I tell Charlie that my name, Marlow, is from the protagonist of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness—the character his father, Martin Sheen, would later play in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of that novella, Apocalypse Now, which is Charlie’s favorite movie of all-time. Charlie offers me a Marlboro Red. I oblige and we begin chain-smoking on the patio of the Trump International Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
You seem to have a unique fascination with the film Apocalypse Now, which plays on a continuous loop in your house. Is it due to your father’s health scare on set?
It’s that and it also redefined a father and son playing catch together. When he had the heart attack and we saw the shape he was in, the only exercise he could muster was throwing the ball every day. As a 10-year-old, I had no idea I was helping him build up his strength. I thought we were just playing catch. And that’s where Roman [Coppola] and I first met—at Kurtz’s compound. He was working in the makeup department as a 10-year-old.
Any surprises in store for this season of Anger Management?
My dad is a cast regular now, which is great. Slash is on the show briefly. Who am I forgetting? We work so fast, and the pace is so frenetic. It takes us two days. We’ll shoot an episode Monday and Tuesday, take Wednesday off, and then shoot another one Thursday/Friday.
You and your father seem to have great chemistry together onscreen—whether it’s the elevator scene in Wall Street or Anger Management.
It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had with anybody else. We’re really good friends to start with, and we’re both very generous actors. Whatever he needs I’ll give him, and vice versa. And it’s pretty cool when Capt. Willard will turn to you and say, “How would you say this line?” He loves it as a break from The West Wing.
Speaking of Anger Management, can you recall a time where you were ever at your angriest?
Oh, sure. It was around a thing I got arrested for, so I don’t know if I should really talk about it, but…Aspen. Let’s just say “Aspen.” You can always leave the room. And they’re just words, not daggers.
One of the questions posed in the opening scene of Charles Swan is “Do you feel like people don’t understand you?” Do you?
I don’t think they do, but I think they’re starting to. I think that whole meltdown a couple of years ago, as bizarre as it was and whatever happened as a result, it gave people a chance to see that I didn’t have to play the part of the guy being interviewed or whatever mask I had to put on. I just went, “Fuck it. This is who I am.” But now, people are like, “Well, this is the guy we came to know way back when.”
In Charles Swan, your character is dumped by the woman who you believe is your great love. Do you have a “one that got away”?
Yeah, I do, actually. Denise and I are really good friends, and Brooke and I will maybe be friends one day—not right now, but that’s on her, not me. Like I can’t even go into that. I’m not the one ingesting pharmacies of “brain help” and psychotropics, you know? But there was a girl named Renee Love. She matched her name. She was the Brooke Shields we fell in love with in Blue Lagoon—but of age. I don’t want my girlfriend now to read this and say, “What the hell?” cause this was a hundred years ago. But maybe I’m with the one now that I wasn’t going to let get away.
What’s so special about your current girlfriend, Georgia Jones?
Just everything about her, nose to toes. She gets my humor, every stroke of it and every nuance. And all she wants for me to be is healthy. She doesn’t care about the fame or success or any of that.
Charles Swan is all about a man living vicariously through his daydreams. What does Charlie Sheen fantasize about?
That I would live in the penthouse of the Hotel Grand Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam. Pretty much. But I’ve got five kids and a day job and everything else. But I’d also like to travel by choice or just have time to read a book. It’s been a few years since I’ve even finished one.
You used to run with a pretty cool crew back in the day—Sean Penn, Chris Penn, Rob Lowe, and your brother, Emilio, making Super 8 films. Do you remember the craziest one you guys made?
Sean directed one called Rooftop Killer about a sniper, and I played the sniper. Sean was four years older and wanted things to be a little more intense. We would show these movies to our classrooms and wouldn’t tell the teacher what they’re about. So it opens with me putting a rifle together, going up on the roof, and delivering a headshot—and the person who gets shot is also me, because we didn’t have an actor that day.
Now, your father played the president on The West Wing and you also play the president in the upcoming film Machete Kills. What’s your president like?
