“I’m not crazy anymore,” Charlie Sheen announced this past January at the Fox Network Television Critics Association party in Pasadena, California. He said it with a chuckle, but there was an unmistakable sincerity to his confession. Usually when famous actors suffer a public scandal there are apologies and pleas for forgiveness. Not too often do they come right out and admit they went bat-shit crazy.
Of course, denying his insanity might have been an exercise in futility. Few celebrities have had quite as dramatic or memorable a meltdown as Charlie Sheen. When 2011 began he was one of the highest-paid actors on TV, earning an estimated $40 million annually for starring on Two and a Half Men. And then, seemingly overnight, he went off the rails. The show took a production hiatus in late January as Sheen dealt with his public addictions to drugs, porn stars, trashing hotel rooms, etc., and during the next few months he went on a media tirade, doing increasingly erratic TV and radio interviews. He coined such catchphrases as “winning,” “tiger blood” and “Adonis DNA.” He claimed to be a warlock and a Vatican assassin who was fed up with “pretending I’m not a total bitchin’ rock star from Mars.” One minute he bragged about “banging seven-gram rocks” during a typical night of partying, and the next minute the only drug he’d admit to using was called Charlie Sheen, which he claimed normal people couldn’t take without melting their faces and causing their children to weep over their exploded bodies. He introduced the world to his “goddesses,” two girlfriends (one, Bree Olson, is a former porn star) who lived and had sex with him at his self-described Sober Valley Lodge. In March Sheen was fired by Warner Bros. for “felony offenses involving moral turpitude,” which at the time seemed to be an understatement.
It took more than a year, but Sheen is finally back on TV with a new comedy, Anger Management, on the FX network. He plays a minor league baseball player turned therapist, and it will be either a triumphant return for the troubled actor or the final nail in his acting career’s coffin. We sent writer Eric Spitznagel, who recently interviewed Jon Hamm and Craig Ferguson for Playboy, to meet with Sheen and find out whether the former tiger-blood-fueled warlock is really on the road to recovery. He reports: “Day one was spent on the set of Anger Management, somewhere deep in the San Fernando Valley. As I waited for Sheen to finish dress rehearsals, I chatted with his personal bodyguard, Gil, an Israel Army recruit who’s surprisingly funny for a man covered in concealed weapons, and Bob Maron, the guy who writes Sheen’s Twitter feed and supplies him with $100,000 watches, who was wearing a homemade jean jacket with a drawing of a tiger and ‘No. 1’ written on the back. After rehearsal wrapped, Sheen and I talked in his trailer, the infamous former party bus he’s had since Spin City, which is now decorated with crayon drawings from his children and outfitted with a fridge weirdly lacking in alcoholic beverages.
“The next day, he invited me to his home in a Los Angeles gated community, just down the street from rock guitarist Slash. Once again the setting was more domestic than debauched. There was an actual apple pie cooling on the stove. ‘It’s all set dressing,’ Sheen joked. ‘As soon as you leave, all the drug paraphernalia and porn stars come out of the attic.’ Sheen made me a smoothie, spiked with nothing but strawberries. After he showed me his dad’s helmet from Apocalypse Now and we’d talked at length about baseball and why the Chicago Cubs will probably never win another World Series, we sat at his kitchen table and got down to business. During our conversation Sheen smoked so many Marlboro Reds that even my lungs hurt.”
PLAYBOY: Anger Management is the second time you play a character named Charlie, after Two and a Half Men, right?
SHEEN: The third. I was Charlie on Spin City too.
PLAYBOY: Is that by choice? Is it just easier for you to remember?
SHEEN: I think it happens a lot in sitcoms. Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano and Bob Newhart all used their real first names. It’s also easier for audiences so they’re not confused by a new character. They feel they’re already familiar with me right off the bat.
PLAYBOY: The Charlie you played on Two and a Half Men had a lot in common with you. How is the Anger Management Charlie similar to you?
SHEEN: He’s not. I hear that shit all the time. It’s like, Really, you want me to put my life on TV? Put it on fucking cable on Mars. “But it’s so similar!” Really? Have you ever hung out with me? Idiots.
PLAYBOY: So you never draw on your personal life for your fictional life?
SHEEN: Now and again there are themes that might be similar. I think that’s fine. If it’s done tastefully, it’s cool. There are times when they go too far and I’ll tell them. I’m done playing a drunken, womanizing, immature character. This time I’m playing an adult. The guy on Anger Management is professionally accomplished, a former ballplayer learning to overcome his anger issues.
PLAYBOY: You went to anger therapy, right?
SHEEN: I went for a year. I learned some good shit there. This may sound stupid, but it all comes down to sticks and stones. You know what I mean? Sticks and stones may break my bones——
PLAYBOY: But words will never hurt me.
