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Martin Sheen: 1940—: Actor, Activist

Heart Of Darkness

Of his film work, Sheen is best-known for his mesmerizing role in Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979), even though he was not the actor Coppola wanted for the part. The story is based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. The film takes place during the Vietnamese conflict and Sheen plays the pasrt of Captain Willard, a man leading a secret mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade officer, played by Marlon Brando. Sheen's character was often drunk, which was mirrored by the actor's growing problem with alcohol. His over consumption of alcohol, combined with extraordinarily difficult filming conditions in the Philippines (including a typhoon), may have contributed to the heart attack he suffered on location. He was stricken while alone in the wilds and had to drag himself almost a mile for help. Sheen prayed to Mary for strength and vowed to "change my life from this day forward." He has followed up on his vow. His strong religious beliefs as a Catholic have also contributed to many of his political convictions, including his anti-death penalty stance.

Sheen is also well-known for his television work. His early television work included playing a wife-beater in the series East Side, West Side and appearances in The Outer Limits, The Defenders, Route 66, and other dramatic series. In 1967 he was a regular on the soap opera As The World Turns. In 1974 he starred as Robert F. Kennedy in The Missiles of October, a show about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The same year, he was acclaimed for his work in The Execution of Private Slovik. In Blind Ambition, a 1979 miniseries, Sheen portrayed John Dean, special counsel to President Nixon, for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Actor. In 1993 he turned in another widely lauded performance as John F. Kennedy in the miniseries JFK.

Sheen's other notable television roles included the ground-breaking 1972 television movie That Certain Summer, in which he played the lover of a gay father revealing his homosexuality to his son. Ironically in 1985 Sheen gave a convincing rendition of a father unable to accept his son's homosexuality in Consenting Adult. He gave strong performances in Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story, about a champion of homeless rights, The Andersonville Trial, and Gettysburg, in which Sheen played General Robert E. Lee. Expanding outside the field of actor, Sheen won a daytime Emmy in 1986 for his directorial debut of Babies Having Babies, a CBS Schoolbreak Special.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyMartin Sheen: 1940—: Actor, Activist Biography - Proud Of Hispanic Heritage, Heart Of Darkness, Dedicated To Social Causes, An Acting Dynasty