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Martin Sheen's Longtime Wife Helped Him 'Heal Psychically' When He Thought He Was Going to Die

Gaone Pule
Apr 28, 2022
09:30 P.M.
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American actor Martin Sheen nearly died once because of his alcohol addiction. While filming a movie, he suffered a heart attack, and his wife's words gave him a reality check.  

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Martin Sheen was born in Dayton, Ohio, to immigrant parents, Mary-Ann (Phelan), an Irish immigrant, and Francisco Estevez, a Spanish-born factory worker, and machinery worker.  

Martin's real name is Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, a multiple Emmy award-winning, accomplished, and celebrated actor in Hollywood.  

Actor Martin Sheen during the LA premiere of "Apocalypse Now Final Cut" at ArcLight Cinerama Dome on August 12, 2019 in Hollywood, California. / Source: Getty Images

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The veteran's striking balance in his craft originated from his high school days when he joined the drama club and began auditioning for plays.  

Martin's first foray into acting was when he stepped on stage for the first time during his freshman year and played a yeoman court stenographer in Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial." 

However, his father had other plans for him. Francisco planned to send his son to the University of Dayton and even saved up some money every month.  

Martin Sheen as Gary McClain in the movie "That Certain Summer" on November 1, 1972. / Source: Getty Images

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But young Martin was equally determined to go against his father's wishes. He intended to go to New York to study theater instead as he developed a passion for the arts.  

As such, he did something rebellious. "The Way" star intentionally failed his entrance exam as a means to persuade his dad that college was not for him.  

After getting the courage to defy his dad, the universe favored Martin as things started to look up for him. His acting career took off, and to date, he has appeared in more than 65 films.  

Martin Sheen arriving at the WE Day California To Celebrate Young People Changing The World at The Forum on April 19, 2018 in Inglewood, California. / Source: Getty Images

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The role that made him into a household name included playing Army Captain Benjamin L. Willard in the movie "Apocalypse Now" in 1979.  

Martin's other notable credits include 1968's "The Subject Was Roses" as Timmy Cleary, in which he got nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Then came "Gandhi" (1982), followed by 1987's "Wall Street," where he starred alongside his son, Charlie Sheen, and actor Michael Douglas. 

He also starred in 1995's "The American President" and 2002's "Catch Me If You Can" with award-winning actors such as Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio.  

MARTIN MET HIS WIFE JANET SHEEN WHILE HE WAS STILL A STRUGGLING ACTOR

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Martin Sheen and Janet Sheen during "Insight" gala dinner at Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 1980 in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images

Martin met his lovely wife, Janet Sheen, in 1960 when he started as an aspiring actor, searching for acting gigs, and not long after, she arrived in New York. Originally, Janet is a Cincinnati, Ohio native, which is an hour's drive from Dayton.  

She is an actress and the daughter of an unmarried mother. Janet spent her first six years as a child with her grandparents in Kentucky before relocating to Cleveland.  

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The producer attended public schools and won scholarships to Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art. When Janet and her future husband crossed paths, she was on scholarship at the New School for Social Research, studying painting.  

Martin Sheen and his wife Janet Sheen during The Museum of Television & Radio's Annual Gala at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images

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The couple married in December 1961, and their lives as newlyweds was anything but easy. The pair struggled to make ends meet and were evicted from their Bronx apartment as they could not pay a month's rent. 

Martin said that experience tested his courage as a father and that moments that required decision-making pushed him to seek guidance and ask for assistance. The couple's first child, Emilio, was born in 1962. 

He mentioned that being responsible felt like a mission because taking care of his family was more like a duty. Martin turned to his father for help, who then accommodated him and his family because they had nowhere else to go.  

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Martin Sheen and Janet Sheen during The 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Red Carpet at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images

Martin and Janet packed whatever clothes they had and left everything else behind, and hitched a ride with his childhood friends, Dick O'Reilly and Gerry Gillotti.  

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The duo and their baby son, Emilio, crowded into the backseat of their small car all the way to their destination. Upon arrival, Martin and his family stayed in the house on Brown Street with his dad and brothers while he borrowed money from Cal Mayne, who owned Dorothy Lane Market.  

