In the late 80s and 90s Charlie Sheen was at the top of his game, starring in hit films like “Hot Shots!,” and “Being John Malkovich.” His career continued on an upward spiral well into the new millennium as he made his debut into television in popular series’ like “Spin City” and eventually “Two and A Half Men.” His talents were recognized with countless awards. So, how did the man once known as the highest paid actor in television become a volatile star known most for his tiger blood rant? Here’s a look back at the valiant rise and eventual fall of Charlie Sheen.
From a young age it seemed Sheen, born Carlos Irwin Estéves, was destined for greatness. His father, Martin Sheen, was an esteemed actor, and his mother, Janet Templeton, a well-known artist. Each of his three siblings, two brothers and one sister, grew up to become actors, so it seems only natural that he would follow suit. Charlie got his start at just 9 years old, landing a role in his father’s film “The Execution of Private Slovik.” While the film wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, it served as a foot in the door for the aspiring star. After his premiere role the California transplant returned to school at Santa Monica High School where his love for film shined. Charlie, joined by his brother Emilio, now 53, close friends Rob Lowe and Sean Penn started Super 8 films, an amature film company, all the while trying to earn his diploma. Sadly, he was expelled just weeks before graduation.
With his hopes of graduating high school out the window Charlie was down, but not out. He began to focus in on acting, landing roles in films like “Red Dawn,” which he starred in alongside actors like Patrick Swayze and C. Thomas Howell, and “Wall Street.” He went on to work with big-name stars, such as Clint Eastwood and Michael Madsen. By 1994, he had been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and just three years later, decided to delve into a new, previously unexplored, side of his career: filmmaking. While his career was skyrocketing upward his personal life was spiraling out of control.
Behind the scenes Charlie was partaking in a lifestyle that all too often ends the careers of young stars. According to Vanity Fair, he’d smoked his first joint at 11. It wasn’t until 23, however, that things really got out of control. Charlie was said to have been partaking in more drugs, alcohol and sex for hire than most young men could ever dream of. At 25 he was faced with his first intervention during his father’s 50th birthday party. He agreed to attend rehab, though his walk down the straight and narrow would be short lived. After returning to his normal life he and his adult film star girlfriend Ginger Lynn leaned on one another, though much of their relationship was based on a mutual co-dependence and sex, which Charlie was paying top-dollar for.
In 1998, Charlie’s drug use became national news. He’d decided to start injecting himself with cocaine after years of snorting it left him with just the shell of what was once his nose. His first injection failed to produce the desired results, so he decided to give it another go. Before collapsing on the ground he alerted his body guard, who happened to have been present at the time, to call 911. Paramedics responding to the incident decided to go to the media, sharing the full details about just what exactly had happened to the actor. Still, Charlie was unfazed. After regaining consciousness he decided to check himself out of the hospital and return to his destructive lifestyle.
By this time Charlie’s addictions were causing concern among his family, specifically his father, Martin, 75. According to an interview with AARP (via USA Today) in 2008, he alerted the authorities to his son’s behavior. At the time he had just checked himself into rehab, likely in an attempt to avoid jail time. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t hack it at the facility and checked out after only a few hours. Police found him the following day, drunk and under the influence of illegal substances. He was forced to check into rehab for a second time and stay there. When he emerged it became clear that his career had taken a monumental hit. No one wanted to hire him and it seemed that he may finally be through.
After several appearances in less than desirable films Charlie found his niche: he began playing characters with struggles similar to his own. This tactic was first employed in 2000 by casting directors on “Rated X,” who signed him to play an x-rated film producer with an affinity for alcohol. From there he went on to land respectable roles in shows like “Spin City,” on which he replaced actor Michael J. Fox, and in time, “Two and a Half Men.”
The show began in 2003 and was a great success. Viewers loved Charlie and his co-star Jon Cryer and were eating up the playful banter between the two. Week after week people tuned in to CBS to watch Charlie take on the role of Charlie Harper, whose love of the party lifestyle and women bore a striking similarity to his own. While it seemed that things were finally looking up for the show’s star once more, behind the scenes things were still in shambles. The show took a hiatus in January 2011 while Charlie checked into rehab for the third time that year. Around the same time he launched an Internet tirade against the network which went viral. Though the video made its rounds on the Web, making “winning” a part of every moderately young person’s vocabulary, it was anything but funny.
Charlie lost his role on the show in March 2011 with Ashton Kutcher coming in to replace him. He continues to work and now has a recurring role as the star of FX’s “Anger Management.” Despite his many successful role and accolades, it’s Charlie’s outlandish behavior that sits in the forefront of most people’s brains. On Nov. 17, Charlie appeared on “Today” where he admitted, for the first time, that he is HIV-positive.
He is being treated by Robert Huizenga, who appeared on “Today” alongside him to discuss his diagnosis, treatment plans and more. Huizenga, who some may recognize as the physician on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” clarified Charlie’s situation to viewers, assuring them he does not have AIDS. The actor claimed all three of his ex-wives, including Denise Richards, were made aware of his status. He also admitted that he has had unprotected sex since receiving his diagnosis.
So, what does this mean for Charlie’s career? Likely nothing. In the years since he arrived on the scene he’s become somewhat of a comeback kid, crawling out of each and every seemingly career-ending hole he’s been thrust into. He has defied the odds by living and working while addicted to substances and sex, returned to TV after losing a major role and continues to be the subject of conversation amongst generations of TV and film-watchers. To put it simply, Charlie is, and always has been, an anomaly in Hollywood.