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“The Way”: A conversation with Martin Sheen and Rick Steves on the value of travel


Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez join Rick Steves for a conversation about the transformative value of pilgrimage travel. This bonus footage is featured in the re-release of their movie, The Way, a story about walking the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain.

Complete Video Script

Martin: Hello, I'm Martin Sheen.
Rick: And I'm Rick Steves.
Martin: Thanks for joining us for this rerelease of our movie, The Way. The value of travel has never been greater. And after the film, Rick will be joining me for a special conversation about why.
Rick: And for a nice glass of wine with some Manchego cheese and the finest Spanish ham.
Martin: It's Jamón, Ricardo.
Rick: Jamón. See you after the movie.

Sarah: Tom. Your son. I am so sorry. I had no idea.
Tom: My son was almost 40.
Sarah: Yeah, but he'll always be your baby.

Jack: What was your son like?
Tom: Smart, confident, stubborn. Pissed me off a lot. Was a lot like you.

Daniel: You don't choose a life, Dad. You live one.

Martin: Boy, it's a timeless message.
Rick: Timeless and timely, as well. So many cool vignettes.
Martin: I'm so glad it holds— Hang on. Emilio, knock it off! Come on!
Rick: We're going to the pub. Join us!
Emilio: Will there be...Jamón?
Rick: Jamón galore!
Emilio: You guys know it was only a movie, right?
Rick: No? You're okay? I'm so glad. I was worried about you.
Emilio: Well...

Emilio: Jamón Iberico!
Rick: That's good. It's a ritual for me when I get to Spain—is to have some Jamón.
Martin: Oh, my God.
Rick: And some nice red wine. You guys are great. Thanks so much.
Emilio: Cheers, and God bless you. Bless. Thank you!

Emilio: So in the film, The Way, I play the character Daniel Avery, who kind of lives between two worlds. The character of Tom sees him along the Camino, but he's not really there. But today, Emilio finds himself between two icons, two legends: Rick Steves, Martin Sheen. And we also find ourselves in this place, which is The Church Key Pub in Edmonds, Washington, which was, at one point, your father's piano store, Steves' Sound of Music. And so the movie really deals with fathers and sons. Did he support your desire to travel? Because obviously, in the film, Tom's character doesn't really support Daniel's desire to see the world. And he thinks it's foolish, and he thinks he needs to be more stable, and he thinks— So, did your father ever push back on any of your dreams?
Rick: I think it's natural for a father to want "father and son." I mean, here's father and son. I mean, that's unusual and that's beautiful. This room here is haunted with my father, who imported pianos, and he loved to give people that beautiful music. And I love music. And he wanted, desperately, for me to be father and son with him. In fact, he took me to Europe the first time I ever went to Europe, to see the piano factories. And the consequence of that was I fell in love with travel beyond the music. And at first, I think he was kind of disappointed. And my dad took me to the airport, and I went off into Central America. The last thing my dad said—my dear, loving dad—"Don't be duped." And I think what he was saying is, "Don't rearrange your sensibilities, because you're part of us. And if you go down there and talk to them, you might find the world's a more complicated place."
Emilio: So you almost had a very similar situation— scene— as the scene that's in the movie, in the airport.
Rick: Yeah, it was the same thing, going to the airport.

Daniel: Come on, father-son trip. It'll be fun.
Tom: When you coming back?
Daniel: I don't know.
Tom: So you don't have a plan?
Daniel: We agreed that if I let you take me to the airport, you wouldn't lecture me about how I'm ruining my life.
Tom: I lied.

