period of time. Martin pledged to return one day soon for a proper pilgrimage toward Santiago.
ON THE WAY
Through a series of ongoing conversations between Emilio and Martin, the two decided to create a tribute to Spain to rediscover the land where the Estevez family was rooted. The Camino de Santiago served as the perfect partner in their efforts. And while Spain serves as the backdrop, the film’s primary theme of self-discovery belongs to everyone from all ages and backgrounds, as does the Camino, which has helped transform the lives of millions of pilgrims for centuries.
In the film, a father unfortunately comes to understand his son’s life through his death and along the road finds himself as well. The main protagonist of the film is the conflict we each have within ourselves of choosing a life versus living a life. This greater question of finding oneself is a matter of acceptance and choice. Given the circumstances of our lives, how do we understand ourselves, our family and our friends, and the choices we make? Do we blindly go through life unaware of our actions and how they affect not only ourselves but others, as well? What role does our community, friendships and faith play in our decisions?
The Camino, by its nature, serves as the ultimate metaphor for life. Footsteps along a well-trodden path may be our guide, but do not shield us from the questions that most of our busy everyday lives prevent us at times from fully recognizing. The road offers very little to hide behind. The process of life is life along whichever road, path, Camino, or Way we find ourselves on. Our humanity toward ourselves and others, our history and our future is what defines us. Take the journey of life. Buen Camino!
THE WAY will open in cinemas across the UK 13th May 2011Certificate & running time TBC
Cast & Crew
Emilio Estevez – Daniel & Director
“The Way” is Emilio Estevez’s fourth film as writer/director and marks the third collaboration with his actor/father, Martin Sheen. Emilio has established himself not only as an accomplished actor, but also as a talented writer, director and producer. In 2006, he wrote, directed and co-starred in the Golden Globe nominated for Best Picture “Bobby,” which revisits the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in 1968 and is set against the backdrop of the cultural issues gripping the country at the time, including racism, sexual inequality and class differences.
He made his acting debut in Tim Hunter’s “Tex” and appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s ensemble drama “The Outsiders,” both based on S.E. Hinton novels. Estevez’ performance as a quintessential high-school jock in John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” won him widespread attention and acclaim. Later that same year, he went on to appear in “St. Elmo’s Fire” before starring in “That Was Then, This Is Now,” for which he also wrote the screenplay.
Estevez made his directorial debut in 1986 with “Wisdom,” which he also wrote and starred in. In 1996, Estevez directed Martin Sheen for the first time in the Vietnam drama “The War at Home” which Emilio also starred in and produced. In 2000, he directed and co-starred alongside his brother, Charlie Sheen, in Showtime’s “Rated X” which was the first time Estevez and Sheen portrayed brothers on screen. Other film credits include, “Repo Man” “Stakeout,” “Young Guns” “Young Guns II,” “Mission: Impossible,” and “The Mighty Ducks.” In addition to creating original material as a screenwriter, the past few years has also seen Emilio working behind the camera, directing many popular television shows including, “Cold Case,” “CSI:NY” ”Numbers” and “The Guardian.
Estevez is currently preparing his next film “Johnny Longshot” – a sports family franchise film set in the world of competitive harness racing, that he will direct and star.When not working in film and TV, Emilio, an avid gardener, enjoys working outdoors in his organic micro-farm, growing heirloom vegetables, raising chickens and tending his pinot noir grape vines that produce his own wines under the Casa Dumetz label.
Martin Sheen – Tom
Martin Sheen is one of our most celebrated, colorful, and accomplished journeyman actors.
The Ohio native has appeared in more than 65 feature films including a star turn as Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard in Francis Ford Coppola’s landmark film APOCALYPSE NOW, which brought Sheen worldwide recognition. Other notable credits include WALL STREET (with son Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas), the Academy Award©-winning film GANDHI (with Sir Ben Kingsley), CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (with Leonardo DiCaprio & Tom Hanks), THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (with Michael Douglas & Annette Bening), and a Golden Globe© nominated breakthrough performance in THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES.
