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Sheen Retires to New Role

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Original content from the Irish Times.

'President Bartlet' retiring to new role at NUIG

April 8, 2006
By Frank McNally
 

The Government should not believe anything the U.S. says about its use of Shannon airport, because the White House is controlled by "a bunch of gangsters", The West Wing actor Martin Sheen has claimed. But the man famous for playing a fictional U.S. President admits he may have to tone down his opposition to the real one during his next major role, as a full-time student in NUI Galway. 

Speaking after an honorary arts doctorate was conferred on him by the National University of Ireland yesterday, Sheen (65) said he would become the "oldest undergraduate" at NUIG later this year when he begins a course in philosophy and English literature.

As a "foreign student", he believes he will have to curtail his real-life political activism, although he regards the use of Shannon by the U.S. military as an "outrage". He also considers President Bush a "very, very dangerous man" who has "opened the gates of hell in Iraq".

Sheen has been arrested more than 60 times in the U.S. for acts of civil disobedience. On a previous visit to Ireland, playing his TV role as President Bartlett, he issued a "pardon" to the five Catholic worker activists who attacked a U.S. aircraft at Shannon. "I still support them," he said yesterday.

He shot his final episode of The West Wing last week and says he will now "slow down a bit", although he has already featured in a film directed by his son Emilio Estevez about the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Born Ramon Estevez to a Spanish father and a Tipperary mother, Sheen deliberately failed his university entrance exam so he could pursue a career in acting. He used to boast about never having been to college, "but gradually realised what I'd missed".

One of his concerns about attending NUIG is that he would be a "distraction" to other students. Despite such concerns, he will be attending lectures like everyone else. "I'm very serious about it," he said.

The Irish Times


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