Martin Sheen changed his name to become a successful Hollywood actor like his idol James Dean – but today, the star wished he could have stayed as Ramon Estévez.
"That’s one of my regrets," the 81-year-old recently told Closer Weekly. "I never changed my name officially. It’s still Ramon Estévez on my birth certificate. It’s on my marriage license, my passport, driver’s license. Sometimes you get persuaded when you don’t have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in, and you pay for it later. But, of course, I’m only speaking for myself."
It was 1968 when Sheen, the father of Charlie Sheen, starred in an adaptation of "Hamlet" in New York City. He has since led a decades-long career in Hollywood appearing in hit films and shows like "Apocalypse Now," "Badlands," "Wall Street" and "The West Wing" among others.
Sheen told the outlet that despite his father’s objections, after finishing high school, he chose to leave "almost immediately" for New York.
"You couldn’t blame him," Sheen reflected on his father's disapproval. "Both my parents were immigrants. My father was from Spain, and my mother was from Ireland. My real name is Ramon Estévez. My father was very practical. He was a factory worker for most of his adult life, and he wanted me to go to college and improve my chances of making a better living than he did. We had some very, very painful confrontations about it."
But eventually, the patriarch warmed up to the idea of his son pursuing show business.
"He was a big fan of TV Westerns in the ’50s," Sheen explained. "One night, we started a discussion about my going to New York. He said to me, ‘You want to go into the theater. You can’t sing, you can’t dance. You don’t know what you’re doing!’ I said, ‘Pop, you sit here every night watching Westerns — do you see anyone singing or dancing?’ He said, ‘No, but you don’t ride a horse either.’ He finally saw that I was committed and realized it would be a life and death struggle with me if I didn’t pursue it. When I got ready to go, he blessed me, and he continued to bless me the rest of his life. I adored him."
All four of Sheen’s children went on to pursue acting careers: Charlie, as well as Emilio Estevez, Renée Pilar Estevez, and Ramon Estevez. Charlie’s birth name is Carlos Irwin Estévez.
Sheen said that at first, he "wasn’t aware" that they all wanted to make their marks in Hollywood.
"I was so self-involved and trying to be a provider that I wasn’t aware of their inclination to being actors," he said. "I was doing a show one time, and Emilio showed up. I thought he was there to visit me, but he’d gotten a part in the same show. The only influence I had on Emilio was to keep his name. When he started out, his agent was advising him to change his name to Sheen, and he wouldn’t do it. And I thank God he didn’t."
Looking back at his career, Sheen said he has a favorite role, and it pays homage to his roots.
"The one that fills me with the deepest gratitude and satisfaction is called ‘The Way,’’ said Sheen about the 2010 film. "We made it in Spain about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and dedicated it to my father, who was from Galicia. It was written, directed and starred my son Emilio Estevez. It is the best thing I’ve ever done. Thousands of people have seen the film and been inspired to do the pilgrimage. That is a great source of satisfaction and pride."