The Unfiltered Life of Martin Sheen and What To Know About His Family

Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez, known professionally as Martin Sheen, is a Hollywood veteran by every consideration, having been in the industry since 1961. By 1969, Sheen already had clout enough to be nominated for the Golden Globe Award as Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his role in The Subject Was Roses (1968). After that, he has gone on to garner over 45 nominations for prestigious awards, out of which he won no fewer than 20.

From the above brief account, anyone can easily deduce what a sparkling reputation the star enjoys in the industry and generally, which might make you think that it has been all-rosy with him all these years. In this post, therefore, we give you a no-holds-barred account of Martin, including the glamorous, the not-so-glamorous, and other aspects of his life and career.

Martin Sheen’s Challenged But Inspiring Childhood

A pint-sized baby was born on August 3, 1940, in Dayton, Ohio, and was named Ramon Antonio Gerardo Estevez. That baby has metamorphosed into the man Martin Sheen as we know him today. He was the seventh of the twelve children of his parents, two of whom died at birth. His father Francisco Estevez was from Spain and his mother Mary-Ann (nee Phelan) was from Ireland. So, both of Martin’s parents were immigrants. His father was a factory worker at the NCR Corporation (then known as the National Cash Register Company) in Daytona, Ohio. Before Martin was born, the family had lived at the Island of Bermuda off the coast of North Carolina.

At Martin’s birth, an accident occurred that led to his little left arm getting crushed by a pair of forceps. Thus, he grew up with a partially paralyzed left arm, which is a few inches shorter than the right arm. Again, as he grew a bit older, he suffered a bout of polio that left him bed-ridden for a year. He would have died (or, at best, become permanently paralyzed) due to that polio attack, but for his doctor’s use of Sister Kenny’s Method, which was considered controversial at the time.

Martin Sheen was only 11 years old when his mother died in 1951. As you should know, it was a very traumatic experience on the part of Martin and his entire family. Indeed, their father considered the option of getting them into different foster homes but for the timely intervention of the local Catholic Church (Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Dayton) that took over the care of the children. This way, Martin and his siblings were raised under strict discipline by priests and nuns. Eventually, Martin would pass through Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in Dayton.

Martin Sheen young
Martin Sheen in 1973: Image source

How Did He Go Into Acting?

Martin Sheen’s interest in acting became known during his high school days. Apart from featuring in high school theater productions, he decided to pursue it professionally, but his father would not allow it. Instead, his father wanted him to go to college once his high school days were over. In an interview, Martin confessed to how he deliberately failed the entrance examination into college to be allowed to pursue his passion. Again, when his father still refused to sponsor him in the direction of acting, Sheen borrowed money from a priest in his parish to enable him to move over to New York in pursuit of his career in acting.

In New York, Martin Sheen worked on several menial jobs to survive. He enrolled for his first successful audition at a hotel, where he worked as a janitor. Along the line, he came in contact with the Catholic social activist/journalist Dorothy Day. So, he began to work with Day’s Catholic Worker Movement on a pro bono basis. But it was through his service there that his acting career began to receive a professional boost.

Many years later in 1996, Sheen would portray Peter Maurin, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement in Day’s independent film Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story. However, Sheen’s career could never have blossomed unless he changed his name. According to him, his long legal name made it difficult for him to land jobs, obviously because it was difficult for the average English speaker to pronounce. So, he created the name ‘Martin Sheen’ as a tribute to two men he respected – Robert Dale Martin and Fulton John Sheen.

Robert Dale Martin was the CBS casting director, whom Martin Sheen credits for giving him his first big break in the industry. Then, Fulton John Sheen was a Catholic archbishop who doubled as a televangelist, whom Martin Sheen found quite inspiring. He testifies that though the professional name change worked, he still uses ‘Estevez’ in his legal documents. He also acknowledges that he somewhat regrets how his new name has taken over his real name.

Did You Know Martin Sheen Isn’t The Only Actor in His Family?

Since 1961, Martin Sheen has had a long and prosperous career, which you cannot finish talking about even in several volumes of his biography. Perhaps, he is most famous for portraying President Josiah Bartlet in the NBC political drama series The West Wing between 1999 and 2006. However, he first came to the limelight when he played Timmy Cleary in 1968’s The Subject Was Rose and forced the attention of those who were still reluctant to acknowledge his acting prowess.

Another role he is well remembered for is as Captain Benjamin in the 1999 epic war film Apocalypse Now. It would be very hard to tie Martin Sheen’s success as an actor to just a couple of roles. He is phenomenal and very versatile in portraying all kinds of roles. What is more, he is so passionate about the profession that he has gotten it to run in his family as both his siblings and all his children are actors.

While Sheen was filming Apocalypse Now, he suffered a heart attack and his brother Joe Estevez, who is also an actor, had to stand in for him in several shots and voice-overs. When Sheen recovered from the attack, he stopped using drugs and reduced his intake of alcohol. O yes! you’ve heard it; he was once an alcoholic and a drug addict.

Martin Sheen and his children
Martin Sheen with his children: Image source

What Do We Know About His Wife and Children?

The actor is happily married to Janet Templeton, and they have been together since December 1961. Just like Martin, his wife is also into the show business. She is a professional actress and a producer best known for her role in the 1983 American-British television miniseries, Kennedy. While it is believed that she was an executive producer of the 2010 drama film The Way, written and directed by her son, Emilio Estevez, it is known that she was an associate producer of the 1989 comedy film, Beverly Hills Brats. 

Martin and Janet first met when she was studying art in New York’s New School for Social Research. Together, they have four children: three sons Charlie Sheen, Ramon Estevez, and Emilio Estevez. Their fourth child and only daughter, Renee Estevez was born on April 2, 1976. All his children have also trailed the same career path as their parents and have established themselves in the American entertainment industry. Interestingly, Martin has starred alongside his children in several movies, including Wall Street, No Code of Conduct, The War at Home, and West Wing, among others.


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