May 13, 2015

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen has been a fixture in Hollywood for 50 years, often playing presidents and other figures of grave and pressing authority, but in his early years, he played delinquents and bad boys.  He was never a child star or teen idol -- he didn't start acting professionally until he was in his 20s.

 He had nearly a decade of guest spots on tv programs as diverse as Flipper and Twilight Zone, making a big impression (although that's not what it looks like) but not receiving critical acclaim.

Then came The Incident (1967), a drama about two young hoodlums (Martin and Tony Musante) who terrorize the passengers on a subway car (including Jeff Bridges).

One of the passengers, by the way, is gay, marking The Incident as the first time -- but by no means the last -- that a Martin Sheen vehicle has included gay characters.

In That Certain Summer (1973), the first tv movie to include gay characters, teenage Scott Jacob discovers that his dad (Hal Holbrook) is gay.  Martin played his lover.

In Consenting Adult (1985), a married couple (Martin Sheen, Marlo Thomas) discover that their son (Barry Tubb) is gay. Martin's character doesn't react well.

In 1986, he played the character of Ned Weeks, a gay journalist attempting to document the rise of AIDS, in The Normal Heart on the London stage.

In 8 (2012), he played Theodore Olson, the attorney who introduced a federal lawsuit challenging California's Proposition 8 (which banned same-sex marriage).

Beefcake in his early performances, and bulges in all the right places throughout his career.  Not a lot of buddy-bonding, and a bit of homophobia (as in The Believers), but the negatives are overwhelmed by his gay-positive roles.

Besides, among his many liberal causes, Martin Sheen is a champion of gay rights.


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