On-Screen Tony Blair
“It's interesting that in searching for monsters to play you often end up playing leaders.” Michael Sheen
Award-winning Welsh actor Michael Sheen was widely recognized while portraying British Prime Minister Tony Blair in two Stephen Frears' films, the made-for-television movie “The Deal” (2003) and the Oscar-winning feature film “The Queen” (2006). A RADA graduate and Associate Member of RADA, Sheen also garnered rave reviews for his stage performances, notably as Jimmy Porter in “Look Back in Anger,” the title role in “Henry V,” legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in “Amadeus,” the title role in "Caligula" and British talk show host David Frost in “Frost/Nixon.”
The chameleon-like actor, who has appeared in the films “Othello” (1995), “Mary Reilly” (1996), “Wilde” (1997), “Underworld” (2003), “Timeline” (2003), “Laws of Attraction” (2004), “Underworld: Evolution” (2006) and “Blood Diamond” (2006), will star as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in an upcoming biopic titled “Caitlin,” opposite Miranda Richardson. He is also set to bring his David Frost role to the big screen in Ron Howard's film adaptation of the play “Frost/Nixon,” alongside Frank Langella.
“If you’re playing someone recognizable like Williams, Blair or Frost, they’re so contemporary and recognizable that you can’t just turn up and not be like them. So you have to do a lot of work. What is difficult and challenging about it is that you’ve always got the end result in front of you when you’re playing a fictional.” Michael Sheen
As for his private life, the 5' 9" charming, curly-haired versatile actor had a long-time relationship with English actress Kate Beckinsale, whom he met on stage in "The Seagull" (1995). The couple, who has an 8-year-old daughter, split up in January 2003.
Port Talbot Native
Childhood and Family:
The only son of professional Jack Nicholson look-alike Meyrick Sheen and his wife, Irene Sheen, Michael Sheen was born in Newport, Gwent, Wales, on February 5, 1969. Along with his sister, Joanne Sheen, Michael was raised in a middle-class family in the working-class town of Port Talbot, a Welsh town that famously produced Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins.
“It's (Port Talbot) a very small, old steel town. You wouldn't think it'd be the sort of place where a lot of actors would come from, but having had two actors like Burton and Hopkins come from there, anyone who does want to be an actor has a bit more encouragement. That's the plus side, but then on the negative side you think, 'There's already been two amazing, brilliant, huge actors who come from here. What are there chances of there being a third?'” Michael Sheen
Michael's parents shared their deep appreciation for acting. At age 16, Michael signed up with the National Youth Theatre of Wales and was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), in London, England. He later became an Associate Member of RADA.
Michael Sheen has a daughter, Lily, (born on January 31, 1999), with his former long-time girlfriend, English actress Kate Beckinsale. Lily currently lives with her mother in Los Angeles.
“My daughter, Lily, lives in Los Angeles, so I spend as much time as I possibly can there. Unlike most actors, I'm not there for the films but for my daughter. The rest of my life, and my friends and family, are in Britain, and its home for me, so I would find it very difficult to leave completely and only live in L.A.” Michael Sheen
Young Michael Sheen followed in the footsteps of fellow Port Talbot natives Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins by joining the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). For his consistently outstanding performances, the aspiring actor won the coveted Laurence Olivier Bursary in his second year at RADA.
In 1991, while still studying, Sheen landed his stage debut in Martin Sherman's "When She Danced," playing a pivotal role as Alexandros Eliopolos, opposite stage legend Vanessa Redgrave. The theatrical production, directed by Robert Ackerman, was shown at The Globe Theatre in London.
After leaving school early and making his West End debut, Sheen continued to amaze audiences and critics with his intense and passionate performances and was seen as Romeo in the Gregory Herson directed theatrical production of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" (1992) at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre (followed by a UK Tour), which nominated him for a Manchester Evening Standard News Award for Best Actor, and the titular character in Yukio Ninagawa's 1994 Royal Shakespeare Company's staging of Henric Ibsen’s "Peer Gynt" at the National Theatre Company and Barbican Theatre in London (followed by a tour in Oslo, Norway and Tokyo, Japan). He also garnered praise for portraying Jimmy Porter in Gregory Hersov's staging of John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger" at the Manchester Royal Exchange in 1994 and later reprised the role in a 1999 London revival, the latter of which nominated him for a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award and an Evening Standard Drama Award.
Sheen made his first television appearance as a mentally unstable man in the three-part BBC miniseries "Gallowglass" and guest starred in an episode of the British TV series based on Simenon's books, "Maigret." He also joined the troupe Cheek By Jowl and acted in the 1993 theatrical productions of "Don't Fool With Love," and played Fred in David Leveaux's staging of Harold Pinter's “Moonlight” at the Almeida Theatre, in London.
Sheen landed his first feature film appearance, opposite John Malkovich and Julia Roberts, in Stephen Frears' adaptation of Valerie Martin's 1990 novel, “Mary Reilly” (filmed in 1994; released theatrically in 1996). He followed it up with Oliver Parker's film version of William Shakespeare's classic tragedy, “Othello” (1995; starring Laurence Fishburne, Irene Jacob and Kenneth Branagh). In 1997, he portrayed journalist and art critic Robert Ross in the Brian Gilbert directed “Wilde,” which was based on biographical notes by Richard Ellmann.
