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The Camino: Why a 59 Year Old Director Walked More Than 800 kms in a Foreign Country

The Bugle App

Lleyton Hughes

06 July 2024, 11:00 PM

The Camino: Why a 59 Year Old Director Walked More Than 800 kms in a Foreign CountryBill Bennett on set on 'The Way, My Way'. Source: Bill Bennett.

On February 16, 2013, writer and filmmaker Bill Bennett wrote this sentence in his blog: “I have a particular need to walk the Camino in Spain. And yet, I’m not sure what that need is.” 

Exactly 11 years and 3 months later, The Way, My Way – the film based on Bennetts’ experience of walking the Camino – was released in Australia.

The Camino de Santiago, or The Way of St. James, is an ancient pilgrimage route ending at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. There are many different starting points but Bill, at almost 60 years of age, decided his route would be more than 800 kilometres long.

Bennett completed the walk in May 2013 and then wrote a book on the adventure.

“Writing the book was the completion of my walk,” says Bennett. “Because when I was doing the walk in Santiago I was so confused as to why I had done it. So, I wrote the book to make sense of it all.”

The memoir The Way, My Way (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014), based on the walk, was a bestseller.

Initially, Bennett had no ambitions of making it into a film. But a film distributor named Richard Becker, who had loved the book, brought it up with Bennett and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“It had a very, very deep impact on him and he came to me and said, I think there’s a movie in this, and I said, No, there’s not. I don't think enough happens. It’s just one bloke walking across Spain, that’s all. And he said, no, if you can get what's in the book into the film then it will find an audience,” explains Bennett.

And Bennett ended up creating almost the exact same conditions of his walk. Every bit of Chris Haywood’s (who played Bill) costume was the exact same as what Bill wore. Every geographical location was obsessed over in terms of their accuracy and order in the story, and none were picked just for their beauty. 

And all of this authenticity ended with a fitting moment of catharsis for Bill as he watched himself (played by an actor), at the end of his walk, have a very vulnerable phone call with his wife (played by herself).

“The conversation I had with my wife toward the end of the film. That was where I couldn’t separate myself from myself anymore – that was surreal. It was like I was standing outside of myself looking at myself,” says Bennett.

The Way, My Way has been a big success, it just passed $2 million dollars at the Australian and New Zealand Box Office. And Bennett believes there are many factors contributing to this.

“I think there's a confluence of factors that have a lot to do with the fact that people are searching for more meaning in their life at the moment. In the same way that the character of Bill is in the film,” says Bennett.

And in the same way that Bill Bennett, the director, has been ever since he wrote those first words in his blog eleven and a half years ago. He is still exploring what compelled him to walk more than 800kms in a foreign country, even now as he begins work on the sequel ‘The Way, Her Way’.