SHEEN: Exactly. There’s so much value in that. The idea of leaving the room sometimes when you’re angry. Just leave the room! If someone follows you, go to a different room. If they keep following you, get in your car. If they follow you in your car, drive to a police station. There are ways to not engage. It’s like my dad [actor Martin Sheen] always said: Women know what buttons to push because they helped build the machine. So every time you give in to that, you’re playing right into their hands. It’s a good point. He’s a wise man.
PLAYBOY: Your dad just celebrated a big anniversary.
SHEEN: His 50th wedding anniversary.
PLAYBOY: How does somebody get to 50 years in a marriage?
SHEEN: I have no fucking idea. [laughs]
PLAYBOY: Has he given you any relationship advice?
SHEEN: Dad always stressed the value of the truth. He said you never have to look over your shoulder when you tell the truth. You never have to remember the details, because they are what they are. And you don’t have to make sure your story matches everyone else’s. Just tell the truth and you’re home free. If there are amends to be made, you make them. You own it and move on.
PLAYBOY: Speaking of telling the truth, we should talk about last year and your whole so-called meltdown.
SHEEN: Where do you want to begin?
PLAYBOY: Let’s start with the basics. What the hell happened, man?
SHEEN: [Laughs] I don’t know what happened. I think I cracked.
PLAYBOY: Did Two and a Half Men break your brain?
SHEEN: I don’t think it was the show in particular. It was the buildup of all the time I’ve been in the business, the divorces and everything. I started to unravel. I was mad about having to play the game—not that I was playing it well, but I’d been doing it for so long. I finally just said the things I had always been thinking. [laughs] But in the middle of a psychotic break.
PLAYBOY: Sean Penn called you a performance artist. Is it possible the whole year was one big hoax?
SHEEN: That’s cool that he said that. It’s a compliment, but it’s not what was going on. I didn’t have a master plan. I didn’t realize it was going to create such a global firestorm. At the time, it felt like I was watching a lot of it from above, you know what I mean?
PLAYBOY: Like an out-of-body experience?
SHEEN: Yeah. It was surreal. And it never occurred to me where this stuff was going to end up or how it was going to be perceived. I didn’t care about anything beyond the moment. And then I was a little shocked by how huge the whole thing became. It was like an organism you couldn’t stop. It kept growing.
PLAYBOY: Some of the things you said will haunt you forever. “Winning” is now part of the pop-culture lexicon.
SHEEN: I guess so. You know what’s interesting about that? It’s stated in the present tense. We were in the act of winning. It was current. It wasn’t “We’ve won” or “We’re going to win.”
PLAYBOY: It was an active verb.
PLAYBOY: Is that why people connected with it so much?
SHEEN: That’s part of it. The economy was in the toilet and people were dealing with their horrible bosses. So they were like, “Oh, here’s a guy who stood up to his boss, who had the balls to say, ‘Fuck it, you’re wrong, I’m right.’ ”
PLAYBOY: You kept insisting you were winning when everything that was happening in your life and career at the time seemed like the complete opposite of winning.
SHEEN: Absolutely. I was in total denial.
PLAYBOY: Was it just positive thinking? If you say you’re winning enough times, maybe things will turn around?
SHEEN: It wasn’t that bleak in my head. I felt I was winning by finally being able to speak my mind. I felt that was some sort of victory. And then it was fueled by the insane public outpouring of support.
PLAYBOY: What did you mean when you called yourself a Vatican assassin?
SHEEN: You know where that came from? There’s an actual article online, you can look it up, written by a crazy person — Eric Phelps, I think his name is — that accuses (radio host) Alex Jones and I of being Jesuit Vatican assassins. I just kind of rolled it into the whole deal. I just stole it and ran with it.
PLAYBOY: Did he also accuse you of being a warlock?
SHEEN: No, that was completely from me. I didn’t know what the hell a warlock was; I just liked the way it sounded. It’s got war in it; it’s got a kah sound. War-lock. Remember the Salem warlock society? They were going to cast a hex on me.
PLAYBOY: Because you were making a mockery of their religion?
SHEEN: Something like that. I was hurting the warlock name. I was like, “Bring it on! I’ll eat your hex for breakfast.” [laughs] It’s so fucking stupid. I’m in a beef with a warlock society? You’re kidding me, right? How do you go from making Oliver Stone movies to being in a feud with warlocks?
PLAYBOY: The list goes on and on. Tiger blood, Adonis DNA, you’re on a drug called Charlie Sheen.
