Martin Sheen


  1. Alan Alda, Moonshine War, 1970.     Memorable first meeting of eternal best friends. Zalman King finished his audition and heard Sheen should have worn a suit. “Zalman offered his suit – he took it off and lent it to me.” (Sheen and Alda co-starred in the final two seasons, 2004-2006, of The West Wing).
  2. Al PacinoThe Godfather1971.
  3. Robert Duvall, The Godfather, 1971.
  4. James Woods, Kojak, TV, 1973.      Sheen – and Richard Dreyfuss – passed, so Jimmy won his fourth TV role, as a thug called Cazembarrassed by Telly Savalas’  titular cop during a a college class on criminal justice- on the 13th episode, Death Is Not A Passing Grade, screened on January  30, 1974.
  5. Don Scardino, Squirm, 1975.      Jeff Lieberman, writer-director, wanted Martin as his unlikely (bespectacled) action hero in an el cheapo horror. Until someone (director Jeff Lieberman?) remembered Scardino has been seen by Spielberg the year before for another bespectacled action hero – ichthyologist Matt Hooper in Jaws… the very film inspiring this el cheapo horror about… earthworms! Actually, Lieberman insisted his inspiration was The Birds. Yeah, right!
  6. Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver, 1975.

  7. Dennis Hopper, Mad Dog Morgan, 1976.  
    Because of  his 1973 Badlands badass, Sheen was secpnd choice after Stacy Keach for the titular Daniel Morgan, chief inspiration of Australia’s most famous bushranger, Ned Kelly.   Everybody actually wanted to do it,” said Australian director Philippe Mora – Sheen, Alan Bates, Jason Miller. “Marty would’ve been great… So we ring up Dennis Hopper’s agent to see if he was available, and his agent’s head nearly popped through the telephone, like in a Tim Burton movie: ‘Yeah, he’s available!’ So we took this little plane down to New Mexico, in Taos, and we get out of the plane, and there’s Dennis at the end of the runaway, dressed in tattered Levis, holding a rifle, just standing there and I remember thinking: That’s our Mad Dog! [Laugh]… He brought an insanity to the role and an intensity that most actors would have found impossible to create.”  A comeback was born and one of my most memorable Cannes festival interviews on  a rainy May 26, 1976. At one point, he and Michael Douglas split for the men’s room, when they returned I’d swear their feet were not touching the ground…

  8. Louise Fletcher, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, 1976.
  9. Steve Railsback, The Stunt Man, 1977. The dream project of director Richard Rush took seven years to finance and three more to release it… in 1980.  Sheen and Jeff Bridges were sniffing around the script when Elia Kazan recommended Railsback. One look at his Charles Manson in Helter Skelter was good enough for Rush.  He then captured Peter O’Toole for a riff on David Lean/John Huston (dressed like Rush) and rejected all other teamings: O’Toole-Bridges, Sean Connery-Railsback, George C Scott-Sheen.  Only problem, said O’Toole, was that it was never released, it escaped.

  10. Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1980.        
    Stephen King wanted Marty (and got his way for The Dead Zone, 1983) feeling that Jack had never played an ordinary man “and I’m not sure that he can.”  Judging them solely on Taxi Driver and Mork & Mindy., Stanley Kubrick said Robert De Niro was not psychotic enough while Robin Williams was too much so!   
    Although Kubrick’s only choice was Nicholson, Warner Bros also suggested Harrison Ford, Christopher Reeve. Plus Sheen, who had already made it… as Apocalypse Now!   Or even the funny Chevy Chase and Leslie Nielsen (what were they smoking?) Author King said “normal looking” Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight going mad would work better than Jack. Didn’t matter who was Jack Torrance as Kubrick, usually so blissfully right about everything, had clearly lost it. He insisted on up to 70 takes for some scenes (three days and 60 doors for “Here’s Johnny!”), reducing Shelley Duvall and grown men, like Scatman Crothers at 69, to tears. “Just what is it that you want, Mr Kubrick?” He didn’t know. He was, quite suddenly, a director without direction. Result: a major disappointment. Not only for Stephen King but the rest of us. Harry Dean Stanton escaped being Lloyd, the bartender. By making a real horror film. Alien.

  11. Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, 1981.   UK wiz Ridley Scott spent a long time sniffing out the perfect Deckard. From top notchers Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman (the first choice was keen… on making it a totally different character, of course), Robert Mitchum, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino… to such excellent journeymen as William Devane, Robert Duvall, Peter Falk, Frederic Forrest, Scott Glenn, Tommy Lee Jones, Raul Julia, Nick Nolte, Christopher Walken.  Martin Sheen was too exhausted from Apocalypse Now (or from  Francis Coppola). In sheer desperation, choices lowered to Cliff Gorman, Judd Hirsch. Even the Virginian Morgan Paull stood a chance, having played Deckard in Scott’s tests of potential Rachaels. (He was given Holden for his pains). Plus Arnold Schwarzenegger, not yet seen as Conan, much less Terminator.  And for probably the last time in such an illustrious list,  the fading star of Burt Reynolds.

