“This is not a film I wanted to make…”: Bill Bennett discusses returning to the Camino for his film ‘The Way, My Way’ | INTERVIEW

THE WAY, MY WAY is the charming and captivating true story of a stubborn, self-centred Australian man who decides to walk the famed 800-kilometre-long Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through Spain. He doesn’t know why he’s doing it… but one step at a time, it changes him and his outlook on life forever. 

THE WAY, MY WAY is based on Bill Bennett’s best-selling book of the same name and stars Chris Haywood (Muriel’s Wedding, Kiss or Kill), Jennifer Cluff (Kiss or Kill, In a Savage Land), Pia Thunderbolt (Three Thousand Years of Longing, Here Out West), and Laura Lakshmi (TV’s Colin from Accounts, Home and Away).

With The Way, My Way releasing in Australian cinemas on May 16, Nick L’Barrow had the chance to chat with the film’s writer and director Bill Bennett about adapting his own true story to the screen, finding the “romance” of the experience, and why he never intended on actually making this film in the first place.

Nick: I grew up in the Blockbuster Video generation and spent most of my early teens renting movies every Friday. And I mean this with all honesty and sincerity, one of the films I frequently rented was The Nugget. I think that’s a great comedy film!

Bill Bennett: Oh! Really?

Nick: I loved that film growing up, and I’m excited to talk to you today as a fan of your work, but also because this film is quiet touching! I know you’ve been touring The Way, My Way around the country. How has the audience reception been for you?

Bill Bennett: Well, the reception of the audience has been amazing, I gotta say. There hasn’t been one screening that I’ve attended where there hasn’t been spontaneous applause at the end of the film.

Nick: I saw how the crowd was reacting at the Gold Coast Film Festival screening! So, I can imagine if it was anything like that…

Bill Bennett: What happened on the Gold Coast has been happening at pretty much every screening. That was a sellout screening, and that was a big cinema! That was a 650-seater, I think. So, it’s been like that pretty much all the way through.

And it’s been surprising, really. You spend so much time making a film, you don’t really think forward… I mean, before these screenings happened, I was very curious as to how the audience would respond. And that’s been incredibly pleasing, I gotta say.

Nick: I think what resonated with me, or at least my takeaway from the film personally, is that a personal journey isn’t just for you, it also impacts other people along the way, much like the way people will be moved by this film and the journey you went on.

And I felt there was somewhat of a connection between that feeling and filmmaking. You’re a storyteller at heart, and you take yourself through a journey to tell those stories, but ultimately, they do affect people in many other ways.

Do you feel like there is a similarity between filmmaking and the journey you went on with the Camino de Santiago?

Bill Bennett: Wow. That’s a good question. I think all of life is a story, so I don’t know if you can separate them. I kind of stumbled my way through life trying to make sense of it. And I’m in a privileged position where I can use authorship, writing a book or making a film, to do that exploration.

In the case of the book that the film is based on, I got to the end of Camino, and I didn’t know why on Earth I’d done it! And I came back to Australia, and I sat down and wrote the book to really complete the walk. Because even though I’d walked 800 kilometres and got to Santiago de Compostela, which is set at the end of the Camino, I was still confused as to why I put myself through so much pain. So, in writing the book, I was seeking closure.

You’ve also got to understand, this is a film I didn’t want to make. It’s not like I had an intention to ever make this film. And what happened was a friend of mine, a distributor, read the book and it had a deep, deep impact on him. And he came to me and said, “Look, I think there’s a film in this.” And I said, “No, there’s not. And even if there was, I don’t want to do it.” I can’t write and direct a movie about myself!

So, he got three writers to write three treatments, and he sent them to me, and they were horrible. Other people came in and they just didn’t have a bloody clue. But he wasn’t going to let up, so I thought I’d take a swing. But it wasn’t something that was ever planned or on my to do list at all.

Nick: Do you feel like that was potentially because there is no real way to actually capture what that experience on the Camino is like?  Is the experience something you thought may have not translated to film?

Bill Bennett: Once again, that’s a really good question. I wasn’t much so concerned about that. I can be quite transparent, and I decided very early on that if I was going to write a memoir, then I had to absolutely, totally ruthless and truthful, you know? Not hold back on any of my feelings and things like that.

So, I wrote myself as a bit of a dick at the start of the book and at the start of the film! It’s quite funny because I am such a dick! My wife said if I really want to be a pilgrim, I have to fly economy. This guy is set up as being somebody who’s totally out of sync with it all. He’s never flown economy in his life, but he wants to be a pilgrim.