SHEEN: [Laughs] Most of it came out of nowhere. It wasn’t planned, it was just random. The tiger blood? I don’t know. It’s just a very dangerous animal. And there’s a tiger in Apocalypse Now, by the way, so maybe there’s a connection there. Adonis DNA? I don’t know what the fuck that was about. That was just stupid. That went a little far.
PLAYBOY: You made a lot of allusions to war during that period, especially when talking about Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre and CBS. Did it feel as though you were in a literal war?
SHEEN: It felt like combat, yeah. I don’t know what real combat feels like, but it felt like emotional combat, like spiritual combat. One thing I can’t tolerate is being disrespected. Fuck that. I’m talking about literal, genuine examples of disrespect, where you feel unappreciated. Guys want to be respected and acknowledged. They want to feel what they contributed matters. I felt I contributed a lot, and suddenly it didn’t matter.
PLAYBOY: Why would CBS and Lorre change their minds about you?
SHEEN: Because they read things about me and believed them. They were like, “He’s crazy” or “He’s drunk” or “He’s fucked-up” or “He’s a fucking weirdo” or whatever. But if you’re special, you’re tortured. I know that sounds arrogant, but you can’t not be special and have a 30-year career. You can’t not be a little different from others and be successful for three decades. Your mind has to work a little differently than the average brain. But here’s the good news. I’m not there anymore. I’m not working with CBS or Warner Bros. or Chuck anymore. Good news for them and good news for me.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever enjoy yourself on Two and a Half Men?
SHEEN: The early stuff was fun. It was fresh, and we were still kind of finding our way. The first time [Two and a Half Men co-star] Jon Cryer and I read together, it was magic. No question.
PLAYBOY: How is your relationship with Jon these days?
SHEEN: I don’t have one.
PLAYBOY: You said some cruel things about him last year. You called him a troll and a traitor. Was that the heat of the moment, or did you really feel that way?
SHEEN: That was wrong. I whaled on him unnecessarily.
PLAYBOY: But at the time did you feel he should have defended you?
SHEEN: I made a mistake. But yes, I felt he should have come forward with some kind of support. But says who? What rule book is that written in? It’s not. He was trying to keep the shit together, trying to cover my ass, pick up the slack. He just got caught in the crossfire. He’s a beautiful man and a fucking fabulous dude and I miss him. I need to repair that relationship, and I will. I will reach out and do whatever is necessary.
PLAYBOY: Looking back on it a year later, do you have a better understanding of what went wrong, why you lost Two and a Half Men?
SHEEN: I know exactly what went wrong. CBS and Warner Bros. were in breach. That’s it. That’s why this thing never went to any kind of arbitration. They knew they’d have to admit they screwed up. They were too involved in their own egos and their own emotions. I guess that’s why I went full-court press on them, because I knew they didn’t have a case. My job was to show up and act; their job was to write. Or it was someone’s job to write, and Chuck Lorre decided he wasn’t going to do it anymore.
PLAYBOY: They would probably claim it had more to do with your drug problems.
SHEEN: That was a fucking hernia, by the way.
PLAYBOY: What was?
SHEEN: In January, before I got fired, when I went to the hospital. The hernia was real. Everybody thought I had OD’d or whatever. No, I had a fucking hernia blow out of my stomach. I called the paramedics, because that’s what you do, right?
PLAYBOY: There were tabloid reports that you had a suitcase of cocaine delivered to your house.
SHEEN: That’s such bullshit. And that’s what I got fired over. I didn’t get fired for the Plaza Hotel thing [when he was accused of assaulting a porn star]; I didn’t get fired for the Vegas bender. I got fired for a hernia. And it’s real. Check it out. [pulls up shirt] See that? [pushes out stomach and points to hernia scar] It’s there. I didn’t get it fixed because I thought we were going to court and I would have to show this from the stand.
PLAYBOY: There were rumors that the hernia happened after several days of constant partying and drugs.
SHEEN: No, that’s just not true. It was because of a Dave Chappelle sketch.
PLAYBOY: Oh, come on.
SHEEN: Remember that scene where he’s a blind white supremacist who doesn’t know he’s black? Have you seen it? It’s the funniest thing in the world. He becomes a Klansman, and he’s railing against black people. It’s insanely brilliant.
PLAYBOY: We’re familiar with it. “If anyone’s gonna have sex with my sister, it’s going to be me.”
SHEEN: Right. It’s fucking hilarious. I’d never seen it, and I laughed myself into a hernia. That is 100 percent true.
PLAYBOY: So forget Chuck Lorre, forget Warner Bros. and CBS. It’s Dave Chappelle’s fault that you got fired?
SHEEN: It’s his fault. There you go. Dave Chappelle cost me my job.
PLAYBOY: You claimed that you cured your drug and alcohol addictions with your brain. Explain how that works.
