Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

How Martin Sheen Came to be the Most Arrested Man in Hollywood

Samantha Flaum
© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Hollywood limelight will forever cast a wide net of criticism over the slightest slip-ups of the world’s most renowned actors and actresses. Especially when it comes down to police mugshots, some famous faces do not manage to come off well. Martin Sheen does not have any ridiculous arrest photos, but does he have a surprisingly long list of arrests: the most in Hollywood.

However, an organization called The Papillon Foundation has the motto, “The Greatest Crime is a Wasted Life,” clearly outlining the organization’s goal: to help people with arrest records remain active members of society, rather than becoming social outcasts.

American actor Martin Sheen. Photo by Brian McGuirk CC BY-SA 2.0

American actor Martin Sheen. Photo by Brian McGuirk CC BY-SA 2.0

It goes without saying, however, that they hardly need to give some of Hollywood’s best-known talents a hand. Actors and actress alike have been arrested, rearrested, and convicted time and time again, but still maintain a career in the film industry. And why shouldn’t they? Not every high-profile arrest comes about in a cloud of breathalyzers, confiscated pills, or abuse accusations.

Sheen in 1987. Photo by City of Boston Archives CC BY 2.0

Sheen in 1987. Photo by City of Boston Archives CC BY 2.0

When you link the charge to a celebrity, however, you think one of two things: either, it’s someone like John Lennon, put in cuffs during some sit-in (which never happened – his only arrest was for marijuana possession); or, there’s a misconception that civil disobedience includes public indecency, and thought reverts back to charges like intoxication or public urination.

Martin Sheen with son Emilio Estevez at the BFI premiere of his film ‘The Way’ in London February 2011. Photo by Sam CC BY-SA 2.0

Martin Sheen with son Emilio Estevez at the BFI premiere of his film ‘The Way’ in London February 2011. Photo by Sam CC BY-SA 2.0

Why is it so hard to think a celebrity could be arrested in the name of what they consider to be a good cause? Enter: Martin Sheen. It’s understandable to think dubiously of a man who’s been arrested a total 66 times as of 2007, especially when his son has been arrested for assault and went on a very public, drug-fueled downward spiral (Winning?!).

Martin Sheen is not a felon, however. All of his arrests are tied to activism. Unlike John Lennon, Sheen has been physically caught up in his protests. The 2007 arrest was for trespassing with the Nevada Desert Experience, a group staunchly committed to stop the testing of nuclear weapons in the U.S.

Sheen at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. Photo by Georges Biard CC BY-SA 3.0

Sheen at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. Photo by Georges Biard CC BY-SA 3.0

Referring to his first arrest in 1986 while protesting President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, Sheen says, “It was a terrifying experience, and also one of the happiest days of my life because it turned out we had done everything we possibly could to object to this idea.”

Martin Sheen at an anti-war protest in October 2007. Photo by Damon D’Amato CC BY 2.0

Martin Sheen at an anti-war protest in October 2007. Photo by Damon D’Amato CC BY 2.0

This was during a speech he delivered to Oxford University in 2009. Lamenting that it had then been a year since his latest arrest, Sheen underlined the importance of activism, saying that it’s what he does “to stay alive.”

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

Prefacing a face-to-face interview on the WE Charity’s YouTube special Shameless Idealists, head of the organization (formerly Free the Children), Craig Kielburger, jokes that Martin Sheen has “a rap sheet almost as long as his list of film credits.”

Read another story from us: Use the Force, Chucky! Mark Hamill Lends his Voice to ‘Child’s Play’ Remake

Martin Sheen is a polarizing figure for many, especially in the political arena. His methods and tactics surely may be questioned. But whatever one may think of Sheen, his films, his activism and the issues he considers worthy of being arrested for, there is no denying his conviction and courage for what he believes in. Something that can be shared across political ideologies.