Nick: The character of Bill talks throughout the film of wanting to find the “romance” in an experience like this. I’m curious to know whether anymore “romance” revealed itself to you when you returned to the Camino for this film?

Bill Bennett: Here’s the really interesting thing: I had this naïve view of what it was to be a Pilgrim. I had this preconceived, totally romantic view of what it was to be a pilgrim. And the fact is that I got partway through this, and I realised it’s not romantic at all. It’s just a hard slog! You’ve got to get rid of all of the, sort of, cliché notions and just try and get through each day as best as you can.

There’s a scene in the film where Bill is in a hiking shop, and he’s got this staff which he’s absolutely in love with, and he’s faced with the choice of whether he keeps his staff and potentially not finish the Camino, or buy the walking poles? And in many ways, it’s a scene about being ready to change at this point in your life, being just four months of 60. Are you so fixed in your views that you’re not going to change? And to me that’s one of the big themes of the film, and certainly a big lesson for me to let go of the romantic notion of what it is to be a pilgrim and take on board the practical, hard challenge of it all.

Nick: That’s so interesting. It makes me curious about what other people’s experiences were returning to the Camino, because your wife plays a version of herself in this film, and you have other people who went on the walk with you play parts in the film too. Did you have any conversations with them, if you can speak on their behalf, about their catharsis of reliving this experience again?

Bill Bennett: It’s funny, Nick, because I arrived at the airport. I had pre-arranged to share a taxi and travel 70, 80 kilometres to the St. John Peter port near Camino. I shared this taxi with three people – two Hungarians and a young lad from the Netherlands. And during that 80-kilometre journey, we asked questions about each other, we shared stories, jokes and none of us realised that this taxi trip will in fact change our lives forever, because we have become lifelong friends. This is an extraordinary thing about this community. There’s an intensity to it, and it forges relationships that can literally last a lifetime.

And to answer your question, this film had a deep impact on those pilgrims. One of the people feature in the film was a fella names Lasso, he’s a very big fella. He’s got body weight and image issues. And he said to me that making the film has been the most important thing in his life.

We did a screening last week in Croatia, and Lasso came to that screening. We brought him up on stage and there were about 250 people in the cinema, and they treated him like a rockstar. They clapped him and you could just see Lasso sort of blossom. He realised that this audience loved him. It was amazing. It was beautiful.

Nick: That’s incredible. I think that’s a testament to the film being a story about a personal journey that impacts everyone around it. I do want to ask about casting Chris Haywood, and what those conversations were like with him to help him understand your experience.

Bill Bennett: Very simple. Lose weight [laughs]. Chris and I know each other from way back. He was the lead in my first film called A Street to Die, which we made in 1995. He won an AFI Award from that performance, and he’s been in five of my films since.

I knew Chris, and Chris knew me, which means we didn’t really have to talk that much. He read the book, he read the script, and I’m a director who doesn’t really talk unless I really have too. One of the things I’ve learned as a director is that if the actor has done their homework, and if you cast well, and if you’ve got a good script, too much talk just gets in the way. So, Chris and I didn’t really have to talk that much.

But Chris’ capacity to take on detail… for instance, you see Chris walking with his right foot sort of pushed out like a duck leg. That is something I took on to project my knee during the walk. And the funny thing is, Nick, it’s muscle memory, because when I went back on the Camino, my knee flared up again!

Thank you so much to Bill Bennett for his time, and to Maslow Entertainment and NixCo PR for organising the interview. The Way, My Way is in cinemas May 16.

Criterion 1
Users (0 votes) 0
What people say... Leave your rating
Sort by:

Be the first to leave a review.

User Avatar
Verified
{{{ review.rating_title }}}
{{{review.rating_comment | nl2br}}}

Show more
{{ pageNumber+1 }}
Leave your rating

Your browser does not support images upload. Please choose a modern one

Subscribe

Related articles

10 Hopes for Star Wars Outlaws

An open-world Star Wars game sounded like the content...

Dune : Prophecy

A first teaser trailer has been released for the...

Wicked Official Trailer

Universal Pictures have released the full trailer for Wicked....

Assassin’s Creed Shadows Trailer, Release Date and Editions.

Ubisoft have revealed their first trailer for Assassin's Creed...
spot_imgspot_img
Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

Leave a Reply