SHEEN: There are limits to it. You can’t cure your own cancer, obviously, especially if it’s late stage. But we’re taught at an early age not to trust ourselves. I think the power of the mind is amazing, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do. But that was kind of an experiment back then. I was just kind of winging it, and it worked.
PLAYBOY: To a lot of people it sounds like denial.
SHEEN: Of course it does. It sounds like you think you’re above it all, that you’re smarter than everybody else. But it’s not about that. I just think the whole disease model of addiction is crap. It’s rooted in fiction and junk science.
PLAYBOY: But you understand why it’s hard to take that seriously. Many alcoholics say things like “I can quit anytime I want.” But they don’t—and can’t.
SHEEN: Here’s how I think of it. Someone’s in rehab, right? And he’s like, “Hey, man, I’ve got 45 days and then I’m clean.” Of course it seems that easy. You’re in a place with no drugs and you can’t leave. Way to go, man. Try it in the real world.
PLAYBOY: You don’t believe in rehab?
SHEEN: I don’t. I believe in detox. I think detox is smart. You’ve got a guy who’s in an opiate cycle or a dope cycle or something, and he can’t get out of it. You shut him down long enough so at least his body can start working for itself again. I’m not saying in all situations it’s bad to get help. I’m saying sometimes it’s okay to trust yourself. Because that’s the one thing they drill into you at these fucking AA meetings: Don’t trust yourself. Your brain is broken.
PLAYBOY: Put your faith in a higher power.
SHEEN: Exactly. Fuck that. I’m putting my faith in myself, not a higher power. My brain is broken? My brain wasn’t broken enough to afford the 100 grand to get in here, you dickheads.
PLAYBOY: You’re single, right?
SHEEN: At the moment, yeah.
PLAYBOY: No more goddesses?
SHEEN: Not anymore.
PLAYBOY: You had rules for that relationship: Nobody panics, there’s no judgment.
SHEEN: Yeah, park your judgment at the door. Nobody dies. And one more—enjoy every moment! I don’t know, it seems pretty simple to me.
PLAYBOY: Was there anything missing from those rules? Anything that would have kept your relationship with the goddesses together?
SHEEN: Those rules were created for a very specific circumstance, but they’re still pretty good. It seems like basic groundwork you can build on. The judgment thing is especially hard. My mom offered me $500 when I was 12 years old not to say anything negative for an entire day. I didn’t make it past breakfast. And $500 at the time was like a million bucks, but I couldn’t make it.
PLAYBOY: Was there anything about the goddesses people didn’t understand?
SHEEN: Everything. It was more fodder for them to criticize, more Sheen antics to judge when those same people would have loved to have a similar situation.
PLAYBOY: Do you still think it’s possible for an intimate relationship to survive when more than two people are involved?
SHEEN: I think it was a hell of an idea but with the wrong people involved. I don’t know, man. I’m kind of old-fashioned in a lot of ways. I prefer mano a mano. Even if you have two girls in the house, it’s not like we’re together all the time. But I need variety. Every man does. Not everyone will admit it, but that’s how we’re wired. It’s in our ancestral blueprint.
PLAYBOY: So how do any marriages stay together?
SHEEN: It’s just impulse control. The married guy looks at the hot chick and thinks, Oh, she’s hot. But he doesn’t do anything. When you can’t control the impulse, you make a decision that burns down the whole kingdom. You can have rules at home that are different from the rest of the world’s as long as you’re not hurting anyone. People think it’s insane up at my place. It’s really not. There are always children there; there’s always life there. It’s just a good vibe.
PLAYBOY: Do you prefer to be single?
SHEEN: At least for now. It’s definitely safer to be single, especially with this cottage industry that’s devoted to extorting celebrities.
PLAYBOY: That’s a real thing?
SHEEN: It is, yeah. There are businesses where women are recruited to hook up with famous men, get dirt on them and then sell it. This actually exists. It’s fucking heinous.
PLAYBOY: How do you trust anybody?
SHEEN: We take phones and purses at my house, and people have to sign shit. I’m not living in the Pentagon, but I’ve been burned enough to have to take precautions. It’s either that or choose a different type of woman or party guest, because you never know. Sometimes the right choice seems great at the moment, but then suddenly it’s as if somebody detonated a suicide bomb.
PLAYBOY: Is that why you’re drawn to prostitutes, because you already know what the financial arrangement is, so there are no hidden agendas?
SHEEN: I don’t do that as much anymore. It’s just not, I don’t know.… [long pause] I always feel I traded my time for something that could’ve been more valuable or substantial.
PLAYBOY: Meaning what? Actual intimacy?
SHEEN: The problem with prostitutes is, what if you actually like somebody you meet in that situation? Where do you go from there? What do you do?
