We never get over our fathers, and we’re not required to.
—Old Irish saying
In the summer of 2010 I got a call from my oldest son, Emilio. He was calling from the editing room where he was working onThe Way,our film about a father-and-son pilgrimage, written and directed by Emilio, in which I play his father. We’d spent forty days filming in southwest France and northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago, the thousand-year-old, 500-mile route leading to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James the Apostle are believed to be interred.
The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of Saint James, is a sacred path for Christians and, in recent years, walking its length has become a spiritual endeavor for people of all religions and backgrounds. The Camino ends in Galicia, a region of northern Spain to which four generations of Estevez men are tied. My father, Francisco, was born and raised there and my grandson, Emilio’s son Taylor, lives in Spain with his wife, Julia.
Working with Emilio onThe Waywas one of the most extraordinary and satisfying projects of my life, and I longed for another father-son adventure with him. And that day Emilio was calling with just such a project.
“Hey, listen,” Emilio said. “Would you be interested in writing a dual memoir?”
“A memoir? You mean a book?”
“Yeah. A father-son memoir. Whatta ya say?”
I was intrigued. To my knowledge no such memoir had ever been published, at least not in our profession. Married couples have written books together, but not a father and son. The possibility began to excite me and I bombarded him with questions.
“Hold on!” he said. “I just want to know if you’re interested.”
“Of course I’m interested,” I assured him. “I’d work with you on anything. Do you have an offer from a publisher?”
“Not exactly, but I have a meeting with a literary agent at my house this weekend. We’re going to have lunch, chat, and see if there are enough reasons to pursue this.” Then he hung up.
I almost called him back to invite myself over for that lunch. After all, Emilio only lives a few hundred yards down the street from me and his mother, Janet. But I restrained myself and waited for him to report back.
That weekend, I sat on my outdoor patio with literary agent Scott Waxman and David Alexanian of Elixir Films, the producer forThe Way.We were drinking wine that my partner Sonja and I had made and lunching on vegetables picked just two hours earlier from our backyard microfarm.
“Emil, maybe you should tell Scott about the kind of book you have in mind,” David said.
I chewed on one of my homegrown cucumbers and stalled for time to come up with something pithy and meaningful.
“It’s a father-son story,” I said.
“Yes, that’s what attracted me to it initially,” Waxman said. “So it’s not only about the filming and the experience?”
“Right. It’s about how we got here, as men and as artists. Everyone thinks they alreadyknowthe story. Truth is most folks don’t know the half of it.”
Scott leaned forward. He was interested in those stories, too, he said.
So, here it is. These are the stories you thought you knew but didn’t. Stories you can’t find through a Google search, scenes that we’ve recreated from our memories, to the best of our abilities. In the course of our dual acting careers, we’ve been involved in more than 250 movies and television shows. It would be impossible to mention them all here, so we’ve highlighted only the ones that had the most impact on our relationship and on our emerging careers. As a result, we had to leave out some notable ones.
We joined forces with Hope Edelman, an accomplished memoirist in her own right, for the writing. Hope tolerated our madness, our impossible schedules, and our considerable distractions. She truly has the patience of Job and listened to our stories, the good ones and the bad, and pulled them together in our own voices. We showed our scars and our triumphs, and sometimes our asses. In many ways, the entire exercise was like a long, drawn-out therapy session with Hope as our trinity—counselor/confessor/writer.
We’ve chosen to be honest, even when it was painful to do so, and even when a scene is less than flattering to one or both of us. We’ve done this in the hope that our story will inspire other fathers and sons to reflect on their journeys together and to inspire them to honor and give thanks for each other, in whatever way they can.
This is our journey on the metaphorical “road,” thecaminothatallfathers and sons travel in some form or another. Our road sometimes gets a little bumpy, as roads often do. But on this road, nobody gets thrown under the bus while we’re behind the wheel.
JACKET DESIGN BY ERIC FUENTECILLA
FRONT JACKET PHOTOGRAPH © JANET SHEEN
BACK JACKET PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID ALEXANIAN
COPYRIGHT © 2012 SIMON & SCHUSTER
Copyright © 2012 by Shenkowitz Productions, Inc. and Estevez Productions, Inc. Photographs © Janet Sheen, Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, RenÉe Estevez,
Ramon Estevez, and David Alexanian
Front jacket photograph © Janet Sheen
Back jacket photograph by David Alexanian
Poem “Emilio” by Charles Frank Laughton