Martin Sheen always wanted to walk the Camino de Santiago, an 800-kilometer trek through Spain that many make as a personal pilgrimage.
The closest he got was in 2003 -- between seasons of "The West Wing" -- when, on the spur of the moment, he ended up at the starting spot for the walk. Sheen had attended a family reunion in Ireland and convinced a few family members to fly to Spain. All he had was seven days before going back to work on the series.
"We had no equipment and not enough time to make the walk. So we rented a car and drove the Camino," Sheen says.
That wasn't enough time for him to have a personal epiphany, but it was enough to spark what resulted in the new DVD release "The Way," which was written and directed by Sheen's son, Emilio Estevez.
Sheen plays a father whose son (Estevez) dies on the first day of his attempt to walk the Camino. The father decides to complete the journey -- accompanied by three strangers -- that his son started.
Estevez was in the middle of directing "Bobby" when his father came back from Spain. The conversations that followed became the spark for writing the script.
The pair got to spend plenty of time together during filming as they walked between 300-350 kilometers of the Camino. Sheen, 71, thought he was ready for the physical demands of the role because he'd been doing yoga since the '80s.
He laughs, and says that he -- like his character -- wasn't prepared to carry a heavy backpack that distance.
There is no ego when Estevez directs his father. This is the third movie the pair have worked on together, and Sheen likes how his son isn't afraid to push him when he's not doing the scene the way he wants. Sheen finds great pride in watching his son go through his directing paces.
Sheen's had the chance to see plenty of directors work. He's appeared in more than 65 features, including "Apocalypse Now," "The American President," "Ghandi" and "Catch Me If You Can." His other films with his son were "Bobby" and "The War at Home."
Both Sheen and Estevez call "The Way" a very personal film. That's why they have been so happy with audience reactions to the movie.
"This is a a family movie," Estevez says. "There are times when it is very funny and times when it will make you cry."
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at email@example.com
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