  12. James Woods, Salvador, 1986.   
    Oliver Stone first wanted Marlon Brando for  photo-journo Richard Boyle. No? OK, Newman or Lee Marvin. The auteur then signed Martin Sheen, Brando’s Apocalypse Now co-star  – until Woods, already booked as Dr Rock, Boyle’s dee-jay pal, grabbied the lead by cutting Sheen’s feet from under him.  “Oh, he’s a great, great actor,” Woods told Stone. “Kinda religious, isn’t he? Gee I’m surprised he didn’t have a problem with some of the language…  Stone nodded: “Well, he did have a few things that bothered him.”  So, Woods hit back:  “Oh. I thought you were going to do this thing for real – go all out? If you’re just going to do another bullshit Hollywood picture…”  Chicago critic Roger Ebert pointed out, Boyle  was a role Jimmy was born to play.” With his glibness, his wary eyes and the endless cigarettes [and] the cynicism of a journalist who has traveled so far, seen so much and used so many chemicals that every story is just a new version of how everybody gets screwed.”  So began the endless Woods-Stone love affair: Nixon, Any Given Sunday, Indictment: The McMartin Trial and Killer: A Journal of Murder. Stone won Sheen back as Charlie Sheen’s father in Wall Street, 1987.

  13. Michael Douglas, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
  14. Billy Dee Williams, Batman, 1988.
  15. John Heard, Home Alone, 1990.  For the zero roles of Macauley Culkin’s forgetful parents (in a film written for and duly stolen by him), an astonishing 66 stars were considered – including 32 later seen for the hot lovers in Basic Instinct:Kim Basinger, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Kevin Costner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Douglas, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Marilu Henner, Anjelica Huston, Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annie Potts, Kelly Preston, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, John Travolta.   Other potential Pops were Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jeff Daniels, Tony Danza, John Goodman, Charles Grodin, Tom Hanks, Robert Hays, Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, Ed O’Neill, John Ritter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Skerritt, Robin Williams… and the inevitable unknowns: Broadway’s Mark Linn-Baker, Canadian musicians-comics  Alan Thicke (“the affordable William Shatner”) and Dave Thomas.
  16. George  Dzundza, Law & Order,   TV, 1990-1991.   When castng the 1988 pilot, no one, certainly not the now iconic producer Dick Wolf, thought this cop-art would still  be running some 30 years later… and d spawning five spin-offs.   For the top cop partners, Dzundza, Sheen and Jerry Orbach were seen for Sergeant Max Greevey, and Michael Madsen or Chris Noth for Detective Mike Logan.  Dzundza and Noth got the gigs.  Orbach later joined the show in 1992 as Detective Lennie Briscoe – for twelve years until his 2004 death
  17. Charlie Sheen, Cadence, 1991.     Some 15 years before, Clint Eastwood writer Dennis Shryack offered him the script about a of a kid soldier in the stockade,. Now that soldier was Charlie. His older brother, Ramon Estevez, was also featured as Martin directed his first cinema movie – as well as taking over the stockade sergeant’s role when Gary Busey dropped out.
  18. Michael Douglas, Basic Instinct, 1991.
  19. Eric Roberts, Doctor Who (The Movie), TV, 1996.      
  20. George Clooney, The Thin Red Line, 1998.        Martin arranged (and took part in) the first reading of Terrence Malick’s script for his comeback 20 years after Days of Heaven. And 25 years after Sheen starred in Malick’s debut, Badlands.
  21. William Sadler, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, TV, 1988-1989.     Considered for the recurring role of the Section 31 operative, Sloan, in the best of Trek series (lasting a magic 173 episodes during 1993-1999).

  22. Christopher Lloyd,  My Favourite Martian, 1998.  A Martian makes a visit – and friends with Jeff Daniels’s reporter. There goes the neighbourhood (title of another Daniels’ movie, circa 1992. The five possibilities for “Uncle Martin”  were Sheen, Michael Douglas, Charlton Heston(!), Bill Murray (a tad obvious) – and Star Trek’s latest skipper, Patrick Stewart.
  23. Val Kilmer, Mindhunters, 2002.       The science fictionist title proves to be Cludeo Meets The FBI on the cliché isolated island in Holland), (no, really),   where profilers are being trained… and, as it happens, killed. With a change of tutor Jake Harris for a film minus any lead role. (Try telling that to Kilmer). Actually, the title is FBI slang for its ISU, Investigative Support Unit, assisting US cops in tracking mainly serial killers.
  24. Robert Duvall, Gods and Generals, 2003.         Sheen was, asked to repeat his role of Robert E Lee from Gettysburg, 1993, in this prequel, but was tied to The West Wing. Duvall is actually related to Lee.
  25. Garry Marshall, Chicken Little, 2004.       Sheen lost voicing Chicken Little’s father, Buck Cluck, to a film director – the  man behind Pretty Woman.
  26. Edward Norton, Kingdom of Heaven, 2005.      Director Ridley Scott turned him  down  for King Baldwin  IV and made him the Priest, instead.
  27. Brian Cox, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, 2016.     When you can’t get the slim-line Sheen, you obviously go for the bulkier Cox. Stands to reason. If you are Norwegian director Andre Ovreda (Trollhunter) into his English language debut. Stephen King still loved it. “Visceral horror to rival Alien and early Cronenberg,” said he. “Watch it, but not alone.”









 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  27