Imagine if “The Wizard of Oz” had taken place mostly in Spain. Rather than take the yellow brick road to the Emerald City, the four protagonists take the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. And instead of revolving around a lost Kansas farm girl, the story revolves around a cranky California doctor whose son recently died while walking the Camino during a thunderstorm.
These are some of the liberties actor-turned-director Emilio Estevez took with “The Way” — a “Wizard of Oz”-inspired drama starring his father, Martin Sheen. Estevez said it’s no accident that we meet one of the characters by a haystack, recalling the Scarecrow in “Oz.”
“This is a retelling of it, in a way,” said Estevez, sitting alongside Sheen at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago in mid-September. “There’s an emotion tornado that happens in Tom’s (Sheen’s character’s) life that picks him up in California and deposits him in Spain. Our Emerald City is Santiago de Compostela.”
Estevez got the idea to write and direct the independent film — in Chicago theaters Friday — after his son, Taylor, and Sheen drove the Camino for two weeks in 2003. It was during that trip that Taylor met an Innkeeper’s daughter, whom he later married and for whom he moved to Spain.
These days, it’s the elder Estevez taking a road trip with Sheen as they ride around the U.S. in a tour bus promoting “The Way.” The bus had made 11 of 35 scheduled stops by the time their promotional tour reached Chicago.
(The father and son duo also screened the movie in Chicago in August when Sheen received a career achievement award during the Chicago International Film Festival’s Summer Gala.)
“We don’t have $40 million to bombard the airwaves and force people by submission to see the film. We believe the best weapon we have is ourselves and the film,” said Estevez before going into politician mode. “…Hollywood likes to call the center of the country ‘the fly over states.’ We call them the United States. There’s a lot going on here.”
Sheen, who played a politician on “The West Wing,” said he is the only person on the bus without a computer. He prefers to look out the window and take in the scenery while driving across the country.
“This is like an American pilgrimage,” Sheen said. “We knew if we didn’t carry the film ourselves to potential audiences, nobody else could do it. This is a deeply personal thing. Nobody else has this much invested.”
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