Four Faves Files: Emilio Estevez takes a walk through hell, haircuts and hard work

Emilio Estevez in Mission: Impossible (1996), The Breakfast Club (1985) and Repo Man (1984).
Emilio Estevez in Mission: Impossible (1996), The Breakfast Club (1985) and Repo Man (1984).

Actor and director Emilio Estevez discusses immortalizing yourself on film, lessons learned from his mother, riding in cars with Harry Dean Stanton and being polite to his dad, Martin Sheen.

On one hand, you could push back and say, ‘Well, was that piece of art worth giving your life for?’ In some instances, if you’re talking about Freejack, no.

—⁠Emilio Estevez

It’s not every day that a film as recent as Emilio Estevez’s 2010 father-son drama The Way gets a re-release in theaters nationwide, so the fact that it is—for one day only on May 16 via Fathom Events—speaks to the impact it’s had on those who have seen it. “For anyone who’s had a somewhat difficult time explaining to family why they’ve taken the decisions in life that they have, The Way does a fantastic job of rather subtly holding that metaphorical hand and walking them through the process, step by step,” says Letterboxd member Matt in a heartfelt review.

On the latest episode of The Letterboxd Show, Estevez joins hosts Gemma and Mitchell to speak about his independent picture, which has inspired folks to reach out to their loved ones and connect, or like Danny and Ronan and plenty more, fueled their own dreams of walking the Camino de Santiago—a network of pilgrimages that lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. The Way follows Tom, a grieving father who embarks on this journey after the death of his son. Tom is portrayed by Estevez’s own dad, Martin Sheen, with Emilio in flashbacks as his son.

Sheen comes up plenty across the course of this hour-long conversation, as he went through hell starring in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 epic Apocalypse Now, the first of Estevez’s four favorite films on the episode. But watching his father endure, among other things, a heart attack on the set of that notorious production only served to inspire Estevez to follow in those footsteps.

“I think it was inspiring to me as a young man, watching the lengths at which filmmakers and actors will go to put something down on film and immortalize it,” Estevez tells the hosts of the experience of being fourteen years old and watching his father work on Apocalypse Now. “How many obituaries have we all read? Where does it start with the family? Never. Family’s at the bottom… Before they get to ‘they are survived by,’ it’s about the work, it’s about the accomplishments, it’s about all of the things, all of those markers.”

For an artist with as deep a canon as Estevez, it’s no surprise that the discussion includes plenty of anecdotes around some of the Letterboxd community’s favorite films. When the topic of The Shawshank Redemption comes up, another of Estevez’s four faves, he recalls first being introduced to the title when his brother Charlie Sheen read the script and told Emilio, “I think I’ve just read the best script I’ve ever read in my life.”

As for Estevez’s own films, we get to hear details around his time hanging out with the legend (and Gemma’s favorite Pretty in Pink patriarch) Harry Dean Stanton on Mitchell’s beloved 1984 cult classic, Repo Man. “He took no prisoners and he always demanded your attention on set. If he felt like you were not being authentic or if he felt like you were full of it, he would call you out in front of everyone. He didn’t care, whether it was me or the director or whomever,” Estevez shares. 

We also learn just why he ended up with that uncredited role in Tom Cruise blockbuster Mission: Impossible.

Martin Sheen taking a walk in Emilio Estevez’s The Way (2010).
Martin Sheen taking a walk in Emilio Estevez’s The Way (2010).

Naturally, it all comes back around to The Way, and while plenty of time is devoted to covering the film life of Estevez’s father, there is praise for his mother Janet Templeton Sheen, and her position as the backbone of the family.

“She understood how important it was, if we were going to move to the Philippines for Apocalypse Now… that we dig into a community, that we learn about the culture, that we learn some of the language if possible,” he says. “She was well ahead of the curve in terms of inclusivity and really making sure that we weren’t looked at as the ugly Americans who just sort of came into town. That we embraced a community and we embraced the city or a small village in a way that we would want to be embraced.”

To hear the rest of the conversation, including Estevez’s story about the Oscar-nominated war epic he literally missed a flight to keep watching, stream the full episode here. We’ll leave you with the six words Estevez responded with when asked what he would tell his teenage self if he could go back in time: “Work harder… and don’t do Freejack.”

The Way’ is in US theaters for one day only on May 16 via Fathom Events, and will be available for streaming down the road.


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