From "The West Wing" to "Grace and Frankie," Martin Sheen has enjoyed an enduring career in Tinseltown! In celebration of his 80th birthday on Aug. 3, 2020, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the actor's life and career in pictures. Keep reading for more…
Martin Sheen was born Ramón Estévez in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 3, 1940, to immigrant parents — his mother was from Ireland, his factory worker and machinery inspector father was from Spain — and grew up in the city's South Park neighborhood with nine siblings. Following his mother's death when Martin — who survived polio as a child — was just 11, there was a fear that he, his brothers and sister would enter foster care, but thanks to help from Dayton's Holy Trinity Catholic Church, they were able to remain together. Martin (seen here in 1980), however, was not long for Ohio…
While his father wasn't impressed with his aspirations of becoming an actor, Martin Sheen was determined to pursue his dreams. He borrowed money from a Catholic priest and moved to New York City to pursue his acting. Martin, a 20-something at the time, even intentionally failed the University of Dayton entrance exam so he could work on his craft. While in the city, Martin (seen here circa 1979) met Dorothy Day, a Catholic activist who introduced him to social justice activism.
Martin Sheen — who was born Ramón Antonio Estévez — chose a stage name that was a combination of the names of Robert Dale Martin, the CBS casting director who gave him a shot as an actor, and Fulton J. Sheen, a televangelist archbishop. "I started using Sheen, I thought I'd give it a try, and before I knew it, I started making a living with it and then it was too late. In fact, one of my great regrets is that I didn't keep my name as it was given to me. I knew it bothered my dad," he told "Inside the Actors Studio" in 2003. Martin is seen here in a promotional photo for "Blind Ambition" circa 1979.
Wedding bells! On Dec. 23, 1961, Martin Sheen married actress Janet Templeton. They welcomed four children over the years: sons Emilio, Ramón, and Carlos and daughter Renée. Martin and Janet are pictured here at a gala event in Los Angeles in March 1980.
Throughout the '60s, Martin Sheen appeared on several television series including "Route 66" in 1961, "The Outer Limits" in 1963, "My Three Sons" in 1964 "Flipper" in 1967 and "Mission: Impossible" in 1969. He also co-starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "The Subject Was Roses" in 1964 as Timmy Cleary, a role he reprised for the film adaptation (pictured here) in 1968.
Martin Sheen also appeared in the 1967 neo-noir film "The Incident" alongside Tony Musante (pictured). The film, which was based on the teleplay "Ride with Terror," follows two criminals who terrorize New Yorkers in a subway car.
And the list of credits kept growing! In 1970, Martin Sheen landed a starring role in the 1970 war comedy "Catch-22." The film, an adaptation of Joseph Heller's 1961 novel of the same name, takes place at a fictional base in the Mediterranean amidst World War II. Martin is pictured here with co-star Alan Arkin.
In 1972, Martin Sheen starred in the drama "That Certain Summer" alongside Hal Holbrook (pictured) and Hope Lange. The made-for-TV film was seen as boundary breaking for its sympathetic depiction of homosexuality.
During the '70s, Martin Sheen's career continued to gain steam. He landed the starring role in 1973's neo-noir crime film "Badlands" (pictured), which was inspired by the true story of American killer Charles Starkweather. The highly influential film was preserved by the Library of Congress for its cultural, aesthetic and historic importance. Martin also appeared in 1974's "The Execution of Private Slovik," 1978's "Taxi!!!" and 1979's "Blind Ambition."
Throughout his career, Martin Sheen has played several political figures. In 1974's "The Missiles of October," he took on the role of Robert F. Kennedy; in 1983's "Kennedy," he played John F. Kennedy; and in 1995's "The American President," he played a White House chief of staff. (He also famously played a fictional U.S. president on TV's "The West Wing," but more on that later.) He's pictured here alongside Rip Torn in the 1979 CBS miniseries "Blind Ambition," in which he played White House Counsel John Dean.
