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GUY RAZ, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. The other day, actor Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez came by our studios, but not together. Emilio was early; Martin was late. And when he finally showed up - apologetic - the father got some ribbing from his son.

EMILIO ESTEVEZ: How come you're so late? What happened?

MARTIN SHEEN: I've been a windbag as usual.

BLOCK: Martin Sheen does love to talk. And both father and son have a lot to say about their new movie titled "The Way." It's about a father and son and a spiritual journey. Emilio Estevez wrote and directed the movie. He plays the son who dies soon after he begins a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. That's a 500-mile route across northern Spain that's been traced by pilgrims for more than 1,000 years. Martin Sheen plays the father, Tom Avery, who decides to walk the Camino himself, sprinkling his son's ashes along the way.

SHEEN: You know, he wrote it for me specifically. So he knew a lot about me that I'm not always willing to admit about myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHEEN: So he had to kind of rein me in along the way, you know?

ESTEVEZ: I did.

BLOCK: Is that right?

ESTEVEZ: Yeah. Well, for sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: Sure.

SHEEN: He was very specific in assuring me that there was a long way to go, and we didn't have to have all the emotional wallop in the first scene, you know? And that the character would eventually develop and become himself, and that I had to trust him in that journey. And I did. Not always comfortably, but I did. He assured me at one point that this character would never have voted for Jed Bartlet...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHEEN: ...and I got that point.

BLOCK: The character you played on "The West Wing"...

SHEEN: Yeah.

BLOCK: ...Jed Bartlet.

SHEEN: Yeah. So I trusted him, and that was a good choice.

ESTEVEZ: But my father also, too, he has an extraordinary lust for life, and he wants to sit down and eat the entire elephant at every meal, at every seating.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: And I said, man, you eat this elephant one bite at a time. And if you trust me on that, the character and you will be fully awake and fully evolved by the end of the journey.

BLOCK: The character of Tom Avery, Martin, you play, starts out - he's very withdrawn and solitary and angry. He's lost his son.

SHEEN: He's also a widower.

BLOCK: You're saying...

SHEEN: He's alone in the world.

BLOCK: And a widower.

ESTEVEZ: Yeah.

SHEEN: He's lived a very, very isolated life. You know, he's a doctor. He's an ophthalmologist, but he doesn't serve the community. He belongs to the country club, you know? But that's his evolution, you know? And like all pilgrimage, you know, you start off with a lot of things you think you'll need along the way. And as you begin to go along for a few days, you start getting rid of some of the stuff. You realize you've overpacked, and you don't need it. And as you go on, you begin the inner journey, the transcendence.

As you are going along, you begin to listen to the inner voice, and you begin the transcendence, and you begin to open up the cells where you've kept all of your hidden secrets in the darkness. You know, you start letting go of your judgment, your envy, your anger. All the people that have wronged you all the years of your life are locked up in the dungeons of your heart and...

BLOCK: Did you teach him this as director?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: This is what he came to. This is his Camino experience.

BLOCK: Emilio Estevez, you were saying earlier you had to rein your father in.

ESTEVEZ: Right.

BLOCK: How so? What did you have to do?

ESTEVEZ: Well...

SHEEN: I think he feels like he has to do it now as well.

ESTEVEZ: ...just do it now.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: We talk about punctuation. We talk about the use of a period versus the use of the comma. And I think you've just been the recipient of the missing period.

BLOCK: Your dad likes to talk (unintelligible).

ESTEVEZ: And I - feel free to jump in at any point and slap him.

BLOCK: Oh, I wouldn't dream of it. I wouldn't dream of it. But really, though, when your dad was following his own impulses in shooting this movie, what would you have to do to bring him back?

SHEEN: Go ahead. Tell them, Emilio.

ESTEVEZ: My father has never met a stranger, and so he loves to jump into crowds and loves to shake hands. And in fact, there was a laborer demonstration one day on the set, and these workers marched through the shot, bullhorns. And the producer, David and I sort of watched Martin - our mouths were hanging open because we watched Martin jumped into the crowd, quelled this rebellion, but not before taking about 30 or 40 pictures and shaking everybody's hand. It was like he was running for some high office in Spanish government. It was my job to rein him in and stay in character as much as possible. You know, he's not a guy that lands in Spain and all of a sudden begins to speak Spanish.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: He's not everybody's friend. And so I had to...

SHEEN: He's talking about the character, not me.

BLOCK: The character, not you.

ESTEVEZ: Right, right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: So I had to remind him of this. But it was a challenge because I had to ask him to not be himself, and that's difficult. It's difficult to ask of anybody.

BLOCK: I'm talking with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez about their movie "The Way." Emilio, you knew from the start that this part was for your father.

ESTEVEZ: That's right. That's right.

BLOCK: You wrote it for him specifically.

ESTEVEZ: Yeah.

BLOCK: Why?

ESTEVEZ: You know, as a boy, I used to - most kids would take their bikes and go to the local store and buy a comic book. I would buy TV Guide, and I'd bring it home, and I'd scour it top to bottom, looking for any mention of my father. I was so immensely proud of him, and I would delight when I would find his name in the guest cast list of some rerun. Whether it's "Mannix" or "Columbo" or something, I would just delight in that. But I also understood at a very young age that he had a family to support, and there were many opportunities that he didn't either take or get because he wasn't making career moves, he was making economic decisions based on a family to feed.

So I wanted to create a role for him that was as close to who he is as a man, as an actor, as a human being, and celebrate him in a way that maybe he's never been celebrated before in his career.

BLOCK: Any question for you, Martin, that you would jump into this role?

SHEEN: The only anxiety I had playing it was that I would displease him, that somehow I would not be up to snuff. But he assured me along the way that I was doing exactly what he had written, so...

ESTEVEZ: And yet, the interesting thing is I was feeling that same anxiety. I did not want to disappoint him either.

BLOCK: Martin Sheen, do you think, as someone who is a devout Catholic, who talks...

SHEEN: Well, I'm a practicing Catholic.

BLOCK: A practicing Catholic.

SHEEN: I'll keep practicing till I get it right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: You talk quite openly about your faith. I wonder if this experience of the Camino, the pilgrimage resonated in a different way for you than it did for you, Emilio? I'm not sure about your faith and your feelings about religion.

ESTEVEZ: No one is...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: ....including me, which is a part of the great mystery in which I walk in every day, that wonderful mystery and what my mother likes to call a work in progress. I've yet to declare myself. But I think that the film is a reflection of where I'm at in my spiritual life, which is I'm on a path. We didn't want to assault the audience with religion. It's a spiritual journey. It's a spiritual film, not a religious film. And I think it invites all. Our movie is not anti-anything. And I think, oftentimes, if a film has a religious agenda, you are going to alienate somebody ultimately.

SHEEN: Yeah. That's true.

ESTEVEZ: And we don't. We invite everyone to experience this film.

SHEEN: Unfortunately, so often, religions, vis-a-vis dogma, separate us. But spirituality unites us in our common humanity, and that is, I think, the major theme of the movie.

BLOCK: You're going to let your father have the last word there, Emilio?

ESTEVEZ: I think have to...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: ...because, you know what, I actually heard the insertion of the period.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ESTEVEZ: And...

SHEEN: Exclamation point.

ESTEVEZ: Right.

BLOCK: Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, thanks so much for coming in.

ESTEVEZ: Thank you. Our pleasure.

SHEEN: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez, their movie is titled "The Way."

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