Combative star: Martin Sheen turns 80 today

© Photo by Wang Xi on Unsplash
© Photo by Wang Xi on Unsplash

Dozens of leading roles and as many arrests: “Apocalypse Now” star Martin Sheen is known as an actor and activist. Most recently, he was involved in protests for climate protection. At the age of 80, he doesn’t rest.


Martin Sheen can’t stop at 80. The number of his arrests continues to rise, and he continues his appearances in front of the camera. The greyed-out Hollywood star, who is celebrating his milestone anniversary today, continues as a political activist and as an actor with tireless energy. It was only in January that Sheen was arrested with his colleague Sam Waterston during a demonstration for climate protection in the US capital Washington. They had accepted Jane Fonda’s invitation to take part in one of their “Fire Drill” protests.

Sheen has been an activist since the 1980s, protesting human rights violations, wars, rearmament and environmental degradation. He was arrested almost 70 times for civil disobedience. He has even more in common with Oscar winner and climate protection activist Fonda. In the Netflix series “Grace and Frankie”, which has been running since 2015, he plays the aging lawyer Robert, who has long had a love affair with his colleague Sol (Sam Waterston), of whom the wives Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) initially Knowing nothing. Divorce and turbulent complications ensue.

As guest presenters of the “Ellen DeGeneres” show flattest Fonda and Tomlin with their ex-screen mates in January on US television. How did he make a living before he became a “great” actor, Fonda asked her colleague Sheen. Sheen replied that he had done dozens of jobs without any talent – as a seller of Christmas trees, a caddy on the golf course, an assistant waiter, an elevator operator and a newspaper boy.

In fact, Sheen initially had to make do with little money. Ramón Antonio Gerardo Estévez was one of ten children of a Spanish immigrant. His mother died young, the father was against the son’s acting plans. But he made it from the provincial town of Dayton in the US state of Ohio to New York for training.

There he first gave himself a new name. He named himself after Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, whose “Catholic hour” the young Catholic actor had followed on radio and television. In New York, Sheen met the legendary Dorothy Day, a radical journalist, feminist, pacifist, and Catholic who made the young man an activist at an early age.

Sheen slowly became known for theater appearances and films such as the war satire “Catch-22” and the trill “Pursuit”. “Apocalypse Now” made him a star overnight. The shooting was a nightmare, the result a masterpiece. In Francis Ford Coppola’s anti-war film in the jungle of Vietnam, he embodied US captain Benjamin Willard, who is supposed to take down renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). The horror painting won the Golden Palm in Cannes, received two Oscars and was nominated for six more Oscars.

TV viewers know Sheen primarily as Jed Bartlet. In several seasons he played in “The West Wing” from 1999 the fictional President of the United States. Bartlet is liberal, diplomatic and sophisticated – qualities that activist Sheen denied to the real president elected in 2000. At that time the actor sharply criticized George W. Bush and his politics.

Sheen has been married to actress Janet Templeton for almost 60 years, her three sons Emilio, Ramon and Carlos and daughter Renée followed the parents into show business. Only Carlos with the stage name Charlie Sheen achieved his father’s fame. He celebrated his breakthrough with the Vietnam film “Platoon”. Together, the two stepped on the wall for director Oliver Stone on “Wall Street” a year later – as a father and son.

[Barbara Munker]

Image source:

  • Birthday: © Photo by Wang Xi on Unsplash


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