In 1979, Martin Sheen landed a role in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 war epic "Apocalypse Now." Martin, pictured here with Dennis Hopper, starred as veteran special operations officer Benjamin L. Willard. The film, which earned a whopping eight nominations at the 52nd Academy Awards including best picture and best director, was based on Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella "Heart of Darkness."
In 1981, Martin Sheen earned his first Daytime Emmy Award — for outstanding individual achievement in religious programming – programs — for his work on the religious anthology series "Insight." This wouldn't be his last Daytime Emmy win though. Martin snagged the honor once again in 1986, for outstanding individual direction in children's programming, for his work on "CBS Schoolbreak Special." He's seen here at the "Insight" Gala honoring Jack Albertson in March 1981.
Martin Sheen and his family — children Renee Estevez, Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen and wife Janet — are seen here at an afterparty following a screening of director Robert Greenwald's made-for-TV film "In the Custody of Strangers" in April 1982. Martin and Emilio starred in the movie.
Martin Sheen appeared in many projects in the '80s including 1984's "Firestarter," 1986's "Shattered Spirits," 1987's "The Believers" and 1988's "Judgment in Berlin." He's seen here in the 1980 sci-fi war flick "The Final Countdown."
Given that his sons are also actors, it makes sense that Martin Sheen would collaborate with them! Martin worked with son Charlie Sheen on "No Code of Conduct," "Spin City" and "Anger Management" and even guest starred on an episode of Charlie's big sitcom, "Two and a Half Men." He's seen here with Charlie in 1987's "Wall Street," a drama about an up-and-coming stockbroker who becomes entangled with a corporate raider.
A thespian too! In 1988, Martin Sheen appeared alongside Al Pacino (pictured) in an off-Broadway production of "Julius Caesar." Unfortunately, the production failed to impress — The Associated Press's Michael Kuchwara branded it a "major disappointment."
In 1989, Martin Sheen was declared the honorary mayor of Malibu, California. However, he made a declaration to the beach town that resulted in public outcry: "I hereby declare Malibu a nuclear-free zone, a sanctuary for aliens and the homeless and a protected environment for all life, wild and tame." While some residents were put off by this statement, the Malibu Chamber of Commerce ultimately voted to keep the beloved actor as their honorary mayor. Martin, a longtime Malibu resident, is seen here at a Kiwanis Circus Performance in Malibu in September 1989.
Well-deserved! Martin Sheen was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame on Aug. 25, 1989. He's pictured here speaking during the ceremony in Hollywood.
In 1990, Martin Sheen collaborated with sons Charlie Sheen and Ramón Estevez in "Cadence," a film about a man in a West Germany-based U.S. Army military prison in the '60s. The movie, which marked Martin's first foray into directing, was based on a novel by Gordon Weaver. He's seen here with Charlie ahead of the film's screening at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1990.
A reason to celebrate! At the 46th Annual Primetime Creative Arts Emmys held on Sept. 11, 1994, Martin Sheen earned the award for outstanding guest actor for his performance as Nick Brody on the CBS sitcom "Murphy Brown." He's pictured here at the Festival de Deauville in France that same month.
Martin Sheen co-starred alongside son Emilio Estevez in 1982's "In the Custody of Strangers" and 1996's "The War at Home." Martin and the "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Mighty Ducks" star are seen here during the premiere of the film "The Believers" — in which Martin also starred — in New York City in June 1987.
In 1999, Martin Sheen landed the role of President Josiah Bartlet in the acclaimed television series "The West Wing." The character, whom he played until the show's cancelation in 2006, is one of the best known of his career. The political drama series chronicled the work and lives of the Democratic president's staff during his administration. Martin is pictured here with the late John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry, President Bartlet's close ally and chief of staff.
Despite not having gone to college himself, Martin Sheen developed a relationship with Wright State University. In 2000, he developed the Sheen/Estevez & Augsburger Scholarship Fund, which has gone on to pay for more than $100,000 in scholarships for students pursuing the arts. Martin is pictured here at the 52nd Annual Directors Guild Awards the same year.
