In 2010, Emilio Estevez released The Way, a movie that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival that year, got pretty good reviews, but kind of, sadly, came and went. But this is a movie that obviously means the world to Estevez (he wrote it, directed it, and it stars his father, Martin Sheen) and when the company that owned the rights went bankrupt, Estevez swooped in and reacquired the rights. (It’s a little longer story than that, as he tells us ahead.) And now, The Way gets a rare second life, returning to theaters on May 16th.
The Way stars Martin Sheen as Thomas Avery, a man whose world is turned upside down when he learns his son, Daniel (played by Estevez), is killed while walking Camino de Santiago in Spain. Thomas must travel to Spain to collect the body, but there as an epiphany and decides to walk the many months route himself to honor the memory of his son. And, yes, meets a lot of interesting characters and learns a lot about himself during his journey. It’s a movie about travel and wonderful scenic shots. And Estevez feels, after what we all went through with the pandemic, it’s a movie that might just strike a chord with people and maybe inspire people to get out there, too.
Also, Estevez caused quite a stir a couple of years ago mentioning a third Young Guns movie is in the works. (Now titled Guns 3: Alias Billy the Kid.) Though it’s been a while since we’ve heard about that and Estevez gives us quite the update. He’s ready to go as soon as some IP issues are ironed out, but now he has ideas for three more Young Guns movies. (As I told Estevez, sign me up.)
And ahead, with a seventh Mission: Impossible on the way, I ask Estevez about his role in the first one. And he says Tom Cruise told Estevez he regretted killing off Jack Harmon and actually tried to bring Estevez back for the second movie, but couldn’t figure out a way how.
How are you doing?
I’m doing very well. The last journalist went on and on. I’m sorry.
Well, you know what, to be fair, you’ve been in a lot of things. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to ask you a lot of stuff.
[Laughs] Very well. Are you in New York?
We’re here as well for another couple of hours, so great. I’m glad we’re on the same time zone.
Yeah, I love those LA interviews when it’s like, “Hey, can you jump on the phone at 9:00 PM?”
Yeah, you’re already into your second cocktail by then.
It’s like, “I’m not talking to an actor.”
It’s funny, when I first read about you reacquiring this movie and wanting to put it out again, I’m just like, what’s this all about? And then I watched it yesterday and now I totally understand why this movie means so much to you.
Well, indeed. And especially coming out of COVID, it’s kind of the right medicine. It has struck a chord with people who, during the years of lockdown and isolation, it’s like this breath of fresh air and people are watching it again and saying, to your point, “Of course, this makes sense. Let’s travel again.” And they’re also at a place where there’s a lot of introspection going on. We just lost almost 1.2 million Americans, over five million people worldwide. So we’ve got to grieve. We have not taken a moment to grieve.
Well, that’s a really good point. As you mentioned when you first called, I’m in New York, I was here the whole time during COVID when it was at its worst….
I can’t even imagine.
When people try to retcon things, saying it was overblown or whatever, there were mobile morgue trucks down the street from us. And then now we live in a society that’s so politicized people are trying to pretend it wasn’t even a big deal or it didn’t even happen. And to your point, we’re not allowing ourselves to grieve. We’re doing the opposite and trying to pretend it didn’t happen, and that’s not healthy.
Well, when you think about the Vietnam War, a similar thing happened. It’s like we never grieved coming out of that conflict. And then you look back further, Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War, he believed that it was so important to grieve the loss of so many Americans and that is one of the ways we got through it and moved past it. But why do we have to keep learning those lessons? But I believe the movie is, in some ways, way more relevant now than when it came out 12 years ago.
I would agree with that. It did hit me in a way that I don’t think it would’ve back then.
Right? And so here we are with this wonderful opportunity to not only reintroduce the movie to audiences, but get it back up on streaming platforms, which it’s been down for a long time. The DVD went out of print. The company that was distributing it, they had it in this library, went bankrupt. The movie was sitting in this motion to abandon rights in a Delaware Court. I mean, it was just one bad piece of news after another.
So this movie that obviously means the world to you and stars your father and you’re directing your father is just basically being sold off for parts?
Well, there was a term limit on how long the distributor had it. But, unfortunately, the movie changed hands so many times the licensing changed hands. And so it was coupled with the term of expiring and the film sitting, along with 1100 other titles, in this motion to abandon court in Delaware. And the judge ruled, okay, all these rights are up for grabs. And so I’ve stuck my hand back into the pot and said, let’s make this happen and let’s get these rights back.
And there was some legal entanglement that we had to get into and get those rights back. And then it was a matter of pulling it down off of all the various platforms where the deals had already terminated. So now all of that was done and I was approached by this company called Ocean Avenue Entertainment, which is a boutique distribution company, and they said, “We’d like to help you get this back out there.” Cut to Fathom Events saying, “This is a title, especially on the heels of coming out of the pandemic, we believe that there’s an audience for this.” And then the next phase was, why should people be re-interested in this film? In an older title? Because it’s not an anniversary. It’s not yet a classic. I mean, Fathom Events does things like they re-release Casablanca or Grease or It’s a Wonderful Life.
Oh, you know, I went to see Evil Dead Rise on Friday and there was a trailer for this before that played. So they are promoting it.
Of all movies!
The Venn diagram of people who go see Evil Dead Rise versus The Way, yeah they’re the same crowd. That’s who you want.
You know who would get a belly laugh? Sam Raimi, who’s an old friend of mine and he would just laugh so hard at that. The irony in the position of that.
