Charlie Sheen - A man of the people

By Hannah Tattersall

Charlie Sheen is riding the crest of a fame wave but still has time for his fans. Hannah Tattersall reports

'Anger Management' star Charlie Sheen still has time for his fans. Photo / AP
'Anger Management' star Charlie Sheen still has time for his fans. Photo / AP

After his well-publicised drug-fuelled meltdown, in which he famously declared himself in possession of "tiger's blood" and to be "winning" at well, life, most people had just about had enough of Charlie Sheen.

Not the FX network in the US, which lined the actor up for 100 episodes of its new television series, Anger Management. Sure enough, shortly after his dismissal from popular comedy Two and a Half Men, audiences were in for another large dose of the controversial star.

But the truth is, people love Charlie Sheen. He has an army of fans, including almost nine million followers on Twitter. Certainly when I turn up to meet the actor outside a bar in downtown New York, hordes of them appear out of nowhere. Phones start flashing and shouts of "Charlie! Charlie!" ring out across the street. One guy begs Sheen's publicist to let him have a picture taken with his "idol".

What sets Sheen apart from other celebrities is his willingness to co-operate. The actor rarely turns away a fan, for the simple reason that back when Sheen was a young baseball devotee, one of his idols refused him an autograph and left him feeling angry and rejected.

"I've kind of become a man of the people, as cliched as that sounds," the actor admits. "I love the people. They're not intimidated by me. I hate creating fear in people - I feel like a bully. They're already so nervous and so vulnerable coming up I have to spend an extra minute making them feel comfortable."

His eagerness to please is a side of Sheen not often played out in the media. Yes, he can be charming and charismatic, but there's that other part of him that doesn't hold back. He clearly still holds resentment towards Two and Half Men creator Chuck Lorre, who sacked him from the show, and refers to it mockingly throughout our interview as Two and a Half Losers.

Despite this, Sheen still expects to make an appearance in the show's final episode. "There's still people that I would want to avoid for the rest of my life, because they suck and they always will and it's not my fault and at this point it's none of my business what they do," he says. "But I think with the foundation I was able to create and the success we had I've earned the right to be in that final episode."

Until then, Sheen is riding the popularity of Anger Management, an easy-to-watch comic series churned out at the rate of 27 episodes in three months. But Sheen insists this series, about a therapist battling his own anger issues, is formulaic without being sappy.

"Television is like a toilet that won't flush right now, you know? It's full of so many turds," he says. "We don't wrap up every show perfectly in the last scene at the end of the show in the mayor's office."

The constant filming schedule also keeps Sheen out of trouble and means he'll be finished in two years. The star, whose daughter is expecting a baby, says by then he'll have had enough of acting.

"I'm looking forward to this grandfather thing, I'm looking forward to retirement. Hell yeah, after the show's done, I'm done. Two more years," he says.

It's hard to imagine Sheen will give it all up - he's only 47 now - but you'd be forgiven for believing Sheen had lived a number of lifetimes. His first casting was at age 19 in the film Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze, before he landed roles in cult favourite Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Oliver Stone's Platoon and Wall Street, which set him on a path to quick success. But his hard-partying lifestyle has always dominated headlines more than his acting abilities. His face has been frequently plastered across tabloids alongside the words drugs, alcohol, prostitutes and arrest - often simultaneously.

The way he sees it however, is that he's never done anything that bad. "I've never busted in with a machine gun or murdered harp seals," he says. "I'm just trying to contribute something while maybe learning something, you know? Or not. I'm just trying to enjoy the moment."

Midway through our interview, one of Sheen's entourage turns up and tells the actor he's had a media offer from Australia: $700,000 to turn up to an event. Sheen asks if it's for charity.

"There has to be a charity component. I'm very philanthropic," he says.

Sheen has donated much of his money to various causes and individuals, including US$75,000 (NZ$88,300) to a young girl dying of cancer last year, and US$100,000 (NZ$117,800) to help troubled star Lindsay Lohan when she couldn't pay her tax bill.

Was that bout of generosity because he sees a bit of his own behaviour in the actress?

"No, I'm not that hapless," he says, before adding, "I'm joking.

"In certain ways, but because she doesn't have the - and there's no disrespect for her - the type of filmography that stands on its own, she's a much easier target," he says of Lohan.

"But they forget how good she was as a child and that talent doesn't go away. She's that good - she's got to get out of her own way."

With a new film coming out, Roman Coppola's A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, in which Sheen plays a tormented soul who gradually self-destructs after a break-up, a steady TV series and a grandchild ahead, is Sheen finally growing up?

It's not likely. "I act like I'm 12," he says. Then rethinks this. "No, no. Fifteen."

The second series of Anger Management starts on TV2 tonight at 8pm.

- Herald on Sunday

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