A night to remember! At the 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards in January 2001, Martin Sheen took home the prize for best performance by an actor in a television drama for his portrayal of President Josiah Bartlet on "The West Wing." This marked Martin's fifth Golden Globe nomination and first win. He would be nominated three more times in the same category for "The West Wing" in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
In 2001 and 2002, Martin Sheen also took home a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series for his work on "The West Wing." The acclaimed actor is seen here at the Seventh Annual SAG Awards in 2001 holding his two statues! That night, Martin and his cast "West Wing" also won for outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series.
In 2002, Martin Sheen took his talents behind the scenes when he created the production company Estevez Sheen Productions with son Ramón Estevez. Martin and Ramón are pictured here during the opening night performance of "God of Carnage" in Los Angeles in April 2011.
Martin Sheen brought daughter Renee Estevez as his date to the 2002 Golden Globe Awards, where he was nominated for his performance on "The West Wing" that year.
A role to remember! In 2006, Martin Sheen played a police captain in Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed crime drama "The Departed" co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga and Alec Baldwin. The film was highly celebrated, earning four Academy Awards including best picture, best director, best film editing and best adapted screenplay.
Martin Sheen and wife Janet Sheen — who'd been married for nearly 45 years at the time — attended a special premiere of "Speak Truth to Power" to benefit the Kennedy Center, with former President Bill Clinton as guest of honor, in New York City in October 2006.
In 2009, Martin Sheen appeared in three films: "Love Happens" (pictured), "Imagine That" and "The Kid: Chamaco." Three years later, he appeared on 20 episodes of son Charlie Sheen's sitcom "Anger Management" until the show's cancellation in 2014.
While giving a 2009 speech at Oxford University, Martin Sheen revealed that he'd been arrested 66 times for protesting. Craig Kielburger, a human rights activist, described the actor as possessing "a rap sheet almost as long as his list of film credits." Martin is seen here striking in support of SAG/AFTRA members in Los Angeles in 2000.
In 2010, Estevez Sheen Productions released the American-Spanish drama "The Way," which was written and directed by Emilio Estevez, who also starred as Martin Sheen's on-screen son in the flick. Martin's daughter and Emilio's sister, Renée, also appeared in the film that highlights the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages. "The Way" premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival.
Remember this film? Martin Sheen, seen here with Sally Field as Aunt May, played Ben Parker — Peter Parker's late uncle — in 2012's "The Amazing Spider-Man." The first installment of the trilogy grossed an impressive $757.9 million against a $230 million budget.
2014 marked the release of Ava DuVernay's historical drama "Selma," which is based on the voting rights marches of 1965. In the flick, Martin Sheen, who is pictured here alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. as civil rights attorney Fred Gray, portrayed real-life U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson. The film was praised critically and commercially, earning $66.8 million at the box office on a $20 million budget.
Since May 2015, Martin Sheen has starred on the hit Netflix comedy series "Grace and Frankie." The series, which is led by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, chronicles the titular characters' unlikely friendship after they find out their husbands — played by Martin and Sam Waterston — are gay and planning to marry each other. In September 2019, the series was renewed for its seventh and final season, making it Netflix's longest running original series.
Martin Sheen, pictured here at We Day UK in March 2015, had a quadruple heart bypass operation that December at 75. Following his father's surgery, Emilio Estevez took to Facebook to share that Martin was healthy and recovering: "My Pop! Successful proactive quadruple bypass surgery this week! A great Blessing indeed!"
Martin Sheen has never stopped advocating for environmental causes. He's pictured here at a Fire Drill Fridays rally, which focused on raising awareness about the climate change crisis, on Capitol Hill in January 2020. As for what's next for the actor-activist? In 2019, Martin landed the role of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover in an untitled movie about Black Panther Party activist Fred Hampton. In the historical film, Martin will star alongside Daniel Kaluuya, Lakeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons and Mark Francis. He's also set to appear in the 2020 sports drama "12 Mighty Orphans" alongside Robert Duvall and Luke Wilson.