PhotograPhS by kevin aboSch, aSSiSteD by richarD wall
“Some of the leSSer-profile movieS i’ve done – Specifically, one Such aS Da, which we made in ireland – are the oneS i’m moSt happy with.” explains Sheen, “because television paid better than theatre work. But as we started to have a larger family, the need to make more money increased, and so I started going to California to do some television shows – the likes of Mission: Impossible and Hawaii Five-O. Finally, in 1969 I got a movie job in Mexico, a long shoot for the film Catch-22, and the family then moved to Los Angeles. That’s when I started in movies more than anything else. And then I got the role in a movie called Badlands, which opened up a lot of possibilities.” Badlands (1973) was the movie that placed Sheen firmly on the map;
he went on to work with directors like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone. Of course, there are many movies (made by lesserknown directors) that Sheen views as less than workmanlike. He smiles ruefully at the memories of work done more out of financial necessity than for any notions of art. “I’d say the majority of the movies I’ve done are less than great. In fact, I’d say most of them were pretty awful. They were in my life, though, because I had a big family, and I had to work to make a living. So I chose to do some very silly movies and play
At peace, nowadays Sheen enjoys a “less fragmented” life.
a lot of dumb parts, of which I felt little pride about. But at least I was able to continue to make a living as an actor. And every now and then a part would come along – something like Badlands is a once-in-a-lifetime role; a movie like Apocalypse Now is the same – where you work with a great director who happens to make a great movie. Apocalypse Now, for instance, was such an international success that it opened the door to a large range of possibilities. That said, some of the lesser-profile movies I’ve done – specifically, one such as Da, which we made in Ireland – are the ones I’m most happy with.”And besides, recalls Sheen, you’re not going to get quality parts all of the time. “Something that flexed the artistic muscles or lifted you up, or inspired you – they’re rare. I had some good ones along the way, but the really quality movies are rare, very rare indeed.” Has he discovered, as he has got older, that the parts have improved because he specifically wants to do them? “Well, they’ve become less frequent, but as long as they’re low budget and you can accommodate the factors of time, place and the fee, then you’re fine.” There are, as yet, no further Irish movie projects on the way, but that isn’t going to prevent Sheen from visiting his spiritual home on a regular basis. “My Irish heritage is very important to me,” he says. “I first came to Ireland in 1973 to make the film Catholics, and I’ve been coming back on a regular basis. I’m an Irish citizen, as well, and I have a close relationship with my family, my cousins in Borrisokane, Roscrea, Nenagh and Thurles … I can’t go anywhere where I don’t run into someone that is either related to or knows the family, so I feel quite at home here, honestly.” More often than not, he says, he arrives in Ireland unannounced. He rents a car, makes no appointments and, he shrugs, “wherever I land is fine, and whomever I see is good. Ireland is the most comfortable place on Earth for me.” Stella Days is released on DVD, October 26.