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Father-Son Hollywood Stars Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez visit campus for “The Way”

Brandy Cerne | Thursday, September 15, 2011


Most of the time, when students see actors at Notre Dame, it’s only on screen. That won’t be the case Sunday, when esteemed actors Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez will make an appearance at the screenings of the film “The Way” at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.


Written and directed by Estevez and starring himself and Sheen, “The Way” tells the story of Tom (Sheen), a father who travels to France to collect the remains of his son (Estevez) after he dies while walking the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage route through northern Spain. Tom decides to walk the route himself, grappling with his grief and encountering strangers of diverse backgrounds along the way.


While not an explicitly religious film, “The Way” embodies many Catholic themes. Estevez and Sheen wanted to promote the Camino route and pilgrimage in general. Estevez referred to the film as “pro people, pro life — not anti —anything.” It explores how loss, community and faith can be intertwined.


After doing well for a year on the festival circuit, “The Way” will stop in South Bend as part of Sheen and Estevez’s cross-country promotional tour before the release date on Oct. 7. It seems surprising that Estevez and Sheen would choose to appear on a college campus in Indiana, but it makes sense when looking at the film’s themes, not to mention the fact that Sheen has always been a supporter of Notre Dame, even receiving the Laetare medal in 2008.

This father-son duo has had successful careers in Hollywood spanning decades. Estevez wrote the part of Tom specifically for his father. Sheen has starred in such classic films as “Apocalypse Now,” “Wall Street” with that other Sheen son, “JFK” and “The Departed.” For many, his most-loved role is the part of President Josiah Bartlet on “The West Wing.”


As for Estevez, he played a big part in the “Brat Pack” of the ‘80s, starring in “The Outsiders,” “The Breakfast Club” and “St. Elmo’s Fire.” He went on to act and direct in a variety of films, including  “The Mighty Ducks” movies and “Bobby.”


Besides representing their Catholic identity in this film, Estevez and Sheen wanted to tap into their Spanish roots. Sheen’s father is from a town close to the Camino, and Sheen himself took the pilgrimage while on hiatus from “The West Wing” a few years ago. “The Way” is filmed on location on the Camino, and despite a few main actors, everyone who appears on screen are real pilgrims.

Presented in partnership with the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the authenticity of the film and their experience in Spain will possibly be a point of conversation when Estevez and Sheen speak before and after the two screenings of “The Way” on Sunday. Now sold out, it is sure to be a special event in the fall season at DPAC.