Charlie Sheen: Guns n' Neuroses

Charlie Sheen talks about stealing, cheating, lying and the bad vibe gun that shot his former fiancée.


By the time he was in kindergarten, Charlie Sheen, the third son of actor and activist Martin Sheen, was appearing in his family's home movies. Five years later he was watching Francis Coppola direct his father in Apocalypse Now in the Philippines. When he returned to his home in Malibu he and buddy Chris Penn began making their own war movies with super-8 cameras.

At 12, his father let him play second base in an actors' baseball game--Charlie and shortstop Al Pacino turned a half-dozen memorable double plays. While his oldest brother Emilio (who used his family's real last name, Estevez) was making his first feature, Tex, Charlie was busy getting busted by the police for marijuana possession and illegally charging merchandise from stolen credit card receipts. Failing to graduate from Santa Monica High, Charlie decided to follow in the family business, and landed his first acting gig in Grizzly II: The Predator in 1984, followed by parts in Red Dawn, Lucas, The Wraith, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and The Boys Next Door. Then came his breakthrough to stardom, in Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986).'"

The world seemed to open up for Charlie Sheen, and he took to boozing and sex at a time when both were becoming unfashionable: "Me and AIDS got famous at the same time," he has said. He fathered a child with his old high school girlfriend, and -- somehow--managed to survive sowing his wild oats to make more films, including Wall Street, Eight Men Out, No Man's Land, Young Guns, and Major League.

Sheen, who has completed four new films--_Men At Work_, Cadence, Navy SEALS _,and _The Rookie--recently ended his engagement to actress Kelly Preston. He used the $2 million he received for appearing in two Japanese TV commercials to invest in a Malibu restaurant called Anthony's. He drives a black Mercedes 560 SL convertible, carries with him his book of poetry which he hopes to publish, and prefers doing interviews at one of his favorite hangouts, the Hamburger Hamlet in Westwood.

Q: You're 24 now--no longer a teenager. Will the transformation to young adult on screen be a smooth one?

A: People have always thought I was older than I was. When I tell them I'm 24 they say they thought I was 30. But the films I've got coming out are going to bridge the gap. The characters I play in Men At Work, Cadence, Navy SEALS, and The Rookie are young adults.

Q: Let's talk about those projects. Of the first three, which of your performances are you most satisfied with?

A: I think Cadence will be the best performance, one that will generate the kind of attention I'm hoping for. Men At Work will show a different side, get a few laughs. And with Navy SEALS, audiences will see me as a kind of hero. I haven't played too many heroes lately. I get to play a guy that's very red-white-and-blue.

Q: Your brother Emilio wrote and directed Men At Work. Did you take advantage of your relationship with him to give him any grief?

A: One day I showed up on the set and I told him that the night before, me and Kelly were at Sizzler's, some guy was trying to take our picture, I took his camera and destroyed it, then we got into a fight and I decked the guy. This was all bullshit, but Emilio bought it-- hook, line, and sinker. During the day he was always coming up to me and asking, "Did you hit him with a right or a left?" When he was setting up a big master shot involving 12 cast members, I pulled a movie set police officer aside and said, "When they call 'Action' can you pull into the scene and arrest me?" So we do the scene, the cop car pulls up with the blinking lights and the look on Emilio's face is like: we didn't rehearse this. The cop gets out, asks if I had gotten into a fight the night before, and then arrests me for assault and battery. He handcuffs me right there, with the cameras still rolling. Emilio is sold completely, yelling "Wait a minute, this is my lead actor!" The cop put me in the car and drove me away. Everybody was stunned. A few minutes went by and I came back around the block with the handcuffs dangling, laughing. Emilio was like: "You just wait, pal!"

Q: You went from that film to Cadence, which your father directed. Different atmosphere?

A: Yeah. Nine days into production Gary Busey totally melted down and we had to fire him.

Q: What went wrong with Busey?

A: This was after his motorcycle accident. He was taking a lot of brain medicine, just to function, and he was a total basket case. I felt sorry for him, but the sympathy kind of ran out when I realized, how dare he bring this to a production that took better than five years to get going? Busey just totally fucked us. He didn't know his lines. We had a meeting that night to discuss the problem, but Busey got ugly, he threatened my fiancée Kelly--he threatened to have her banned from the set because she looked at him wrong, or something. It was like, he was going to ban Kelly from my set? Okay, Gary, you are on the next flight back! I've never seen my dad angrier. I didn't want Dad to hit Gary and kill him. That's what we were worried about. So we basically fired Gary to save him. My dad stepped in and played the role.

Q: You use the royal "we" when you speak of the picture. Other than acting, what's your involvement?

A: I took an 80% pay cut to do it, but I own 30 percent of the negative.

Q: As soon as you completed Cadence, you flew to Virginia Beach for Navy SEALS, which is being hyped as another Top Gun. Is it?

A: We should be so lucky to have it be a Top Gun type of movie. We don't have any jets. But we haven't seen contemporary warfare in the Middle East in a film. It's pretty action-packed, pretty tense, unless they completely fuck it up. It was the toughest film I've ever worked on, the script fell apart during production and we had to rewrite the last 50 pages. We'd stay up until four or five a.m. with a seven o'clock call, just creating the next day's work.

Q: Then there's The Rookie, a cop movie which your co-star Clint Eastwood directs. What's he like?

A: He's totally cool. I'm terribly starstruck with the man. The guy's one of my heroes growing up as a kid--and I got to work with the guy! Goddamn! I was blown away. I don't take this shit lightly.

Q: With your father and your brother now actor-director hyphenates, do you see yourself directing a feature by the time you're 30?

A: Funny that you would mention that because I kind of had 30 as the target year to do it. I'm not going to star in my directorial debut because that's when you get into problems.

Q: You actually started making home movies at a very young age, didn't you?

A: When I was about five, my dad bought us this super-8 movie camera, and we got the bug of creating these two or three minute shorts. Then I got into it pretty heavily with Chris Penn, who I've known since the third grade. Chris always had the most guns, and I'd bring the blood, and we'd take it from there. When I was 16 I was the cinematographer on Nobody's Heroes, a Vietnam epic which Chris wrote and directed. He had already done Footloose and had money, so he brought special effects people, and we blew the shit out of Valencia.

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