Meanwhile, Sheen continued his stage work. He appeared in Luis Pasqual's 1994 theatrical production of Zéno Bianu's “Le Livre de Spencer” at the Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe in Paris, France, played Lord Fancourt Babberley in Emil Wolk's 1994-95 theatrical production of Brandon Thomas' “Charley's Aunt“ and co-starred as Konstantin, opposite Kate Beckinsale, in Robert Sturua's 1995 theatrical production of Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull.” He also directed and starred (as Norman) in a production of Ron Harwood's "The Dresser" at the Drum Theatre in Plymouth.
In 1996, Sheen made a second appearance in a Pinter play by playing Lenny in Roger Mitchell’s staging of Harold Priner's "The Homecoming" (opposite Lindsay Duncan) and appeared in Andrei Serban's staging of David Lan's “The Ends of the Earth” with the Royal National Theatre. The next year, he collaborated with Helen McCrory and Robert Delamere to create a new writing production company called “Foundry.” That same year, he ran “Thin Language,” a Welsh theatre company co-jointly with Simon Harris. He appeared and directed a production of Harris' play, “Badfinger,” at the Donmar Warehouse, and Trembly's “Forever Yours Mary Lou” in Swansea, Cardiff and London.
Sheen portrayed "Henry V" (1997) in Ron Daniels' staging of William Shakespeare's classic play with the same name, with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford. His performance made him a finalist for that year's Royal National Theatre-Sunday Times, Ian Charleston Award for Best Actor.
After being a subject of the BBC Wales TV documentary "Bright Smoke," Sheen made his Broadway debut in 2000 playing legendary composer Mozart in a revival of Peter Shaffer's 1979 play, "Amadeus." The role later handed him nominations at the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award (for Best Supporting Performance in Play) and Outer Critics Circle Award (for the Outstanding Actor in a Play).
Following his Broadway debut, Sheen began receiving more prominent film roles. He starred as Trench in Shekhar Kapur's cinematic dramatizations of the original 1902 novel by A.E.W. Mason, “The Four Feathers” (2002; opposite Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley and Kate Hudson) and played the lead in Damien O'Donnell's British drama/comedy movie “Heartlands” (2002; opposite Mark Addy). The next year, he landed a major role as Lycan (werewolves) master Lucian, opposite then-girlfriend Kate Beckinsale, in Len Wiseman's action-horror blockbuster, “Underworld” (2003). He later reprised the role in its sequel, “Underworld: Evolution” (2006), in which Sheen's daughter with Beckinsale, Lily, also appeared as the younger version of Beckinsale's character.
Sheen subsequently played supporting roles in Stephen Fry's film adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's satirical 1930 novel "Vile Bodies," the comedic drama “Bright Young Things” (2003; with Emily Mortimer, Stephen Campbell Moore and Fenella Woolgar) and Richard Donner's big screen version of Michael Crichton's 1999 sci-fi novel, “Timeline” (2003; starring Paul Walker). He also portrayed British Prime Minister Tony Blair in director Stephen Frears' made-for-television movie “The Deal” (2003) and received good reviews as Thorne Jamison, a rock star who has a heavily-publicized divorce with his wife (played by Parker Posey), in Peter Howitt's romantic comedy “Laws of Attraction” (2004; starring Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore).
Back on the stage, Sheen received raves reviews for his titular performance as "Caligula" in London for which he won the Evening Standard Award and Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and was nominated for the prestigious Olivier Award. The Albert Camus play was directed by David Greig and was staged at the Donmar Warehouse, in London. Sheen recalled, “'Caligula' was fantastic. I had a great time. It’s then that you wish the runs were a bit longer, because when you do something like that you just want to keep going.”
Sheen was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor and an RTS Television Award for Best Actor – Male for his performance in the made-for-television movie “Dirty Filthy Love” (2004; ITV), a romantic comedy in which he starred as an architect whose life was threatened by his increasing obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette's syndrome. The next year, he returned to stage to play Remington Gammon in the 2005 production of "The U.N. Inspector" at the National Theatre in London.
Moviegoers saw Sheen co-star with Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly in Edward Zwick's Academy Award-nominated film, “Blood Diamond” (2006). In the film, Sheen played the supporting role of Simmons. On the issues surrounding the film, Sheen commented, "I don’t think it ('Blood Diamond') in any way tries to put down the diamond industry. I think it tries to just make people aware that they need to be aware of where certain things come from, things that they pay for, things that they buy, where the money goes, and the affect it has on people around the world. If there’s nothing shady about peoples’ business, then they’ve got nothing to worry about, have they?"
Also in 2006, Sheen was involved in Stephen Frears' Academy Award-winning film starring Helen Mirren, “The Queen,” in which he portrayed British Prime Minister Tony Blair. His performance in the film won him Best Supporting Actor awards from the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and Toronto Film Critics Association, along with nominations from BAFTA and the Chicago Film Critics Association.
Sheen's most recent stage work was starring in a sell-out run of “Frost/Nixon” by Peter Morgan at the Donmar Warehouse. His portrayal of British talk-show host David Frost later earned him a nomination for the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor. He is currently preparing for its Broadway transfer. It also has been announced that Academy Award winner film director Ron Howard will be directing a film adaptation of the play, with Sheen taking the role of Frost.
Meanwhile, Sheen has completed his next film, “Music Within,” a true story-based drama by director Steven Sawalich that stars Ron Livingston. He will next be seen as Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in Marc Evans' upcoming biopic, “Caitlin,” opposite Miranda Richardson who will play his titular wife.
“I really prefer acting for now. I’ve directed a few things, but I’ve got a different kind of mentality. I’m not patient enough to do it.” Michael Sheen
Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Supporting Actor, “The Queen,” 2007
Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, “The Queen,” 2006
Toronto Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Performance, Male, “The Queen,” 2006