Finally, after feeling hopeless, Martin and Janet found a home. He signed a lease and began looking for furniture. While at it, neighbors told him that another actor, Paul Newman, rented a furnished room in the basement in the same building for $60.  

Martin Sheen and Janet Sheen during the Harvey Weinstein Screening of "Bobby" at Disney Screening Room in New York City, New York. / Source: Getty Images

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Like him, he had a rough beginning when starting out in the New York theater. Martin said he interpreted that information as a good sign. Soon after, he and Janet moved to New York again.  

"The West Wing" star said the daunting experience of being broke and homeless did not feel like an artistic sacrifice, mainly because they had a baby. "It felt desperate and frightening," said Martin. 

Once they settled in, he went job hunting the next day and found one at the Bay Street Car Wash on Staten Island. Though it was menial, the job helped support his family for the next six months until he landed acting roles on TV and on stage.  

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Most importantly, Martin was merely happy to have his wife and kid with him in their own place. The family of three lived in New York for two years. 

MARTIN'S ALCOHOL ADDICTION ALMOST ENDED HIS LIFE 

Martin Sheen pictured on the set of the film "Apocalypse Now," as Captain Benjamin L. Willard. / Source: Getty Images

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While Martin successfully managed to leave his impoverished life behind when his career took off, he found himself in a more dire situation, his alcohol addiction. 

The "Grace & Frankie" alum's career gradually evolved as he started in theatre, then went into small-scale film and television before hitting the big time. Martin revealed professional frustration fueled his drinking habits: 

"All actors are self-absorbed. I knew I was sentimental, morose and resentful. It’s an emotional spiral."

Martin Sheen posing for a portrait wearing a black t-shirt in February 2001 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images

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Though it was evident that he had a drinking problem, Martin was in denial about his addiction. He believed it would make him a better actor: 

"My drinking was a macho thing. Alcoholics think of drinking as an addition to their personality. For me, it was. 'This'll help me be a better actor.'" 

However, it did the opposite and almost destroyed his family when his spouse broke up with him "because she was furious." But his son never saw him as the type of person to run away from his problems which amazed Martin. 

Martin Sheen pictured with eldest son, actor, film director and screenwriter Emilio Esteves in Canada. / Source: Getty Images

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All grown up, Emilio said that family was important for his father and that it was never in danger because of his addiction. He trusted that his parents would overcome it: 

"I always knew how important the family was to you, and that was never in danger. You and mom would stick it out." 

Martin concurred with his eldest son stating he would have never blamed Janet if she left him or had him thrown out of the family home, "I had a sense of that, but I wouldn't have blamed her if she'd thrown me out or left," he said.  

Martin Sheen and Janet Sheen attending the special premiere of Speak Truth To Power at Pier Sixty on October 6, 2006 in New York City. / Source: Getty Images

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Emilio never thought that he could save his father from his habitual drinking. He noted that some families of alcoholics hid the alcohol, but there was nothing like that at home. The producer also admitted that his dad's uncontrollable emotions and behavior frightened them: 

"He was a terrible drunk. Some people are pleasant drunks. He would get sentimental and angry. It scared all of us."  

In a joint interview with his father in March 2011 with the Telegraph, Emilio recalled how Martin's drinking affected their relationship. He despised it when his dad got drunk because he would get violent with him.  

Emilio Estevez speaking onstage during WE Day UN 2019 at Barclays Center on September 25, 2019 in New York City. / Source: Getty Images

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Emilio noted that Martin might not remember it all, but the experience was harrowing, adding because he was the oldest, his father would direct his anger at him. 

The last physical fight between the father and son was in the Philippines. Emilio shared that the older he got, the more he lifted weights and developed the fearlessness to challenge Martin. 

THE MOMENT MARTIN'S LIFE FLASHED IN FRONT OF HIM 

Martin Sheen and his wife Janet Sheen arriving at "The West Wing" 100th Episode celebration at The Four Seasons Hotel on November 1, 2003 in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images

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Then came a time when Martin thought that he would die. When he was filming "Apocalypse Now" in the Philippines, the father of four was celebrating his 36th birthday and brought his family along. He became overly drunk, and his silliness spiraled out of control while on set.  