Rick: And then the beautiful, sad irony is, Tom had to actually fly there and learn himself.
Emilio: And the father really becomes a father to the other pilgrims that he collects along the road and along the way.
Martin: Well, he was the only one among them who had been a father and understood the needs of younger people.
Emilio: I think with this, it was not only to create a wonderful role for you and to remind the world what an extraordinary actor you are. And I'd say that to you if we were not in mixed company. I wanted to write something that he would be celebrated. And and I wanted to write this character that was so unlike you and then try to figure out how to get you to play that role that was so unlike you. Because I saw who you are is who Tom ultimately becomes. So I wanted people to get a sense of— that transformation is possible no matter how wrapped up you are in your life. And I thought, "Who better? You know. Who better?"
Rick: You had to take an extreme example of a person that needs this travel: Tom. And then we see in an extreme way what a transformational experience that was.
Emilio: And that, I think, really sort of opens up to the idea of the road as church, because I know that's part of your mission now and really sort of articulating how the road and pilgrimage sort of are the new church, in many ways. People are getting out, finding themselves, rediscovering, especially after COVID.
Rick: Road as church, road as synagogue, road as mosque, road as a way to find meaning in life. Everybody on that trail going across northern Spain, the road was their fill-in-the-blank church. How are you going to become transformed? I love that idea of transformational travel.
Martin: It's the sacred, yeah? It's part of the sacred.
Rick: Yeah! And if you want to find more meaning in life, I love to say, "Leave home, look at it from a distance, understand the oneness of everybody on this planet." You don't get that when you stay at home and you let other people shape your perspective. When you get out there, you get to not only know your neighbors, you get to celebrate your neighbors. And that pilgrimage— those are people that are hungry for a little meaning. They don't know what's missing in their life, but they know something's missing in their life.
Martin: I think that consciously or unconsciously, travelers, pilgrims, are seeking to unite the will of the spirit to the work of the flesh. And that is a continuous journey. Even after you may complete one pilgrimage and you found some part of what you're looking for that has nourished a deeply personal part of your brokenness, your beautiful, blessed brokenness. You go on further because you're just being drawn further and further into yourself. The journey of pilgrimage is really a journey to our own heart, isn't it? In the long run? It's to know about ourselves, and it's reflected in every person and in every different culture, in every different place that we see.
Rick: As a person of faith, as a Christian. I'm a Christian. You're a Christian. You're a Catholic Christian.
Martin: Yes. One of the original.
Rick: One of the original! And I'm a Protestant Christian. But if you say, "What's your religion?" You don't say "Catholic." You say, "Christian." And the early Christians were called "The Way." The journey. If we think about all the great religions, there are stories of people on the road, I think, trying to understand God. And you can understand God in a conventional way, like you and I try to, or you can find it in your own— wanting to get out there close to nature or whatever. But we all want to know what's out there. What's the meaning of life? But a pilgrimage is a time that, whether you're into organized religion or not, you're seeking. And to me, that's the joy of being more than a tourist.
Emilio: And you're going to find community whether you want to or not. Community is going to find you. And that's what happens with Tom's character in the film. He goes out there wanting to— "Okay, I'm going to honor my son, and I'm going to do this pilgrimage on his behalf." —and slowly realizes, "My God, this is not about him. This is about me. This is about my transformation." And he drags along these people who he doesn't want. He feels like they're impeding his progress, and they're just cling-ons, and they're sticky boogers, and he's trying to get rid of them.

Sarah: He's in a bad mood.
Joost: He's been in a bad mood ever since I met him.

