TORONTO (Reuters) - Losing funding for a film is any director's nightmare, but the collapse of Emilio Estevez's planned follow-up to his 2006 movie "Bobby" now seems like divine providence to the director.
Becoming a victim of an industry-wide funding crisis freed up Estevez to shoot "The Way", a personal look at a man's spiritual rebirth filmed on a shoestring budget and starring his father, Martin Sheen.
"It was a blessing," the Catholic-raised Estevez told Reuters on the sidelines of the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered this week.
The idea of religious destiny is a thematic fit with the film, which tracks a man's journey along Spain's Camino de Santiago de Compostela -- also known as The Way of St. James -- a 780 km (485 mile) pilgrimage route through northern Spain walked by thousands each year.
"As the financing was falling apart and as I was starting to embrace that, (Sheen) said 'let's go to Spain and make a movie on the Camino'," Estevez said.
"It wasn't something I was jumping at to do... But over time, we sort of figured out what the story would be."
Sheen plays Tom, a lapsed Catholic who makes the journey after his semi-estranged son, played by Estevez in flashbacks, perishes on the trail.
For Sheen, best known for playing President Josiah Bartlet from TV's "The West Wing", walking the Camino had been a lifelong dream, in part because the trail ends in Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain where Sheen's father emigrated from.
Sheen's birth name is Ramon Estevez and the clan also includes "Two and a Half Men" actor Charlie Sheen.
"I was thinking of a story with two old men and a boy who falls in love on the Camino," said Sheen, whose attendance at the film's premiere was delayed because he joined a picket line of striking workers at the Toronto hotel where he was staying.
Estevez, however, favored a story focusing on a father and son.
"I thought the themes we could tackle in this were bigger," Estevez said. "Life and death, fathers and sons, community and faith... and the road being a metaphor for life."
Estevez has tasted critical and commercial success as both an actor in films like "Young Guns" and "The Breakfast Club", and as a director -- "Bobby", about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, was nominated for two Golden Globes.
But he admitted to some insecurity in putting such a personal film in front of an audience.
"You make a film and you don't know who it's going to appeal to," he said.
As well, his latest effort comes in economic climate much different than when he released "Bobby" in 2006. "The Way" has yet to land a distribution deal.
"I had a horrible dream that everyone left the screening," Estevez said. "There wasn't anybody but a couple of people for the question and answer, and I woke up drenched in sweat."
Happily for both Estevez and Sheen, the actual premiere followed a different script, with a long standing ovation from the crowd at the packed thousand-seat theater in Toronto.
And seats remained full for the Q&A despite a fire alarm that rang through the final 10 minutes of the film.
Editing by Jill Serjeant