The movie's opening sequence in a Saigon hotel depicted his character, army assassin Captain Benjamin Willard alone, dangerous and emotional.  

Martin smashed his fist through a mirror and smeared his face with blood. He overdid the entire scene because he was drunk, which was unnecessary. Though he wanted to portray a picture-perfect image, he exposed his dark side.  

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Martin Sheen attending The Paley Center For Media's 2019 PaleyFest LA - "Grace And Frankie" at Dolby Theatre on March 16, 2019 in Hollywood, California. / Source: Getty Images

Later, Martin had a heart attack at the family's isolated cabin during the filming of the movie but stated that he was not scared during the ordeal: 

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"I thought I was going to die. I wasn't frightened until afterward when I realized how close I had come to dying. My arms froze. I went blind, lost my hearing and balance." 

Martin felt himself floating away and remembered thinking that it was the experience of dying and wondered what the fuss was all about. However, it then dawned on him that was the main issue.  

Martin Sheen during Stephanie Miller's Sexy Liberal Blue Wave Tour at The Saban Theatre on November 3, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images

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He realized that death would be the easy way out compared to living. The "Badlands" star remembered that he had loved ones who depended on him and decided to fight for his life.  

At that moment, he crawled while he waited for help and even chewed on grass. He told himself to remain conscious because it gave him hope.  

Martin later revealed that being stressed out while filming, his alcoholism, and his obsession with staying in shape and smoking three packets of cigarettes a day contributed to the cardiac arrest.  

Martin Sheen attending the Los Angeles leg of Stephanie Miller's Sexy Liberal Blue Wave Tour at The Saban Theatre on November 3, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. / Source: Getty Images

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"I felt so much anxiety afterward over how close to death I had been. I realized I was fragmented. I was an actor, a father, and an activist. I had to get whole," said Martin.  

When he was rescued and airlifted to Makati Medical Center in Manila and wheeled in, the Hollywood star divulged Janet's face suddenly popped up like a vision: 

"My wife Janet was running down the corridor, and I was on a gurney being wheeled in, and I looked up and saw her face. She leaned down and whispered, 'It's only a movie, babe.'" 

Actress Janet Sheen and Martin Sheen during the LA premiere of "Apocalypse Now Final Cut" at ArcLight Cinerama Dome on August 12, 2019 in Hollywood, California. / Source: Getty Images

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At that moment, Janet was helping her husband to recover as he had already survived the physical part of the heart attack. Now, her role helped his physical recovery. 

Martin explained that the bond between him and Janet when she gave birth to their second child, son Ramon, in 1963 solidified their marriage on that eventful day.  

MARTIN'S ROAD TO RECOVERY AND FINALLY BEING SOBER

Martin Sheen and Janet Sheen seen at the screening of "The Incident" during the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival on April 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images

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It took a lot for Martin to reach sobriety. Although he stopped drinking in 1989, it was not a conscious choice. Instead, he slowly eased out of his drinking habit and eventually stopped altogether over the years when he

realized

he became better: 

"I didn't consciously say, ‘This is it.' I just said I'm not doing it for now. Gradually I realized it was months later, and I was fine." 

From the day he suffered a heart attack, Janet's words stayed with him for years and even became his mantra. In December 2015, Martin underwent quadruple-bypass heart surgery, and his wife again helped him heal.  

Martin Sheen and Janet Sheen during Patricia Knop's "Sideshow" paintings and sculpture show at Trigg Ison Fine Arts Gallery on May 18, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. / Source: Getty Images

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Janet supported her spouse by being by his side and making him laugh, Martin exclusively told Closer Weekly in November 2016, adding though the procedure was intense, she handled it well: 

"It was very serious, and she handled it like a pro. She had me laughing in the most dire circumstances. She said, 'Don't take yourself so seriously.'" 

Emilio Estevez, Ramon Estevez, Charlie Sheen pictured with their parents Janet Sheen and Martin Sheen. / Source: Getty Images

When it comes to celebrating their time together, the pair does not fuss over it. Martin said anniversaries are only for their children and grandchildren while noting every day was a celebration with his beloved dame.  

Janet and Martin are proud parents of four kids, sons Emilio Estevez, Ramon Estevez, Charlie Sheen, and their daughter Renee Estevez.

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