The West Wing
Probably most-famous for his role of Captain Benjamin L. Willard in the drama Apocalypse Now, worldwide veteran actor Martin Sheen became a household name for most TV viewers for his role of US President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet in the renowned series “The West Wing” (1999-2006), where he has picked up various awards, including a Golden Globe and four Screen Actors Guild Awards. For the same role, he also earned 4 Emmy, 4 Golden Globe and 5 Screen Actors Guild nominations.
Previously, the versatile actor was already a hit in the film industry for winning a San Sebastián International Film Festival Award for his leading role of the teen murderer Kit Carruthers in Badlands (1973). He also took home a Saturn Award after playing Frank Hallet in the thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976), as well as an Emmy Award for his guest appearance in the sitcom “Murphy Brown” (1993). Giving an all-out effort in each performance, Sheen was later handed an Imagen Foundation and a Nosostros Golden Eagle Lifetime Achievement award.
“I love my country enough to suffer its wrath.” Martin Sheen on his political activism and arrests for protests
Off screen, Sheen, who is famous for his political criticism, has been arrested 63 times for protesting against a number of US political issues. He is an active supporter of PETA, as well as the Consistent Life ethic, which advocates against abortion, capital punishment and war. In 2003, he became a member of the Artists United To Win Without War and tirelessly urged people to protest the Iraq war, and criticized President George W. Bush for invading the country. Upon his political stance, the Democratic actor remarked, “Don’t invade Iraq. Inspections work, war won’t.”
Aside from his political fights, Sheen took a little break from his work in “The West Wing” in 2002 to help a substance abuse treatment center celebrate the end of its $5 million fund-raising campaign. The 5th Tropopkin’s “Top 25 Most Intriguing People,” in 2003, Sheen received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during the dedication of the school’s new library (Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website).
As for his private life, Sheen and his wife are reportedly forbidden to see their grandchildren, Lola and Sam, by the estranged wife of Charlie Sheen, Denise Richards. However, Richards’ spokesperson denied the rumor. Charlie Sheen has been given a restraining order to maintain his distance from Richards and their two young daughters following Richards’ file for divorce from him with the allegations of gambling, using prostitutes and visiting porn websites. Sheen Sr. is the father of actors Emilio Estevez, Ramon Estevez, Charlie Sheen, and Renee Estevez.
Childhood and Family:
Martin Sheen was born Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez on August 3, 1940, in Dayton, Ohio, to Spanish immigrant father Francisco Estevez and Irish mother Mary Ann Estevez. He is the brother of actor Joe Estevez (born in 1942), Carmen Estevez (teacher) and eight other siblings. Ramon was born with a birth defect because of the forceps used at labor which crushed his left shoulder.
Young Ramon, who has shown his knack for acting since an early age, appeared on a local Dayton TV program and won reading poetry and scripture competitions. Winning a trip to New York and a CBS audition, he soon dreamed of building a solid acting career. After graduating from Chaminade High School in Dayton, he intentionally flunked the entrance exam to the University of Dayton so he could move to New York and study acting. He then changed his name to “Martin” (taken from his friend) and “Sheen” (from popular Bishop Fulton J. Sheen).
Martin is the husband of artist Janet Sheen, whom he married on December 23, 1961. The couple has four children, all of whom later followed in Martin’s footsteps: sons Emilio Estevez (born on May 12, 1962), Ramon Estevez (born on August 3 1963) and Charlie Sheen (born on September 3, 1965 as Carlos Estevez), as well as daughter Renee Estevez (born in 1967). Ramon is also the grandfather of Lola and Sam (father: Charlie Sheen, mother: actress Denise Richards, now divorced).
Arriving in New York on February 1, 1959, Martin Sheen got his first job as a curtain puller and “general cleaner-upper” at the Living Theater. He also worked as an usher at Cinema I and Cinema II and worked for American Express’ mail order division. He made a stage debut at the Living Theater in the 1959 production of “The Connection.” Two years later, Sheen made his early TV debut with a guest appearance as Packy in an episode of the series “Route 66,” and followed it up with his first Shakespearean role in the New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF) production of “Anthony and Cleopatra.” In 1964, he debuted on Broadway with Frank Gilroy’s “Never Live Over a Pretzel Factory,” and gained success for his Tony-nominated role of Tim Cleary in “The Subject Was Roses.”
Meanwhile, Sheen had guest performances in numerous TV series including “Naked City” (1962), “Arrest and Trial” (1963), “The Nurses” (1964) and “As the World Turns” (1965-1970, as Jack Davis), before making his first TV film performance in Ten Blocks on the Camino Real (1966, played Kilroy). His big screen debut of subway train hijacker Artie Connors in The Incident (1967) was ensued with the revival of The Subject Was Roses (1968), where he received a Golden Globe nomination after reprising his role of Tim Cleary. In NYSF, the stage actor again performed Shakespearean in the rock version of “Hamlet” (1967) and undertook the part of Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet” (1968). Stepping further into stage production, he wrote a play titled “Down the Morning Line,” which was performed at NYC’s Public Theater in 1969.