Rick: Each of them were not very desirable, but as it turned out, you loved them!
Martin: They were community.
Rick: That was community.
Martin: And each one of them reflected some part of his makeup, some part of his spirit, and he began to see himself and their brokenness.
Rick: And beyond that, you realize the oneness of the 7 or 8 billion people that inhabit this planet. And that's the beautiful thing to me, from a religion point of view. If you believe there's a God, then it just logically follows that we're all children of that creator. And if we're all children of that creator, we're all brothers and sisters. Doesn't matter if you're my blood brother or sister, if you're my neighbor across the street, or if you're somebody that is so different from me in Papua New Guinea or Burma or Sri Lanka. We're brothers and sisters.
Emilio: Building bridges, not walls.
Rick: You think of so many people that are so desperate for walls. What is that? That's just an inability to understand that your brothers and sisters are south of that wall.
Emilio: Well, it's like you've said for years— and this is the same with a wall— it's a closed fist. What enters a closed fist? Well, nothing. You open your hand—
Martin: You risk losing what you're hanging on to, but you have a much larger receptacle.
Emilio: And Tom starts out clenched fist. He starts out clenched fist, and he's marching across Spain. And it isn't until the end that he realizes, "My hands have to be open, as does my heart." I find that it's interesting to have made a film that has inspired tens of thousands of people to get up off of their couch and make this journey. It's what you do. You inspire people. I never thought I would make a movie— I don't know about you, but— that we would ever make a film that actually did that.
Rick: And so many people saw Martin Sheen actually doing the hike. That's what I like, is this, "Oh! Martin's no mountain climber necessarily. If he can do it, I can do it!" And to make it accessible— And then to watch in beautiful real-time, almost, the transformation in all of these characters. But to see each of those characters, including Tom, I thought, "Wow, there's really some magic in an experience like that." I saw your country club buddies at the beginning of the show, and I saw the people you were hanging out with at the end of the show. That's where it was at. Because some accident of your son's death got you in touch with those people.
Martin: Sometimes loss initiates our greatest gain.
Rick: And it was fun to watch you get into that Camino groove. It took you a while.
Martin: Took a while.
Emilio: But you insisted on having a backpack that was loaded down. It had to be 45—55—40 pounds—way heavier than the actual pilgrims would carry on their back. So he insisted, because he thought, "Well, if I have this much weight on my back, it will inform how I breathe, how I move." And I think the only day that you— well, no, you got mad at me a lot— but the only day that you got really upset with the entire crew is when we lightened the pack. And he raged at all of us— and it was scary. I think the whole crew stepped back, and said, "Oh—"
Rick: When you see me with a backpack on my TV show, it's filled with pillows. Just between you and me, it is pillows. And if somebody put a rock in there, I'd be upset in the opposite way you were.
Martin: Oh, my, my.

[song playing] "I guess my feet know where they want me to go. Walking on a country road..."
Tom: Oh, no!

Emilio: So the the idea of the backpack falling into the river was actually Martin's idea. And he says, "I got this idea!" I get to a bridge, and I'm really— I'm exhausted. I take the backpack off, and it falls in, and I swim after." I thought, "Okay." And I'm thinking logistically, as a filmmaker, "You know, this is a small movie. It's going to require a safety team. It's going to require a double, certainly." We get to the location, and now we're standing on the bridge, and we're looking down, and— okay, the rapids are a little bit more—
Martin: Substantial.
Emilio: Substantial. And he looks down at the rapids, and he says, "Whose idea was this?" Because he knew now, he had to go into the water and swim after the pack.

Emilio: How you feeling? You bang up your knee?
Martin: Okay.
Martin: So I got it. And now I want to go into bullfighting.

Rick: Could you talk a little bit about the amazing experiences everybody was having when they stepped into that cathedral at the end of the Camino?
Martin: Sure.
Rick: I mean, so much was going on in that tight little moment.
Martin: Wow. You know— We stepped into that sacred spot, and we brought our blessed brokenness. But Emilio gave us absolutely no direction except to stay in frame and to choose to do whatever we felt inclined to do as ourselves at the end of this journey. All except Joost, the most outrageous nonbeliever.

Joost: It's him. St. James.

Martin: He asked him to do the pilgrim— the Dutchman— to fall on his knees and to walk towards the handprint, and he didn't want to do it.
Emilio: No, he didn't want to do it. He says, "Why am I the only one doing it? Why aren't they doing it?"
Martin: And I said— It is a profound moment, because he's the last guy you expect to do it.
Rick: It was profound. And to see his hand in that marble handprint. I just can't get over that. Because that handprint— —centuries of pilgrims have put their hand there. And I don't know what it is, I can't piece it together, but it's connecting not only with other pilgrims, but it's connecting with the past. It's this broad "Get to know your neighbors," and it's "Get to know your heritage." —and to get comfortable with it and surrender to it, almost.
Emilio: We had about 3 hours to shoot everything at the cathedral in Santiago. and it was time for me to now to get into the robe to pull the— and there was no they said, "Just follow the other guys." And they put the thing, the big purple coat on me. And I was like, "Oh, what do I do?" And I was sequestered along with—in a room— And I sort of marched out there, I was like, "Ha, ha, ha, what do I do?" And I walk out into the mass. So I'm directing as well as in the movie, as well as doing something that is so outside the realm of imagination. And I said, "Well, what if it swings back and it hits one of us?" "Don't worry. Pull down." I said, "Is it heavy? I don't know, what if—" "Just do it!" And so I'm pulling down on the rope and I'm looking at him, thinking, "How did this happen? What am I doing here?"
Martin: It was the only time in the film we actually looked at each other, because every time I saw him in the film, he's not there. That was the one time we looked at each other.
Rick: I love it. I love it.