That’s really funny actually.
Oh my God. So my girlfriend had an idea. We were talking about the added value. She says, “How about we reach out to Rick Steves,” who’s obviously this travel icon, and how can we incorporate him into that added value? A couple of weeks later, we jumped on an Amtrak train because I wanted to create another story in that we were making a pilgrimage to see Rick Steves, which I thought would be kind of funny and cute. So we got my parents on the train and we did the overnight to Seattle, and it was kind of a disaster. But we got there in one piece, exhausted because it’s very hard to sleep on an Amtrak. I don’t know when the last time it was you did it, but I don’t recommend it. Amtrak’s wonderful, but just not the overnights.
We set up a table and I acted sort of as moderator, and I sat between Rick and Martin and I asked them questions about life, and about culture, and about the film, and about Rick’s mission, which is why we travel and the road is church. And it became this wonderful conversation between the three of us. It just feels like people are getting it now, as opposed to 12 years ago. A movie like this was, in some ways, kind of dismissed as being a faith-based film…
You know what? I actually thought of that while watching this, that it’s not. Because doing this job, I have to sometimes watch the actual faith-based films, the ones that are promoted that way, and this is not that at all.
I’m sorry about that!
Well, yeah. So like in the movie, I grew up Catholic and for a lot of people I know who grew up Catholic who, like me, don’t have anything to do with it anymore, this movie makes a lot of sense how it’s addressed.
And that was kind of the battle that I have with my father, who is a devout Catholic. I am not. And I said, “This movie has to appeal to everyone. You can’t just drop to your knees every time we pass a church. You’re a guy who is not a man of faith, you’re a guy who’s a lapsed Catholic. You’re like a lot of people in the world right now who struggled with their faith.” And this didn’t start out as a faithful journey, it becomes more of that for his character, but it’s certainly not the impetus for why you do it. So he pushed back a lot and I had to keep Martin from being Martin during a lot of this production.
Before we run out of time, there’s something I’ve always wanted to ask you. When I saw Mission: Impossible in theaters, I was so excited you were in it, and obviously you don’t last very long in that movie. I’ve always wondered if that was a friendly payback for killing Tom Cruise in his brief Young Guns cameo.
No, it wasn’t that at all. The way Tom had explained it, he said, “Look, I’d love for you to come and join the cast. The whole opening number where everybody gets wiped out, it’s going to be a lot of well-known people and all of them are going to go uncredited and it’s really going to set up the level of peril for Ethan.” And I said, “I’m in. You don’t have to ask me twice, I’m in.” And then afterwards, obviously, the movie’s a giant hit.
Right. They’re still making them. There’s one coming out this year.
Still making them! Tom was like, we were doing a run the year after that and he says, “Man, we made such a mistake killing you off.”
I agree with Tom.
He and John Woo were trying to figure out a way to bring me back for part two, but it just didn’t make sense. I thought you could have because with all the masks, right?
Right… That would’ve been tough though. I mean, you got smashed by an elevator. That’s a tough one to recover from in the hospital.
So my girlfriend works for Indiewire and she was interviewed by Andrew McCarthy for his upcoming documentary about the Brat Pack. He came to our apartment…
Yeah, he was here and interviewed her for that. And he mentioned you specifically. Basically, he didn’t know what your relationship was and didn’t know what to expect, but said it wound up being a very positive experience. Is that how you remember it?
It was. Without question, it was. And he and I had not been friends for the last 30 years. And when he asked, again, it was like Tom: The people who never ask, you just say yes. The people who never ask are the ones you sort of treat it… It’s like a Willy Wonka moment. You just say, “Yeah, of course. I’ll participate.” So the experience was positive, and I don’t know what the final outcome is going to look like, but I think he’s got a lot of footage. So whatever he ultimately puts together remains to be seen.
A couple of years ago you created quite a stir talking about making Young Guns 3. And I haven’t heard about in a little bit, but I really hope this happens. Is this still a thing?
It all comes down to the legal minds that work out IP. Listen, I’m ready to go. We have a terrific draft and if we can figure out the copyrights on all of this, and if Morgan Creek can sort of untangle from some of the issues that they’ve got in terms of continuing the franchise, we’re ready to go. So it’s just a question of when. Of course, I’m not getting any younger, so I think we’ll drop the “young” from the title, which we’ve done. But I think that Westerns being revived certainly plays to our benefit. And I think that the Brushy Bill story, you have this guy who…there’s new evidence coming out, actually, in the next month. There’s a new photo that surfaced. It’s pretty strong evidence!
There’s a New York detective who is on the case, who’s a facial recognition guy, and he looked at several, especially this new picture, and said, “Without question, this is the same guy many years later and he is Brushy Bill.” So that’s going to be dropping pretty soon. And that, again, is just further evidence that there’s a story there. It’s almost like a Zelig or Forrest Gump. Brushy Bill Roberts, aka Billy the Kid, he fought alongside Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution. He was with Teddy Roosevelt at the Battle of San Juan Hill. Here’s a guy that was born with the advent of the Gatling gun and died in 1950 during the Atomic Age. I mean, think about what he saw over the course of his lifetime! And that really begs, I think, not only just one more film in the franchise, but I think you could do three, four, and five.
I’m in for all five of them.
Listen, and we’ll hand it off to Martin to play him. I don’t have to wear all that makeup again.
‘The Way’ opens in theaters across the country on May 16th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.