That was a helluva day in the Oval Office. He’s gnarly. In one day, I swore, drank, smoked, had multiple women in my bed, and put a hit out on a drug kingpin—played by Mel Gibson.
Lady Gaga makes her acting debut in that. How are her acting chops?
We didn’t share any scenes but I actually spoke to her on the phone. She wanted me to do a music video with her that was going to be the first X-rated video. It’s her going to this strip club, with Britney Spears or somebody, and they’re dancers and I’m the customer. And she wanted to do a full striptease as a lap dance for me, and she told me, “If there’s one person that should receive this X-rated lap dance, it’s you.” I was so flattered, but we never spoke again.
You’re also in Scary Movie 5, and you shared scenes with Lindsay Lohan. There was a huge exposé last week in The New York Times Magazine chronicling her disastrous behavior on the set of another movie. What’s she like to work with?
She was pretty cool. I felt bad for her. I was with some of her team the night before making sure she got on this plane, and all I wanted to do was rehearse the scene with her one-on-one because I have a lot of experience in this genre. But I couldn’t get her to rehearse it, so we only met in the makeup trailer about five minutes before shooting. She was shy and vulnerable, but her instincts are dead on.
And you footed her tax bill, I read?
They offered me a ton of dough for one day, half a mil. But then they said they were going to cut it in half when they were hiring Lindsay. I asked her how much she was being paid, and she said $100,000, so I just gave her $100,000 of their money. Paying it forward.
Why? Did you sympathize with all the media scrutiny she’s gone through?
Yeah, a lot. I was hoping that she would pick my brain a little bit on the set. That’s the one thing that was really missing from the experience.
At this point, the director Allen Hughes (Broken City) approaches Charlie and the two chat for a bit. Charlie is a huge fan of Hughes’s film Book of Eli.
Looking back on the whole meltdown, “tiger blood,” and all that, do you have any regrets?
Yeah. I wouldn’t have been as vocal or that open house about the whole thing. But I had to get my message across. The reasons they were firing me were completely falsified. If they wanted to fire me for things that were being said in the press, that’s fine, but my set behavior? I was so mad because I’m a pro. And to this day, I haven’t received a phone call from Chuck Lorre.
What do you think of Two and a Half Men now? It’s pretty DOA.
I feel bad for Jon [Cryer]. They lost their anchor and really went adrift. I think they’re all doing the best they can with what they got left, but I don’t think it should continue past this year. I really don’t.
Do you think you’d ever want to settle down again and start a family?
I don’t know. I’ve been trying to pull off the multi-girlfriend thing and it doesn’t really work. It is tough. But it’s an experiment I’m not done trying. I think it keeps everything fresh, and as a guy, you explore your appetite
.As one of the most legendary partiers in Hollywood history, have you ever met anyone who can keep up with you?
Oh yeah. I’ll just say “No. 22,” cause this person will read it and know what I’m talking about. They can fucking roll. And Johnny Depp. Johnny is hardcore, man. Sean [Penn] is hardcore. Sean is hard to keep up with when he’s going. And he’s gnarly. He’s the best actor alive.
One of the things that has always been a mystery to me is you and Kelly Preston. It seemed like right after you guys split, she immediately ran over and married John Travolta and converted to Scientology. Did that ever strike you as odd?
Kelly was a sweetheart, man. Super gorgeous and very cool. I don’t know anything about John’s sexuality and all that because I wasn’t there. There have been rumors and this and that, and she had a very strong stand against—not the [gay] community, but that she would never want to be “at risk” like that. But then she went out with somebody who was radically rumored to be bi. It’s a trip. Good guy, though. Met [Travolta] a few times and like him a lot.
Lastly, got anything else in the pipeline?
It’s hard to look at films right now because of the show, but I’m dying to get Sean [Penn], Ed Harris, Denzel Washington on the show. But I’m finally having fun, man. And it’s not because I’m doing it my way; it’s because I’m doing it the right way. And all this philanthropic work is just me in the moment. I don’t do it to get publicized or whatever. You got to pay it forward, man. If you don’t pay it forward, you shouldn’t get paid.