Interview: Martin Sheen talks about “The Way”, spirituality and children

Martin Sheen plays a father who misses his son in the upcoming movie, The Way.

Lakewood resident Dave Rosen who blogs at davesawakening.blogspot.com and who is married to Honey Girl Kitchen founder Darlene Rosen had the opportunity last week to interview legendary actor Martin Sheen who was in town with son Emilio Estevez promoting their upcoming movie, The Way. The father-son duo made appearances at both Angelika and NorthPark. Below, Dave shares with us a segment of his one-on-one with Sheen, which is quite interesting and a bit heart wrenching.

Sheen gets a personal about his own experience with Catholicism and spirituality—big players in the film. He also, indirectly talks about his relationship with his troubled son, Charlie Sheen.

The rest is from Dave Rosen himself:

The week of September 5, Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez were in Dallas to promote a new movie written and directed by Estevez. The pre release screenings for THE WAY were at the Angelika and AMC NorthPark. On Friday afternoon September 9, I interviewed Martin Sheen. He was good-natured, honest and down to earth.

The movie, The Way, opens to the public Oct. 7.

The Camino de Santiago or The Way of St. James is an 800-kilometer path that crosses ruggedly beautiful Spain. Starting in St. Jean Pied de Port France along the Spanish-French border and crossing the Pyrenees Mountains and 6-8 weeks later, a pilgrim reaches the Cathedral of Santiago where he attends the noon Mass held every day. People of all faiths have made the journey for more 1,000 years and perhaps for a 1,000 different reasons.

Martin Sheen plays Tom, A California doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port to bring back the remains of his adult son who dies tragically on day one of his pilgrimage. Sheen’s character is the typical fast-paced money motivated country club baby boomer who lives life superficially. But something touches Tom and he decides to finish the trek that his son started. Along “The Way” Tom meets other travelers from around the world—a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irishman (James Nesbitt). The quartet of misfits help each other along the way and form a friendship that has depth and meaning as each person seeks their own path of understanding in a chaotic world.
THE WAY was filmed entirely in Spain and France along the actual Camino de Santiago. My interview with Martin Sheen follows.

DAVE: Give us a background of your upbringing as a Catholic, focusing on the spirituality aspect.

MARTIN: You know I was raised Catholic, both of my parents were immigrants. My father was from Spain, my mother from Ireland. They had 12 pregnancies, 10 survived. Nine boys, one girl and I am a 7th son. My real name is Ramon Estevez which I’ve never changed but I started using Martin Sheen when I went to New York at age 18 in 1959 to peruse a career in theatre. So I was raised Catholic we went to a Catholic grade school from 1st thru 8th grade, Holy Trinity Grade School in Dayton, OH, and then I went to an all boys school called Chaminade-Julienne Catholic High School. Named after a French priest.

When I went off to New York I was not very faithful to my faith and I let it slide for many years. The children were baptized and I would practice occasionally, but for the most part I was a lapsed Catholic. Then I got ill in 1976 in the Philippines while filming Apocalypse Now and it was a wakeup call. You know I had the Last Rite’s and for awhile I wasn’t expected to live. I really had an opportunity to refocus on what I was doing with my life and that journey lasted about 4 years and culminated in Paris on May 1st 1981 when I rejoined the Catholic faith at St. Joseph’s Church in Paris.

Since I’ve come back I have come back to the Church of peace and service, which has taken me into a lot of unfamiliar ground. I love the Church’s commitment to social justice. It has caused me to become involved in a lot of social justice issues and sometimes I have been arrested while protesting.

DAVE: Yes, I have read about that.

MARTIN: I love the Church’s involvement with social justice, not just here in America but in the developing world, not just the West but the Mideast and the East.

DAVE: Yes, I’ve read about your involvement. That’s great. Now a question about the movie, THE WAY. Tell us about the similarities between the main character Tom and yourself. Because when I saw the film there seemed to be a real link that I picked up on. I did like the movie by the way.

MARTIN: Thank you very much.

It’s a journey…an inward journey of transcendence as well as an outward journey of walking. I think all of us are on pilgrimage whether we are conscious of it or not we are trying to unite the will of the spirit to that of the flesh. Would you agree?

DAVE: Yes I would.

MARTIN: Yea, and I think that is basically what pilgrimage is all about. When you are out there walking you are listening to your own heartbeat and your own cadence by your own footsteps. You begin to hear your own voice and you begin to identify yourself. You begin to have an opportunity to become yourself and I think that is what all of us are yearning for. So when Emilio wrote the script for me…it is a father son story, of loss and redemption. I play a lapsed Catholic who loses his son.

The character goes on this arduous journey, but his most difficult journey is into his own heart and by the end I think he regains his faith.

DAVE: I’ll have to say that I like the way it was not overly overt or in-your-face.

Blogger Dave Rosen and daughter Carmella, 4.

MARTIN: No we wouldn’t do that we have to appeal to all people. We have to appeal to their spirituality not their religiousosity because unfortunately so much of our religion divides us because of dogma. You know, I believe this he believes this, she believes something else and then we can’t come together. But what unites us is our common humanity, which is united by our spirituality. So basically that is what I think the whole story is about. It is about coming together as human beings with all our defects, our anxieties, guilts and our fears, angers, resentments and judgments. All things of the dark part of our nature and we come to an understanding, despite everything, we are love and we see it in other people. And we are made to become more human. I think that is the genius of God to dwell in the last place we would look which is within ourselves. Within our darkness our brokenness.

DAVE: What is it about acting that touches you so deeply?

MARTIN: Well, I always found it to be a deeply spiritual energy. We do something that you can’t quite put your hand on. Something deeply personal. It isn’t something you can identify. In one sense it is taking private pain and making it public but you have to do it through the character. We go to deeply personal places, we go to our stories. Our inner being…

DAVE: Something that really touched me in the movie was the scene where the Gypsy man said “Our children they are the very worst of us and the best of us.”

MARTIN: Yea, that is a great line.

DAVE: Now obviously I couldn’t help relating that to your sons Emilio and Charlie.

MARTIN: Well I think it is all parents. How old is your baby?

DAVE: Carmella is 4 years old.

MARTIN: Okay, have you ever been in the mall when she is screaming? And everyone is looking at you. You feel a little embarrassed don’t you? Is he the father of that screaming child? And everyone is looking at you. There is judgment being made. Now have you ever been out there with the child and everyone is coo cooing this beautiful child and now everyone is like, oh who is the father and mother of this child? Now you are proud as punch…you couldn’t be prouder. Am I in the right?

DAVE: oh yes.

MARTIN: Well that is what that phrase means they are the very worst and best of us. Sometimes we are very proud and other times we are going to be deeply ashamed…but what we are looking at is ourselves. We see the very best and the very worst in our children. And look where they learned it. We must accept responsibility for what we did and what we failed to do in the whole equation.

I sensed a deep pain that Martin has concerning his son Charlie Sheen and his public meltdown and yet I sensed an acceptance and gratitude, which seemed to surround this man and give him hope. —Dave Rosen


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  • Dave Rosen

    The French Camino, tell us more about it?

    Dave

  • Bellasenorina13

    Great! I can’t wait to see the movie The Way. I’m already overwhelmed just by reading about the movie. I know I wll cry from happiness when I see the movie because it’ll take me back to the French Camino I did June 2005. The Best experience of my life!