You don’t choose a life, you live one. Martin Sheen and his real life son, Emilio Estevez co-star and produced this movie.
The film was inspired by Emilio Estevez’s own son, Taylor. It started in 2003 as a project when Taylor, at the time 19 years old, and Sheen, whose TV series The West Wing was in hiatus, traveled the pilgrimage route. Taylor, who served as an associate producer on the film, had driven the length of the Camino with his grandfather. On the way, he met the woman who would become his wife; thus, the Camino held special meaning for him. After the trip, a series of discussions started between Sheen and his son for a movie about the Camino de Santiago. Sheen originally suggested it be a low-budget documentary, but Estevez was not interested in such a small project, wanting instead a bigger experience.
Estevez also found inspiration in his vineyard, Casa Dumetz, where he wrote much of the dialogue for the film.
According to the opening credits, the story is also based on selected stories from Jack Hitt‘s book Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim’s Route into Spain (1994).
Martin Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking The Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. Driven by his profound sadness and desire to understand his son better, Tom decides to embark on the historical pilgrimage, leaving his “California bubble life” behind. Armed with his son’s backpack and guidebook, Tom navigates the 800 km pilgrimage from the French Pyrenees, to Santiago de Compostela in the north west of Spain, but soon discovers that he will not be alone on this journey. While walking The Camino, Tom meets other pilgrims from around the world, all broken and looking for greater meaning in their lives: a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen) a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irish writer (James Nesbitt) who is suffering from a bout of “writer’s block.” From the hardship experienced along “The Way” this unlikely quartet of misfits create an everlasting bond and Tom begins to learn what it means to be a citizen of the world again, and discovers the difference between “The life we live and the life we choose”. THE WAY was filmed entirely in Spain and France along the actual Camino de Santiago.