PLAYBOY: If it starts as a service, can it ever become more than that?
SHEEN: It can, absolutely. But it’s hard. I’m not saying I’ll never be with a prostitute again. Parts of it are soulless and parts of it are nourishing. It’s always a roll of the dice. There are times when that’s the plan, and I’ll abort it because the vibe isn’t right. Sometimes it’s hoping for a different result each time. At some point, you either have to change the players or forfeit the game.
PLAYBOY: Your fondness for prostitutes dates back to your first sexual experience. You lost your virginity at the age of 15 to a Las Vegas prostitute.
SHEEN: I did, yeah. [laughs] Nothing further, Your Honor.
PLAYBOY: And you paid for it with your dad’s credit card. How did you not get busted for that?
SHEEN: Oh, I did. It was a bad scene, man. I’m watching TV in our living room, and he’s in his office 20 feet away. I’m sitting on the floor with a bag of chips or something, and all of a sudden a piece of paper falls in front of me. I look up, and my dad’s already walking away. It’s his Visa bill. There’s one thing circled, and it’s $350. There’s an arrow pointing to it and three words: “What is this?” He had gone back into my bedroom and was just waiting for me.
PLAYBOY: He made you come to him?
SHEEN: He did. It was brilliant. That was a long walk. That was longer than giving up a game-seven bomb and having to make the walk back to the dugout. I was like a defense attorney going to trial against video evidence.
PLAYBOY: So what did you say?
SHEEN: I blamed it on my cousin Joey. I said it was Joey’s idea. I was like, “You were asleep. We stole your credit card. Sorry, our bad. Uh, Joey went second, by the way.” [laughs]
PLAYBOY: He didn’t lecture you about having sex with prostitutes?
SHEEN: Not really. He just hoped I understood that it’s not love. I was like, “Really? You should have seen her, Dad. That’s fucking true love.” [laughs]
PLAYBOY: Are you following in your dad’s parenting footsteps?
SHEEN: I try to. Even when I don’t want to, it’s there. We all have that moment of “Oh God, I sound like my dad.” That happened to me recently. I remember he used to say to me, “This mess ain’t going to clean itself up.” I vowed I would never say that to my kids. But a few weeks ago I said the exact same sentence to Sam and Lola [his daughters with Denise Richards], word for word. “This mess ain’t going to clean itself up!”
PLAYBOY: Your dad hasn’t always been easy on you. He’s talked about your drug problems publicly and was involved in at least one intervention. Are you ready to be the bad guy for your kids?
SHEEN: You have to. Hopefully they’ll eventually realize you did it out of love and compassion and honoring the truth.
PLAYBOY: Your dad had a wild past and his own struggles with alcohol addiction. Did that make it harder to take him seriously when he lectured you?
SHEEN: Yes and no. I don’t remember him being as bad as he remembers. The way he describes his behavior, the drinking and all that, doesn’t ring true for me. I don’t remember it being that bad.
PLAYBOY: Maybe you didn’t see it.
SHEEN: Nah. There weren’t a lot of secrets in our family. My parents had fights. They were pretty loud about it. It never got physical, but a dish always got broken somewhere. You could almost predict it. “Wait for it…wait for it.…” Smash!
PLAYBOY: But as far as you knew, there was no partying or drinking?
SHEEN: I don’t know. Maybe there was, but it’s not my memory of what his life was like.
PLAYBOY: Do you think he’s exaggerating, or did it never happen at all?
SHEEN: It’s almost as if he’s created a history. I don’t know why he would do that. Maybe it’s shame, guilt, remorse, whatever it is.
PLAYBOY: Remorse for what?
SHEEN: We moved a lot. He lived job to job, so we were always traveling. We’d live in houses for six months with no furniture. Beanbags were a big staple for us. He was doing the best he could. We weren’t rich, but because of him I grew up all over the world. When I got home and had grade school geography, I was like, “Been there.” That was pretty cool.
PLAYBOY: You celebrated your 11th birthday in the Philippines while your dad was shooting Apocalypse Now. Was it anything approaching normal?
SHEEN: It was the craziest time you could possibly imagine. The Philippines was a much different place back then. You could barely get a Snickers bar, much less a cake that wasn’t filled with mold or rat shit. I remember one night we were in the bungalows where we lived at the time, and just as we were getting ready to go to bed, a naked Robert Duvall comes racing through the room, screaming at the top of his lungs like an Indian. Then he leaves, and he doesn’t poke his head back in to explain. He doesn’t say, “I’m out here with Dennis Hopper and he put me up to this.” Nothing. To this day I don’t know what the hell that was about.
