- Film and television actor
- Supported the Communists in Central America during the Cold War
- Signatory to MoveOn.org’s “Win Without War” petition
- Signatory to the Not In Our Name “Statement of Conscience”
- Participated in numerous anti-Bush and anti-war protests organized by International ANSWER
Martin Sheen is an “A-list” actor who has starred in more than 150 films and television programs. He is also a vocal antiwar and anti-military activist who has been arrested over 70 times for taking part in acts of civil disobedience.
Sheen was born Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez in August 1940 in Dayton, Ohio. His mother, Mary Ann Phelan, whose family had connections to the Irish Republican Army, was an exile from Ireland; his father, factory worker Francisco Estévez, had immigrated to the U.S. from Spain.
After high school, Sheen deliberately flunked his college entrance exam to the University of Dayton so that he could pursue an acting career instead of higher education, and promptly moved to New York City. There he met journalist-turned-activist Dorothy Day, who he says ignited his ardor for social justice activism.
A devout Roman Catholic, Sheen chose his stage name in honor of the Catholic archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. “I consider myself a liberal Democrat,” says the actor, “but I’m against abortion.”
Sheen has a long history of condemning U.S. policies and siding with America's enemies in matters of international conflict. During the Cold War, for instance, he supported the Marxist, Soviet-sponsored Sandinistas in Nicaragua.
When the Office of the Americas (OOA) was founded in 1983, a most supportive Sheen paid the organization’s first three months’ rent with money he had earned for his work on the movie Choices of the Heart, which attributed the murders of four U.S. Catholic churchwomen in El Salvador to America’s political and military involvement in that country. OOA has been a consistently vocal critic of U.S. foreign policy, viewing America's "culture of militarism" as the greatest obstacle to international harmony. Sheen has been a frequent participant in OOA-organized events.
Sheen has called former President Bill Clinton “probably the brightest President of the 20th century.” By contrast, he says that George W. Bush “is like a bad comic working the crowd, a moron.”
In July 2000 Sheen was a signatory to a political ad in the New York Times calling for an immediate end to America’s economic sanctions against Iraq. The ad charged that the U.S. was responsible for “killing … over one million Iraqis, mostly children under five.” Fellow signers included Ed Asner, Joan Baez, Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Richard Dreyfuss, Mike Farrell, Thomas Gumbleton, Rev. James Lawson, Liam Neeson, Rosie O’Donnell, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Pete Seeger, and Howard Zinn.
That same year, Sheen was a signatory to a letter titled “Appeal for Responsible Security” that also appeared in the New York Times. "We call upon the United States government," said the letter, "to commit itself unequivocally to negotiate the worldwide reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons, in a series of well-defined stages accompanied by increasing verification and control." Other signers included Jimmy Carter, Marian Wright Edelman, George Soros, John Sweeney, and Ted Turner.
Eight days after 9/11, Sheen lent his name to a statement titled “Justice not Vengeance,” which said that "a military response would not end the terror" but rather "would spark a cycle of escalating violence," and that bringing the perptrators "to justice under the rule of law -- not military action -- is the way to end the violence." Other notable signatories included Harry Belafonte, Medea Benjamin, John Cavanagh, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mike Farrell, Margaret Gage, Danny Glover, Randy Hayes, Michael Klare, Michael Lerner, Bonnie Raitt, Michael Ratner, Edward Said, Gloria Steinem, and Cora Weiss.
Sheen has declared publicly that he doubts the official story concerning the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and has suggested that the U.S. government may have been involved in bringing down the World Trade Center. At an anti-war rally in 2007, he said:
"Up until last year, I was very dubious, I did not want to believe that my government could possibly be involved in such a thing, I could not live in a country that I thought could do that -- that would be the ultimate betrayal. However, there have been so many revelations that now I have my doubts, and chief among them is Building 7 -- how did they rig that building so that it came down on the evening of the day [9/11]?"
Prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Sheen was a signatory to MoveOn.org’s “Win Without War” petition, which stated, in part:
“We support rigorous UN weapons inspections to assure Iraq’s effective disarmament.... The valid U.S. and UN objective of disarming Saddam Hussein can be achieved through legal diplomatic means. There is no need for war. Let us instead devote our resources to improving the security and well-being of people here at home and around the world.”
Sheen also endorsed a very similar petition letter drafted by Artists United to Win Without War and addressed to President Bush.
In 2002 Sheen signed the Not In Our Name (NION) “Statement of Conscience,” which condemned not only the Bush administration’s “stark new measures of repression,” but also its “unjust, immoral, illegitimate, [and] openly imperial policy towards the world.” According to NION, it is the American government -- and not that of any other nation -- that poses the most “grave dangers to the people of the world.”
A self-proclaimed “pacifist,” Sheen is an active supporter of the War Resisters League. In addition, he has participated in numerous anti-war protests organized by International ANSWER, which serves as a front group for the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party.
In 2003 Sheen endorsed a statement condemning the Smithsonian Institution's plan to exhibit the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress used in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. He and his fellow 250+ signers -- among whom were Noam Chomsky, Norman Lear, and Oliver Stone -- were opposed to the aircraft being regarded in a “celebratory” manner.
In 2005 Sheen met with anti-Iraq War activist Cindy Sheehan while she was encamped in Crawford, Texas, demanding that President Bush grant her a second meeting to discuss her son’s recent death in Iraq. Sheen joked with Sheehan, “At least you’ve got [a meeting with] the acting President of the United States,” referring to his role as fictional President on the television series The West Wing.
Sheen is an endorser of World Can’t Wait (WCW), an arm of the Revolutionary Communist Party.
He is also an environmentalist who joined with such organizations as the Earth Island Institute and the Rainforest Action Network in supporting the Heritage Tree Preservation Act, which seeks to ban all logging in old-growth forests.
In 2007 Sheen criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough to fight global warming. Advising the U.S. to “wake up” and strive to cut greenhouse gases, he said: “We are overprivileged. We have a lot, use a lot, waste a lot.”
In early 2004 Sheen campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, and later for the Party's eventual nominee John Kerry. In 2008 he endorsed Barack Obama for President. Sheen is also a supporter of Catholic Democrats.
Over the years, Sheen has made a handful of campaign contributions to political candidates -- all of them Democrats. The most recognizable names on his donee list are Richard Gephardt and Gary Hart.
Sheen is married to Janet Templeton. The couple has four children, all of whom are actors: Emilio Estévez, Ramón Estévez, Renée Estévez, and Charlie Sheen.