Malibu Film Society preps for big weekend

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Decorated actors Martin Sheen and Charlize Theron will hold Q&A sessions Saturday at the Malibu Jewish Center after screenings of their new movies. Sheen is pictured here in his role as President Jed Bartlett on “West Wing.” Courtesy of Martin Sheen

Decorated actors Martin Sheen and Charlize Theron will speak about their new films Saturday at the Malibu Jewish Center as part of the MFS’s “Awards Season Screening Series.” Malibu native Sheen took time to discuss his new film “The Way,” in an interview with The Malibu Times.

By Knowles Adkisson / The Malibu Times

When the Malibu Film Society’s third annual “Awards Season Screening Series” continues this Saturday at the Malibu Jewish Center complex, some of the giants of modern cinema will be on hand to lend insight into their craft. Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron hosts a Q&A after a 5 p.m. screening of her new film “Young Adult,” to be followed at 7:30 p.m. by a showing of “The Way,” the new independent film written and directed by Malibu native Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen.

Sheen took time out of his busy schedule to speak with The Malibu Times about “The Way,” in which he plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son (played by Estevez), killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. Rather than return home, Tom decides to trek the 800 kilometers of the historic pilgrimage in honor of his son. Along the way, Tom falls in with a varied cast of fellow pilgrims, reconciling his relationship with his lost son and discovering the difference between “the life we live and the life we choose.”

Talk a little about what it was like to be directed by your son in this role.

That’s one of the great joys of my life, frankly. He wrote the part for me, and it’s a film that was inspired by a grandson and dedicated to a grandfather. It started with his son Taylor and I, trying to do the Camino back in 2003. Taylor was 19 at the time and he was my assistant on “The West Wing.” We didn’t have time to walk it because I had to be back in time to start the new season of “The West Wing.” So we drove the Camino, and he met his future wife at one of the refugios along the way. So that was the inspiration for it.

And they got married and started living in Spain in a town called Burgos. When you see the film you’ll know it on the screen, because that’s where the gypsy community lives. Emilio started going there to visit Taylor, and he got fascinated with [the Camino], but first he had to finish “Bobby,” which we finished in 2005 in December. And once that was released, then he began to focus very seriously on “The Way.”

[Estevez] had to go and set up the locations and get permission to shoot here and there, and get cooperation from the towns and the refugios and churches and the police, all the authorities along the way. So all of that had to be done before we could start filming. We actually started filming in September ’09 in the village of St. Jean Pied de Port, which is in the French Pyrenees. And that’s the spot where the Camino begins, and it goes over the Pyrenees into Spain, 800 kilometers to Compostela.

What is the Camino de Santiago?

It’s an ancient pilgrimage, it’s been going on for just about a thousand years. Saint Francis of Assisi did that pilgrimage in the 13th century.

It’s a national treasure in Spain. People come from all over the world and they come for all different reasons. And people are transformed, you know, the old saying “you have to carry your own bag and walk in your own shoes.” So you do the Camino alone, you make pilgrimage alone. But you can’t do it without community, you need the others. And that’s basically what our film is about. It’s about community. It’s about loss and healing and community.

Did you channel your own experiences as a father into your role?

Of course. You don’t separate any part of yourself of whatever role you might be playing. Just naturally, I was playing a father and my son was playing my son. The relationship was fairly obvious, so I didn’t have to go very far to enact that. That was just a given. But no matter what you’re playing, you never try to separate yourself from who you are. Acting is a very specific choice. And all of us have a storehouse of emotional and spiritual energy that we tap whenever we do a part. So there are various parts of ourselves that are stronger when the part is closer to us, if you will. So you don’t have to stretch very far.

I felt very comfortable. I think the biggest problem I had was I maybe wasn’t stoic enough for the part in the beginning. The [character] was not as gregarious or as outgoing as I am personally. Emilio had to keep reminding me that we had a long way to go. I had to trust the composition of the piece, the highs and lows, and the finale. And so I had to be moved by him and trust him. And that’s what I did, and he did it quite brilliantly.

Both films will be shown at the Malibu Screening Room at the Malibu Jewish Center complex at 24855 Pacific Coast Highway. People who wish to attend can save $5 per person by making reservations in advance at www.MalibuFilmSociety.org. For more information on “The Way,” visit www.theway-themovie.com.