PLAYBOY: You have a tattoo on your chest with a quote from the movie, “Death from above.” It’s a message on the death cards that Robert Duvall’s character throws on the Viet Cong soldiers he’s killed.
SHEEN: Yeah. “Let Charlie know who did this.”
PLAYBOY: Was there some deeper meaning to the tattoo, or did you just get it because it seemed badass?
SHEEN: At first it was just because it was badass. But then I added the apple from [poet Shel Silverstein’s] The Giving Tree, which is falling below it. See? Now it’s a little deeper, isn’t it?
PLAYBOY: Explain it for us.
SHEEN: How those two fit together? [long pause] I just think it’s a yin-yang sort of message. It’s death from above but here’s a symbolic reference about being human, being generous, being faithful, being connected. That’s the greatest book ever written, by the way. The Giving Tree is so simple, and whenever you read it, it means something different to you. You read it to your kids and they’re like, “Why is dad crying?” Ah, I’m not. I just have something in my eye. What’s that great line at the end, when the old man is sitting on the stump? “And the tree was happy.” [long pause, smiles] Are you fucking kidding me?
PLAYBOY: How does that tie in to Apocalypse Now?
SHEEN: It’s about getting in the middle of every moment. Enjoying it all. Because it goes so fast. And it’s about finding a balance, I think. With the Apocalypse reference, it’s not “death from above” as a literal thing. [pause] I don’t know, it made sense at the time. [laughs]
PLAYBOY: It’s just an important movie to you.
SHEEN: Everything you need to know about life is in Apocalypse. Everything. When Marlon Brando says, “You have the right to kill me, but you don’t have the right to judge me,” that’s it, man. That’s the world right there.
PLAYBOY: How often do you rewatch it?
SHEEN: At least every six months. I can’t talk to people who haven’t seen it until they have. I tell girls that if I’m going to date them, they have to watch that movie and they have to listen to Springsteen’s “Brilliant Disguise.” Listen to that song and you’ll know a little more about me.
PLAYBOY: Anything else on that list?
SHEEN: You can’t criticize Bob Dylan’s singing. You have to respect Billy Joel as a brilliant poet. You can’t tell me there’s a better rock band ever than Led Zeppelin. And if you speak during the Eagles’ “Last Resort,” we’re done. I’m just asking for seven minutes. This stuff really matters, you know. “You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.” I mean come on, man.
PLAYBOY: It sounds like music is very important to you.
SHEEN: That’s the shit that lives in my head. People ask all the time, “What are you thinking?” First of all, it’s my least favorite question in the world. The last bastion of solace is my mind. It’s an invasion. But I usually have a song in my head. I’m thinking music, I’m thinking lyrics. Music helps me get to those moments. The moments between the moments.
PLAYBOY: What does that mean? What are moments between the moments?
SHEEN: It’s not about the big deal you struck that day, it’s not about the new car, it’s not about the obvious stuff. It’s about that little introspective moment you had in the middle of all that. Those are moments between the moments, and that’s where life is.
PLAYBOY: How does music help you get there?
SHEEN: I’ll hear a song I love and suddenly I’m isolated from everything around me just for a nanosecond. That’s a moment between a moment. You have this great big fantasy life, and it looks like a non-stop 24/7 party. But what do you do when you get to the end of the Internet and there’s nothing left to buy? You know what I mean? There’s just a picture of Wayne Newton flipping you off.
PLAYBOY: You love baseball. That must give you a few peaceful moments.
SHEEN: Oh yeah, absolutely. There’s something about every spring when baseball season starts again. There’s a feeling of… everything in the world is good again. Growing up, my bedroom was covered in baseball shit. I would tape baseball cards to the walls before I realized they would be valuable one day. I remember very clearly, there was a newspaper headline that I’d cut out and put on the wall, right over my bed. It was from a Phillies/ Cubs game in 1976, and I’m pretty sure it said “45 runs, 11 home runs” but it was wind aided. (Mike) Schmidt hit four home runs, which is unheard of for one game. That’s the kind of stuff that I went to bed with and woke up with.
PLAYBOY: You were apparently pretty good at baseball in your teens. How close did you come to playing pro?
SHEEN: Not close at all. I went to a camp called the Mickey Owen Baseball School, in Miller, Missouri, and I got scouted my final year there. I had a good arm for a guy my size, and it always surprised people. I also had decent speed. But I couldn’t hit for shit. I remember contemplating all this when I was 16 or 17, trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Chris Penn, who was my best friend growing up, had just done Footloose. I saw how much money he was making and realized I was in the wrong business.
PLAYBOY: Was money that important to you?
SHEEN: A lot of people will say, “Oh, I got into acting because I wanted to explore my craft.” They’re a bunch of liars, unless they’re Sean Penn, DeNiro or my dad. For the rest of us it was all about chicks and money. Seriously. It was about how I could get money so I could impress the girls and feel like I mattered.
