I am a storyteller,” says Emmy Award–winning actor Martin Sheen. “That is what I do for a living.”
True, Sheen has been telling stories professionally for more than five decades. But now, the star of such films as Apocalypse Now and TV series like The West Wing is telling them out of fatherly love too. In Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son (Free Press, $27), Sheen has teamed with his eldest son — actor and director Emilio Estevez — to share remarkable stories about their lives, careers and relationship.
“We did this book for each other,” Sheen says. “We wanted to tell each other how much we loved each other, how much we’ve appreciated this journey together and how we adore each other as father and son, as friends and as fellow artists.”
The dual memoir reveals that things haven’t always been so easy between the pair. The set of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, for instance, proved an emotional minefield for both men; they recount how promises broken there led to blows between them. Estevez also writes candidly about his father’s drunken nervous breakdown, memorialized in the documentary Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.
“It’s easy to reflect in hindsight and try to make things more like you wished they had been,” Sheen says. “But when you’re doing a memoir together, you have to remember that he was there, witnessing [it]. He has a right to that memory and the effect it had on him. Both of us gave each other that right in the book. We didn’t always feel comfortable with what the other one had to say, but we knew it was an honest remembrance.”
Given the media scrutiny the family has endured the past two years, it’s heartwarming to read their stories of quieter, ordinary times. And there are many memories yet to share: Sheen, 71, hopes someday to write more about his childhood in Ohio. Or perhaps he’ll team up with his three other children to tell their tales. If the results are anything like the stories he shares in Along the Way, readers are in for a stellar encore performance.