In 2006, Sheen played ill-fated cop Oliver Queenan in Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award©-winning film THE DEPARTED opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Alec Baldwin.
The same year, Sheen joined another all-star ensemble cast for the highly acclaimed feature BOBBY, written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez. BOBBY was nominated for a Golden Globe© Award and SAG Award© among others. The film also starred Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Hunt, Brian Geraghty, Sharon Stone, William H. Macy, Elijah Wood, Demi Moore, and Shia LaBeouf.
For television audiences, Sheen is best recognized for his award-winning role as President Josiah Bartlet in NBC’s THE WEST WING.
Sheen is a passionate peace and justice activist. He has been arrested or cited 67 times for taking part in nonviolent demonstrations against various U.S. military policies, and has championed such causes as the alleviation of poverty and homelessness, human rights for migrant workers, and environmental protection.
In 2008, along with Carlos Santana and Edward James Olmos, Sheen became a National Co-Chair of the effort to win a Federal holiday for the late Cesar E. Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers.
The same year, the University of Notre Dame presented Sheen with the Laetare Medal, the oldest and most prestigious award given to an American Catholic. Since 1883, the Laetare Medal has been awarded annually to a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the church and enriched the heritage of humanity.”
Former recipients include: President John F. Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., Sister Helen Prejean, Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr., Catholic Worker Movement founder Dorothy Day, and Ambassador and author Clare Boothe Luce.
Deborah Kara Unger – Sarah
As the first Canadian accepted into Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), award-winning actress Deborah Kara Unger debuted with Russell Crowe in BLOOD OATH, and has co-starred in such films as: David Fincher’s THE GAME with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, Norman Jewison’s HURRICAN with Denzel Washington, PAYBACK with Mel Gibson, David Cronenberg’s CRASH with James Spader, SIGNS AND WONDERS with Stellan Skarsgard and Charlotte Rampling, Catherine Hardwicke’s THIRTEEN with Holly Hunter, SALTON SEA with Val Kilmer, and 88 MINUTES with Al Pacino.
The recipient of the Geraldine Page Best Actress Award opposite Sir Ian Mckellen in EMILE, and Canadian Academy Award nominations co-starring opposite Sophia Loren and Gerard Depardieu in BETWEEN STRANGERS, and Ralph Fiennes in Istvan Szabo’s SUNSHINE, Ms. Unger’s additional films include the critically acclaimed STANDER with Thomas Jane, THE WEEKEND with Gena Rowlands, LOVE SONGS FOR BOBBY LONG with John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson, WHITE NOISE with Michael Keaton, LEO with Dennis Hopper and Sam Shepard, and Roger Spottiswoode’s Rwandan genocide film SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL.
Ms. Unger was honoured with the Imagery Award at Cinema Epicures, and is the recipient of the Libertae Award for her commitment to the spirit of independence in film.
Jimmy Nesbitt – Jack
Jimmy Nesbitt is a Northern Irish actor. He studied at The Central School of Speech and Drama in London. After graduating in 1987, he spent seven years performing in plays that varied from the musical Up on the Roof (1987, 1989) to the political drama Paddywack (1994). He made his feature film debut playing talent Fintan O’Donnell in Hear My Song (1991). Nesbitt got his breakthrough television role playing Adam Williams in the romantic comedy-drama Cold Feet (ITV, 1998–2003), which won him a British Comedy Award, a Television and Radio Industries Club Award, and a National Television Award. His first significant film role came when he appeared as pig farmer “Pig” Finn in Waking Ned (1998). Nesbitt has also starred in Murphy’s Law (BBC One, 2001–2007) as undercover detective Tommy Murphy—a role that was created for him by writer Colin Bateman. The role twice gained Nesbitt Best Actor nominations at the Irish Film & Television Awards (IFTA). In 2004, he starred in the fact-based drama Wall of Silence as the father of a murdered boy, a role that gained him another IFTA nomination. In 2007, he starred in the dual role of Tom Jackman and Mr Hyde in Steven Moffat’s Jekyll, which earned him a Golden Globe Award nomination in 2008. Nesbitt has since appeared in several more dramatic roles; he starred alongside Liam Neeson in Five Minutes of Heaven (2009), was one of three lead actors in the television miniseries Occupation (2009), and has filmed a role in the upcoming miniseries The Deep. Has also filmed roles in the movies Outcast (2010) and Emilio Estevez’s The Way (2010).