PLAYBOY: You got to live vicariously as a ballplayer in some of your movies, such as Major League and Eight Men Out.
SHEEN: Yeah, but it never felt like the real thing. Shooting a movie can be so tedious. You’re trying to get 20 different angles on the same swing. You never get into a rhythm. But I took it very seriously. When I was working on Major League, I trained with [Dodgers catcher] Steve Yeager.
PLAYBOY: You were taking steroids during the shoot, right?
SHEEN: That’s right. I wanted to put a little zip on my fastball. I didn’t want to look like I was lily-arming it up there. I was always a hit-the-spots, low-zone pitcher. But my character, Ricky Vaughn, is a flamethrower. With steroids I went from a modest 78 mph to a decent 85, which on film can be made to look in the 90s.
PLAYBOY: But aren’t there health risks?
SHEEN: I got injured a lot afterward. Steroids build your muscles, but they don’t build your tendons or ligaments. Once you start altering your body’s blueprint, things start falling apart. Some players take steroids, and two years later, after they’ve broken records, suddenly they have back problems, shoulder problems, arm problems. They’re out of the game for good.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever have roid rage?
SHEEN: Oh yeah. That’s definitely a real thing. When you take steroids, you’re pissed all day long. About nothing. You just wake up and you’re fucking mad. But I had a trainer, Lyle Alzado, who was really smart. He’d been a defensive lineman in the National Football League. He knew enough guys who did steroids, and he knew enough doctors. I did steroids for only three months, and I never did them again. If there’s a safe way to do steroids, we tried.
PLAYBOY: Some people think steroids have tarnished the sanctity of baseball. Do you agree?
SHEEN: Hey, man, back in the 1920s everyone was allowed one spitball pitcher. Why not have one guy on each team who takes steroids? Then it’s even. People who are critical of steroids usually say the same thing: “Oh, it sends a bad message to the kids.” How about the parents worry about that? How about parents become more heroic and send the right message at home before the kid gets to the ballpark? When you were growing up, your biggest heroes were probably your parents, right?
SHEEN: They were bigger than life, they protected you, and they showed you things you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. They were our heroes. And then athletes become our heroes, because they’re superhuman. They do things nobody else can do. They’re better than 6 billion other people. It’s sad because there are a lot of inner-city situations where you have single-parent families. A dad or mom is working four jobs, taking eight buses and getting home at 11. They’re not able to have as much influence over their kids’ lives, because they’re not around. Their kids end up looking up to the guy with the thousand tattoos and the bad attitude who’s in the playoffs every year because he looks like a god and a hero. And yes, those people are gods; they are heroes. They’re better than anybody alive.
PLAYBOY: But you’re saying parents should still be the main role models for their children?
SHEEN: Exactly. If they’re worried about their kids using steroids, they should get to them first, before the athletes do.
PLAYBOY: Are you going to talk with your kids about drugs?
SHEEN: Probably, but I’m definitely not ready for it. What do you do? I have no idea. Do you tell them everything you did and then say “Don’t do any of that stuff”? At least one of them is going to say, “But, Dad, I read about you in this article. You were pretty gnarly. Why shouldn’t I have that kind of fun too?” What the hell do you say to that? Because it’s not safe? Because you deserve a better life?
PLAYBOY: What happens if you find a bag of weed in their bedroom?
SHEEN: Well, I’d want to know about the quality and how much the damn thing costs—you know, just to make sure they’re not getting fucking ripped off. And my next question would be “Is it Charlie Sheen OG?”
PLAYBOY: What’s Charlie Sheen OG?
SHEEN: They now sell pot named after me in the dispensaries. And I’m not even a pot guy. I was so honored.
PLAYBOY: Do you stand by its quality?
SHEEN: Let’s just say I tried it.
PLAYBOY: And you approve?
SHEEN: The quality’s fine. There’s too much quality, if anything. I couldn’t feel my hands after a while. I smoked some with a friend, and she said, “What a trip. I’m with Charlie Sheen smoking Charlie Sheen.” I was like, “How do you think I feel? I’m smoking myself!”
PLAYBOY: Would you do that with your kids? If you caught them with weed, would you want them to smoke it with you?
SHEEN: Good God no. I don’t want to get high with my kids, because then everything is different forever. That’s so stupid, I think. No, if I found weed in their room, I’d take it and wait. They’re going to come to you at some point. They’ll notice it’s gone and go, “Oh shit. Where is it? Where is it?” Then when they fess up, I’ll try to have as open a dialogue about it as possible. I don’t want them to do any drugs, but weed is better than Adderall. That’s the worst drug ever. Everybody’s on Adderall now—kids, adults, tweeners. It’ll be the downfall of our society. That’s why rehabs are filled with 12- and 13-year-olds, because they’re all hooked on speed from the age of five. And then they get so accustomed to it that they develop a tolerance, and the next thing is the illicit shit.
