I wonder if five years would have made the difference in career between Ramón Estevez and Martin Sheen. His legal name is still Ramón. He says he wishes he’d kept his name, but he was having enough trouble getting an apartment, much less an acting job. So a half-Irish half-Spanish guy from Dayton, Ohio, became Martin Sheen. It was the early ’60s.
Since then, he’s played everyone from a Charles Starkweather pastiche to President Josiah Bartlett. He’s been both John and Robert Kennedy, John Dean and Pretty Boy Floyd. He’s been Hamlet and Uncle Ben. And, of course, he’s done his share of voice work, including your standard Captain Planet villain. As, indeed, what liberal activist performer of the early ’90s did not?
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen The West Wing, and I haven’t seen a ton of it, so I can’t say for sure what President Bartlett’s politics were like, but I have seen The American President a bunch of times, and that was a movie that supported federal jobs programs and gun control and the legality of flag burning, that last a bit of a controversial issue at the time. And Sheen’s character in The West Wing strikes me as being a variation of Michael Douglas’s character from The American President, as far as I understand the history of the show. So it all says something that I always figured Martin Sheen was the one person who definitely could have beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor of California. People were so used to trusting him to run the country, you see.
I wonder sometimes if it would bother him that I think of his boys before I think of him. I mean, at least it’s not his brother, right? But I think he’s probably aware that that’s my age, not his talent. I’m younger than Martin Sheen’s sons and really started noticing new movies as his sons were becoming popular. I am, in fact, exactly the right age to have had the Emilio-or-Charlie argument with my best friend (herself now a sometime producer, actually) in junior high. That’s not exactly the right age to have cared passionately about Badlands until adulthood; he actually made a movie with Jodie Foster the year I was born.
And, yes, Apocalypse Now. The film which nearly killed him, in fact. John Kapelos tried to shame his youthful costars on the set of The Breakfast Club by implying that they were so unruly that they’d have let him die, not realizing who Emilio Estevez was. That didn’t go well. It’s interesting, then, that the children’s show Jimmy Neutron, which didn’t come out until well after Sheen was a grandfather, has a character named Sheen Estevez. One of those jokes for the parents, I guess.