Q&A: Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen on "The Way"

Bad news, Goldberg: Emilio Estevez hasn't thought about how he's going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of "The Mighty Ducks" next year.

Estevez is currently on a bus tour promoting a more personal project (which is why he didn't attend Comedy Central's "Roast of Charlie Sheen"). His latest effort as writer-director, "The Way," (opening Friday) revolves around a California eye doctor (Estevez's dad, Martin Sheen) who walks the Camino de Santiago de Compostela from France to Spain after his only son (Estevez) dies during his first day on the trip. The film is partially inspired by Estevez's son, Taylor, who walked the Camino (no, he didn't die, thankfully) with Sheen eight years ago.

While some may find the movie too earnest, Estevez, 49, praises his work as "fiercely original," while Sheen, 71, says it's "the best thing I've done since 'Apocalypse [Now].'" At the Four Seasons Hotel, the father-son duo talked about working together, the legacy of "The Mighty Ducks" and Sheen's presidential capabilities. Well, once Estevez arrived a few minutes late.

 [Emilio Estevez arrives]
Martin Sheen: Here he is, the man of the hour.
Emilio Estevez: [Sees that we're filming video of the interview.] Oh, I thought we were done with the video. It's why I started doing drugs.

I'm sorry for interrupting anything illicit. Feel free to continue.
EE: Oh, that's OK. I just thought I should do it in my room rather than sharing them.
MS: [Laughs]

Martin, since I'm sure Emilio made you go through a rigorous audition process for this role, what was that like?
MS: [Laughs] Well, let's be honest: He wrote it for me. This is not the kind of role that I get offered these days. First of all, the lead in a movie is one thing. But this particular role in this specific movie with this specific guy is very rare. And I'm eternally grateful … It is a performance I could not have hoped to do have had a chance to do in my retirement years and I know he hates hearing this but if this is the last thing I do, fine, I'll say goodbye with that and be happy.

What's a moment during filming that made you feel not like director and actor but like a son directing his father?
MS: Well I think you never separate yourself from the reality of family, which is enormously gratifying. His instincts are so spot-on, and his sense of humor and his discipline on the set just relaxes everyone, including me. But he did have to rein me in, and I'm sure he'll comment on that. Because I'm a bit gregarious, I like people to know I'm in the room. And I like them to feel comfortable. He said, "That's not this character. This is a curmudgeon. This is a guy that lives in a bubble. He's a doctor. He belongs to a country club. That's about the only foursome that you'll ever see him in." So this is very unusual. And he says, "If I may suggest, something that you keep in mind as we go along the Camino and that is this character, Tom Avery, would never have voted for ["The West Wing" president] Jed Bartlet." So that got right to me. And I said, "Oh, OK, I'm playing a different guy than who I am."

Emilio, you commented that your earlier films weren't good. It's rare that I interview someone who's willing to say that about their own work. At what point did you start feeling that way?
EE: For anyone that has a long resume--and I've been doing this for 30 years, I feel like I've got a pretty detailed resume, both in front and behind the camera--you're not always going to get on base. If you get a couple of singles and doubles, that's great. If you end up in a couple classics, which we both have, now you're in the bonus. So to have "Apocalypse Now" or "Badlands" or "Breakfast Club" or "Repo Man" or even, to a lesser extent, "Mighty Ducks" or "Young Guns" which have, for whatever reason, have continued on and been part of the pop lexicon 20 years after they're made. That's a blessing. But there are some movies on your resume that you're not proud of because you take the job. And you're giggin'. And you know it, and the movies are a reflection of that.

How often does the old "Mighty Ducks" gang get back together?
EE: Never. Never. I see Josh [Jackson]—I directed Josh in "Bobby" of course. But that's the first time I've gotten together since the film wrapped.

Is there anyone else from the cast you keep in touch with?
EE: Steve Brill is a friend of mine, who wrote and produced the last two, wrote all three. He's gone on to be a pretty successful director himself [Ed. Note: Brill has directed movies like "Little Nicky," "Without a Paddle" and "Drillbit Taylor."] That's it.

What do you think Gordon Bombay is doing right now?
EE: That's a fictional character, man.
MS: [Laughs]

What are the chances of "The Mighty Ducks: The New Class"?
EE: It's never going to happen. Not with me anyway.

Nothing where you passing the torch to Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson) as he coaches the team?
EE: No. You should write it. Submit it to Disney.

OK, I will. I'm looking for a producer right now. What do you say?
EE: Hey, it's not for me. Obviously I've got other stuff going on and other stories to tell that don't have to do with "Mighty Ducks."

Martin Sheen has expressed interested in the project.
EE: Has he? Great, great. Maybe he'll get an offer …
MS: Am I missing something here?
EE: You better learn how to ice skate.
MS: Aww, jeez!

Martin, how often do people ask you about "The West Wing" or treat you as if you are the president?
MS: [Laughs] I refer to myself as "The Former Acting President of the United States." That's about as far away as you can get. I loved it. It was one of the best times of my life. I still miss it.

Is there something in the Constitution that allows for, say, if this person and this person and this person aren't available, then you become the president?
MS: [Laughs] You'd have to go through I think 600 and some people. From the Senate to the Congress—

It could happen!
MS: First you go through the cabinet, did you know that? Secretary of State. If the Vice President is incapacitated, it is the Secretary of State, I think that's the next one after the vice president. And the head of the Senate, which is the Vice President. How does that work?

What was it like filming the "Charpocalypse" clip with Charlie to promote the roast?
MS: I haven't seen it, but it was frankly a lot of fun to work with my son again. I said this earlier; I would never turn down an opportunity to work with any of my children. They're all actors, and we've all worked at one time or another over the last 20, 25 years. So it's a joy. It's the greatest satisfactions to work with your children.

What changes have you seen in Charlie recently?
EE: Well, he's got his own show. A new show. He's getting roasted.  He's reconciled with both of his ex-wives. So I'd say he's doing better than anybody in this room.

Do you think you'll all do a project together at some point?
MS: Our project is called family. We do it every day of our lives.

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