Man at desk: So what is your reason for walking the Way?
Woman at desk: What are your reasons for having done this pilgrimage? I mean, do you have some kind of religious or spiritual motivation?

Emilio: So we had—there was a lot of scripted lines about that last scene. Jack says, "Yeah, I'm here to see leprechauns. I thought there was leprechauns here." Joost talks about his weight, she talks—Sarah talks about smoking— her smoking. And I didn't really have a reason for Tom yet. And so I walked outside and then I walked out— there's a stairwell. And I said, "What is it? Why is he here? What is his reason? It's not religious. It's not for exercise. It's not for—" and I stopped, and I just started weeping. And I ran upstairs, and I said, "I thought I should travel more."

Tom: I thought that I—I should probably travel more.

Emilio: That was the moment. "I thought I should travel more." And I couldn't even— I'm weeping now, thinking about it. I had to walk away from you.
Martin: Yeah, I remember that moment.
Rick: You know, Emilio, you were talking about the popularity on the Camino after the film released in— ten years ago or something— and I've noticed in travel people have wanted more experience. And what's so clear to me, what distinguishes a good traveler is how many people do you meet?
Emilio: That's right.
Rick: And if you do something like the Camino de Santiago, you're going to meet people. And you're going to have experiences that you can't book and see on stage. Because people are— they're more sophisticated travelers now than they used to be a generation ago.
Martin: That's true.
Rick: So it's a timely movie. And now that we've lived through this pandemic, I think the movie has a new pertinence.
Emilio: Absolutely.
Rick: And I'm fascinated by what you think about that.
Emilio: Well, I think it has a lot to do with how isolated we— the mandated isolation has been. But I also think we were isolated— and this goes, I think, speaks to your work. The self-imposed isolation prior to the pandemic. And now we have this mandated isolation, and we really all had to sort of take a look at ourselves. How comfortable are you in your own skin? Well, it turns out not many of us are. And now the film's getting this rediscovery, this rebirth, this reboot, and I think people are saying, "Okay, I'm going to hit the reset button." I think people have said, "Hang on, man, we just lived through this incredible moment in history that hasn't happened in 100 years. Now, how do I want to live the rest of my life? How do I see moving forward? What are my relationships? How many people do we want to spend time with?" And I think that has been sort of the great reboot. Right?
Rick: That's what I like to call a "corona bonus." We had time to think. We had time not to be able to travel. And I think back to Tom, a lifetime of not being interested in travel, having to take this three-week experience or four-week experience, and then finishing the movie in Morocco. That was 10 seconds out of a two-hour movie. And that was, to me, so important because that was the springboard to freedom. The eye doctor finally had his eyes opened. I love that. When I heard you guys were rereleasing "The Way," I jumped at this opportunity to have this discussion, because I think there's a lot of people at all different stages of their journey that are realizing, "Hey, the journey is not complete until I find a way to get out of my comfort zone, my home, my tribe, and recognize the wonderful diversity on this planet." And when we are living through such a divisive time and where everybody's having the Great Sort and going back into their trenches and digging in, it's one of the great equalizers— is to be on the road.
Martin: True. Yes, yes.
Rick: You're all in this beautiful journey together. You can't help but be changed by that. And that's the kind of change I think we are hungry for.
Emilio: I agree with that. So after all of this talk of travel, I've worked up an appetite and we've also talked extensively about the jamón.
Rick: Yeah!
Emilio: So how about we indulge?
Rick: Let's do that.
Martin: We've had great food for thought, and now it's the thought of food.
Emilio: Yes! I like that.
Rick: How do you say jamón again?
Martin: Jamón, Ricardo.
Rick: ¡Buen Camino! I loved it, in the movie, on the trail, "Buen Camino." It's just a beautiful thing to say, "Have a good journey."