Amid his gigs in TV series, Sheen had the supporting turn as 1st Lt. Dobbs in the star-studded movie Catch-22 (1970), the adaptation of Joseph Heller’s novel. On the small screen, following the drama Goodbye, Raggedy Ann (1971), the actor costarred as the homosexual Gary McClain, opposite Hal Holbrook, in That Certain Summer (1972).
“That was the most extraordinary experience of my life and the only piece of work I wouldn’t touch a frame of.” Martin Sheen on Badlands
Sheen made a name for himself as a gifted actor when he was cast in the leading role of the teen murderer Kit Carruthers, opposite Sissy Spacek, in Terrence Malick’s directing debut Badlands (1973). For his superb acting, he won a San Sebastián International Film Festival for Best Actor. He also gave an Emmy-nominated performance as the title role in the TV film The Execution of Private Slovik (1974), which was ensued by Sweet Hostage (1975, starred as Leonard Hatch). The performer then proved his versatility in Broadway’s revival of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” (1975), playing Happy Loman.
Gaining higher recognition, Sheen’s outstanding turn as Frank Hallet in the thriller The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976) later won him a Saturn for Best Actor in Horror. He also received rave reviews after taking the roles of the cab driver, opposite Eva Marie Saint, in the made-for-TV drama Taxi (1978), as well as Captain Benjamin L. Willard, a soldier in the Vietnam War, in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). Next up for Sheen, he costarred with Kirk Douglas in the sci-fi movie The Final Countdown (1980), played the architect-turned-robber Stephen Booker in Loophole (1981) and appeared as Vince Walker in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (1982). The multi-talented actor then presented a memorable turn as President John F. Kennedy in the miniseries “Kennedy” (1983), in which he earned a Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination for Best Actor.
He was also seen in the TV movies The Guardian (1984) and The Fourth Wise Man (1985), before trying his hand as director and producer in the family drama Babies Having Babies (1986, TV). Presenting his debut quite well, Sheen was handed a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Directing in Children’s Programming and the program was nominated for Outstanding Children’s Special. He continued producing for the films Da (1988, also starred as Charlie), Judgment in Berlin (1988, also played Judge Herbert J Stern) and the Emmy-nominated children’s special No Means No (1988, TV). The next year, Sheen produced and starred as Dr. Alexander Brown, alongside his son Emilio Estevez, in the TV drama Nightbreaker. He then directed the drama Cadence (1990), in which he also starred with his sons Charlie Sheen and Ramon Estevez.
From drama to thrillers, the actor detoured to the romantic comedy genre by undertaking the role of Anthony Wayne, a bachelor trying to get closer to the woman he loves, in The Maid (1991). He was also seen in the drama Running Wild (1992), playing documentary filmmaker Dan Walker. Amid his busy screen work, Sheen played the leading role of writer Ned Weeks in the acclaimed London stage production of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” (1987) and returned to NYSF with a turn as Marcus Brutus in the 1988 production of “Julius Caesar.”
Appearing as Nick Brody, a former radical turned conservative, in an episode of the sitcom “Murphy Brown” (1993), Sheen earned praise and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. The victory was followed with such turns as Kelly, the assistant of a mob boss, in Hits (1994), presidential advisor A.J. MacInerney in the Aaron Sorkin-written The American President (1995), Bob Collier in The War at Home (1996), a US President in the ABC miniseries “Medusa’s Child” (1997) and the President in the short movie Family Attraction (1998).
The receiver of the Lifetime Achievement award from the Imagen Foundation (1998) and Nosostros Golden Eagle (2000), Sheen had his career blasted even higher when he rejoined creator Aaron Sorkin for the popular series “The West Wing” (1999-2006), playing US President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet. Delivering a wonderful performance, not only did the actor win viewers’ heart, but also swiped numerous awards like a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guilds, an ALMA, a Golden Satellite, a TV Guide and a Viewers for Quality Television for Best Actor. Additionally, he netted two Screen Actors Guilds for Best Ensemble and a TV Guide for Actor of the Year in a Drama Series, as well as earned 4 Emmy, 4 Golden Globe and 5 Screen Actors Guild nominations.
In the course of his work in the series, Sheen was also seen as basketball coach Duke Goulding in the high school drama O (2001), a modern revival of Shakespeare’s play “Othello.” He also played Roger Strong in the biopic drama Catch Me If You Can (2002), costarred with his daughter Renee Estevez in Milost Mora (2003), took a part in the war drama Jerusalemski Sindrom (2004) and guest starred in the comedy series “Two and a Half Men” (2005).
Fans of Sheen should not miss his upcoming works. The veteran actor will play Queenan in Martin Scorsese’s star-studded The Departed (2006), alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. He will also be seen in Emilio Estevez’ Bobby (2006) and in the drama thriller Bordertown (2006). The same year, he is also set to be the co-executive producer of an untitled comedy series written by Brian Bird.