"For some reason," says Estevez, "my family has found itself drawn to the Vietnam subject matter: My father with Apocalypse Now, Charlie (Sheen) with Platoon, and now me with The War At Home." He's really not all that surprised. His father was active in the '60s anti-war movement, "and I grew up watching the war on the six o'clock news," says the 34 year old. Estevez "opened up" the play with a voice-over narration. He skipped the expense of computer-generated special effects and staged the son's vivid war flashbacks theater-style in the family's back yard. "We shot those at night," Estevez says. "I tried to create parallel realities, because he has one foot in Vietnam and one foot in Texas at all times. By the end, it's all blurred." "It's the best stuff in the movie," Sheen pronounces. "For me, Vietnam was a metaphor. If he had come home and said he was gay or a substance abuser, it would have been the same. It's a dysfunctional family in crisis, and this is the price you pay when you fail to communicate."
When Charlie stepped from the plane, he immediately
recognized the "mildew scent" of the jungle he had known ten years
earlier, back when he joined his father during the filming of Apocolypse
Now. "I got hit in the face with that odor -- this weird and powerful
smell like burning rubber and malaria and poverty and rot....
The whole thing was a strange homecoming, just like walking back
into a bad dream all over again," he told reporter Elvis Mitchell.
In that original bad dream, Charlie was more the observer of tragedy
than he was first hand victim. This time around, Charlie would be the
star of his own nightmare. Along with the jungle stench, Charlie would
learn the true meaning of blood, sweat, and tears, that would be
indelibly stamped in his memory.
Each day the actors were kept busy from 5:30 in the morning until late at night with classes on M-16 automatic rifle setup and breakdown, squad radio procedures, calisthenics, and the much dreaded full-gear patrols -- including several 18km uphill-downhill backbreakers. All of this in the 100-degree heat, drenching humidity, sticky dusty dirt, swarms of red ants, and "students" at the point of exhaustion. War is hell, and the cast soon learned that making this movie would be hell, too.