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Children Surprise Sheen by Acting Up

December 28, 1990|MICHAEL MILLER | REUTERS

Martin Sheen, actor, activist and occasional jail-cell occupant, is also the reluctant head of a Hollywood dynasty.

His three sons and one daughter are all actors, a fact that pleases, surprises and worries Sheen all at the same time.

He did absolutely nothing, he insists, to encourage his offspring to follow in his footsteps.

"I wouldn't have inflicted show business on my children. I don't think anyone in this business that is honest about it would want their children in it, frankly," he said.

But he didn't actively discourage them, either.

"I've thought about doing it. But no, I never did discourage them, although I certainly tried to warn them after they had made their choices, what they were letting themselves in for."

Sheen had believed his children would find careers outside Hollywood.

After all, his eldest son, Emilio, had talked about becoming a forest ranger and his youngest son, Charlie, had his heart set on becoming a major-league baseball pitcher.

"I thought frankly they wouldn't want any part of it (show business) when they realized from their childhood how difficult it was and how unsatisfying it could be.

"But little by little and one by one they fell into it, and no one was more surprised than myself."

The other two members of the Sheen movie dynasty are daughter Renee and son Ramon.

Three of the family starred together in Sheen's latest project, the movie "Cadence."

The film, about an army stockade, marks the first time three Sheens have appeared together. It also marks the elder Sheen's debut as a movie director.

Martin Sheen specializes in firsts. He and daughter Renee both made debuts in the made-for-TV movie "Babies Having Babies." It was Renee's first starring role and her father's introduction to television as a director, for which he won an Emmy.

Sheen has starred with son Emilio in the movies "The Custody of Strangers" and "Nightbreaks" and appeared with Ramon in "State of Emergency" and with Charlie in "Wall Street."

If Sheen didn't start out to create a dynasty, he's very pleased with the way things worked out.

"I'm extremely proud of them," he said. "They're my closest friends. I can't look at the screen when they come on and not weep with joy, with love, with concern, with memory.

"I mean, we've been together, we've been a pretty tight group, for a lot of years."

But things haven't always been cozy, particularly between Sheen and his youngest son.

"Charlie and I have been at odds over a lot of things--I don't think it's any secret--for many, many years."

The disputes are behind them now, however, and it was Charlie, who had already been hired as the star of "Cadence," who insisted that his father direct it.

When Martin Sheen isn't in front of, or behind, a movie camera, he is likely to be in the frame of a news photographer's camera as he is hauled away by police from a demonstration in Los Angeles or wherever else his activist conscience takes him.

Over the years he has found himself the unwelcome guest of a number of police forces in whose cells he has spent the night.

It is not, he emphasizes, that Martin Sheen likes being behind bars.

"No one dislikes being locked up more than I do," he said. But sometimes the publicity serves its purpose, said Sheen, who is a fervent anti-war activist and can often be found leading peace marches.

"I choose to involve myself with social justice issues because I cannot ignore what is going on in my culture . . . ," he said. "I feel the responsibility of trying to draw attention to some of the social injustices which I believe are destroying our culture."

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