Martin Sheen makes no apologies for his strong pro-life stance. The veteran actor realized he was bucking the Hollywood crowd when he revealed the “shocking rape” that gave him his wife of over 60 years, forever changing his life.
Well-known for his role as President Bartlet in the television drama The West Wing, actor Martin Sheen, born Ramon Estevez, gave an interview in which he revealed the startlingly personal reasons for his “strong” anti-abortion stance that included a “shocking rape” involving his wife Janet Templeton. The couple wed in 1961.
Sheen, a complex character whose Catholic devotional life and pro-life views have always bucked the Hollywood crowd, was interviewed by Irish journalist Gay Byrne who set out to get Sheen on the record about why he is so staunchly anti-abortion. “Your anti-abortion stance is very strong indeed,” Byrne said to Sheen. “Tell me what you told me on the Late Late Show in 1987 as to why that is.”
Sheen responded, “Well, we had pregnancies with our grandsons, three specifically. And we welcomed these children and encouraged the mothers to have the children and gave them support. The lads were not happy at the time, but they came to love these children. We have three grown grandchildren. Two of them are married. They’re some of the greatest sources of joy in our lives.”
Sheen went on to note that his wife Janet struggled after the conception of their fourth child, but chose life despite the circumstances after speaking with a therapist. However, Byrne then enquired about Janet. “Was she not born because of a rape?” he asked. Sheen claimed his wife would rather that he not speak about that shocking personal story, but he does admit that she was conceived in rape.
Byrne followed up, suggesting that “if there had been an abortion she would not exist.” Sheen revealed further that even after birth, Janet’s mother contemplated “dumping her in the Ohio River,” adding “aunts raised her till she was six, after which her mother, with a new husband, came to collect her,” he said.
Martin Sheen’s faith also led him to buck Hollywood with another personal story. Hollywood doesn’t take chances on making films about Christianity, but Sheen decided to team up with his son, Emilio Estevez, to make a faith-based movie inspired by a trip Sheen took with his grandson to Spain. His wife, Janet Templeton Sheen, served as an executive producer on the film titled The Way, which turned out to be a real family affair.
The Way was born out of an impromptu driving trip Martin Sheen took with his grandson Taylor on the Camino de Santiago, a thousand-year-old walking pilgrimage trail in the north of Spain. There, Taylor (Emilio’s son) met the girl of his dreams, who became his wife. Inspired by the trail, The West Wing star enlisted the writing talent of his son to make a movie with the Camino as the backdrop.
Estevez initially resisted the idea but was later convinced a moving story of faith should be told. He started with his main character Tom, played by Sheen, a backslidden Catholic who treks the Camino after his son accidentally dies walking the trail during a violent storm. “In many ways, I lost my son [Taylor] in the Camino, not tragically, but I lost him to Spain,” said Estevez.
From there, the actor-turned-screenwriter/director penned Tom’s story, one reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. “[Tom’s] a stranger in a strange land,” explained Estevez. “He finds himself in Spain alone, and he wants to be alone. Unlike Dorothy who invites the other three to come along, Tom doesn’t want to have anything to do with them,” he continued. “They invite themselves; and isn’t it true that sometimes people come into our lives who we don’t want to have anything to do with, ultimately teach us the greatest lessons,” Estevez added. “So the idea was, through these three individuals, Tom would become a father to them in many ways that he was never able to be a father to Daniel.”
Not many movies coming out of Hollywood these days are ones you can take your elderly parents and high school kids to see. That’s what’s so unique about The Way. Sheen’s character begrudgingly takes his son’s place walking the Camino, and through that pilgrimage, he finds his way back to God.