Actor and director Emilio Estevez knows what it’s like to lose a son on the roads of Spain.
In 2003, his 19-year-old son fell in love with a Spanish woman while walking part of the el camino de Santiago, a thousand-year-old pilgrimage from France to Spain. His son returned to a small Spanish village soon after and married her.
Estevez’s experience was part of his inspiration when writing and directing The Way, a new movie screened at the on Sunday. The movie follows Tom, played by Estevez’s father Martin Sheen, an American who decides to walk to Santiago de Compostela and spread the remains of his son, who perished in Pyrenees before making the journey.
“I’m lucky, since I just have to travel to Spain to see my son,” Estevez told the packed theater.
The father and son team appeared after the screening to share behind the scenes stories.
In one scene, Sheen swims through watery rapids to retrieve the box of ashes that he accidentally dropped from a bridge above. Sheen originally came up with the idea and when he approached his son, Estevez replied “At age 70, now you want to be an action star?”
Sheen’s character, although quiet and brittle in the beginning, eventually opens up to his fellow travelers, all seeking something as they walk the way.
The Emmy and Golden Globe winner, who is known for his role as President Jed Bartlet in the television series The West Wing and Captain Benjamin Willard in the classic film Apocalypse Now, was with Estevez’s son on his journey in 2003.
“It’s a journey we all make and you have to do it alone,” Sheen said. “But you also have to have a community.”
The Way opens in limited theaters on Oct. 7. It will be showing in most theaters by Oct. 21.