Yorick van Wageningen – Joost
Yorick van Wageningen was born in Baarn in the Netherlands. He trained at the Actors Studio Amsterdam and worked the first fifteen years of his career solely in the theater in both the Netherlands and France. He began doing Dutch films and “Total Loss”, directed by Dana Nechushtan was selected for the AFI festival in Los Angeles, through which he was introduced to Hollywood. During the last ten years van Wageningen has starred opposite Angelina Jolie in “Beyond Borders”, appeared in “The Chonicles of Riddick”, “The Tulse Luper Suitcases” directed by Peter Greenaway, “The New World” directed by Terrence Malick & most recently the award winning “Oorlogswinter” by Martin Koolhoven.
David Alexanian – Producer
David’s journey on The Way began in 2008 when Emilio saw a documentary David directed/produced called Long Way Down. At the time, Emilio was scripting The Way and he asked David if he would come aboard to produce. Having previously directed/produced two adventure series that circumnavigated the globe, David was uniquely qualified for the task.
In Long Way Round, David chronicled the odyssey of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman as they biked more than 20,000 miles from London to New York – through Europe, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, Far Eastern Russia and North America. The mini-series aired in over 175 countries around the world andthe book about the journey sold more than one million copies. Two years later the team reunited for Long Way Down, this time highlighting a ride from the northern most tip of Scotland, through Europe, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and SouthAfrica.
With this wealth of experience in hand, David flew with Emilio to Spain to begin a different sort of road trip, an ancient pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. David and Emilio spent the next few months travelling along the 800km trek, location scouting, hiring local crew, casting, and producing The Way. The decision resulted in one of the most heartwarming journeys, both on camera and off, which audiences acutely feel and enjoy throughout the film.
Upon wrapping The Way, David traveled to South Africa to direct/produce a documentary with Ziggy Marley and his brothers Rohan and Robbie. On a short deadline, David filmed the Marleys, criss-crossing the country during the World Cup, jamming with local musicians, and organizing a charity concert in Soweto promoting African Unity.
Juanmi Azpiroz – Cinematographer Spanish Cinematographer Juanmi was born in San Sebastian, Spain and dreamed of becoming a musician. To get closer to his favourite rock bands, he started taking photographs at concerts in his hometown. Upon moving to Madrid for college, he got a chance to apprentice on a film set and never left. For the past 20 years he has worked on more than 70 films in addition to the numerous commercials and music videos that have taken him all around the world where he still manages to visit local record shops at every opportunity.
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, his first stop was Amoeba records in Hollywood before our meeting to discuss his experience working on the THE WAY, which he agreed to do before even reading the script. He said the decision was both a personal and professional one that serendipitously happened at the perfect time. The Camino de Santiago has been an important part of his upbringing on account of his father, who has done the Camino four times, with plans to do it again on his upcoming 70th birthday. As a young man, Juanmi respected his father for making the pilgrimage but had no interest in walking the Camino himself. This film has changed that. Working on THE WAY has given him a deeper connection with his father, a richer knowledge of his work and his country, and a newfound interest in following this historical path.
Jack Hitt – Writer “Off The Road”
Jack Hitt is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, and the public radio program, This American Life. His work recently won a Peabody Award and at last year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, The Atlantic Monthly declared him to be “one of America’s best storytellers.” He is currently at work on a one-man show entitled “Making Up the Truth” and finishing a book about garage inventors and outsider pioneers, entitled, “Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut with his wife, Dr. Lisa Sanders, and their two daughters.