PLAYBOY: Once they leave your house, you can’t really control what they do, what drugs they try.
SHEEN: Yeah, but I have a deal with them. They have one, maybe two chances to call me anytime, no questions asked, and I will come and get them. But if there are signs of any physical damage on their bodies, then there’s going to be gunplay involved. It’s a whole different story for whatever house they’re leaving. That shit gets burned to the ground. Period, the end. When it comes to my kids, I don’t play around.
PLAYBOY: You’ve mentioned you might want to retire after Anger Management. Is that because you want to be a full-time dad?
SHEEN: Yeah, that’s pretty much the reason. I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten at work: “He or she took their first step” or “He or she ate solid food” or “He or she rode a bike for the first time.” I’m the breadwinner and I have to do this so my kids can have a life, but I feel I’m missing too much.
PLAYBOY: You could do what your dad did and just take your family everywhere.
SHEEN: Yeah, but that gets tough too. Sometimes they have to see things you don’t want them to see. I remember when my dad was doing The Execution of Private Slovik. I was only nine at the time, and it was traumatic.
SHEEN: Because he was playing this character who’s falling apart. He’s so freaking good in that movie. You take the baddest dude in the world and put a camera on him and watch him unravel. But for a kid, you don’t want to see that kind of vulnerability in your dad.
PLAYBOY: You didn’t understand that he was just doing make-believe?
SHEEN: Not really. Growing up, there were times I thought my dad was insane. He’d always be in a corner, mumbling to himself. And we were like, “What’s up with Dad? Does he hear voices or something?” It turns out he was always running dialogue in his head. I had a moment like that a couple of years ago. Sam and Lola were at the house, and I was running dialogue. The amount of stuff you have to keep in your head, especially doing television, is mind-boggling. And I heard Sam say to her sister, “Why is Dad talking to himself?” [laughs] And there it was. It was like a generational passing of the guard. Once again, I had become my father.
PLAYBOY: There are some ways you probably don’t want to be like him, like having a heart attack at a young age.
SHEEN: I definitely don’t want that. It freaked me out for a long time, because I think I was projecting fears about my own mortality onto his situation. I was so desperate to make it to my 37th birthday.
PLAYBOY: Because your dad had a heart attack at 36?
SHEEN: Right. And it seemed like my life was mirroring his in a lot of ways. I was in the Philippines with him for eight months while he shot Apocalypse, and then I went back 10 years later to make Platoon, which was my Vietnam film, my Apocalypse. It’s a little strange, you know? It’s a little freaking odd. I was seeing a lot of parallels between my dad and myself. I told myself, When I’m 36 it’s going to happen.
PLAYBOY: You thought you were going to have a heart attack?
SHEEN: I was convinced of it. He survived his, but I wouldn’t survive mine. It’s just a story I wrote in my head. It wasn’t based on any fact. I just decided it was going to happen. And a lot of times you can manifest that shit.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever talked with him about it, how close he came to dying?
SHEEN: Oh yeah, a lot. And it’s a trip, man, because I’m more about science than religion, but he talks about seeing that light and being pulled to it. It offered him eternal comfort, is how he described it. Radical, right? And then the light moved and he saw his family and his work and his life. And he had a choice. You either go toward eternal comfort or stay here and be responsible. He leaned toward responsibility, and that’s when he came out of it and saw people around him.
PLAYBOY: Did hearing that make you less afraid of death?
SHEEN: It confused me deeply. I’ve always been a little skittish about death. On certain days I’m okay with it. On other days it’s like, “Really? I have to? No, man, not me.” It must be the biggest trip because they save it for last, right? Who the hell knows? I don’t know what to expect. I mean, I’m not in any way religious. I don’t go to church, but I consider myself spiritual.
PLAYBOY: Spiritual in that you think something happens to our souls after we die?
SHEEN: Yeah. But I’m not talking about a heaven in the clouds. I think it’s all around us. I think it’s here. I think we’re still here in some different dimension. I think it’s like gills. I don’t know how else to describe it. I think it’s like gills that you sort of slide through.
PLAYBOY: So it’s not like ghosts? There are no dead relatives hanging around?
SHEEN: Hey, we’re on a fucking rock flying 67,000 miles an hour through space, spinning on its own axis with a moon that won’t go away, around a star that’s burning out, and for some reason we’re positioned perfectly. Anything’s possible. Ghosts, sure, I’ve seen them. I’ve been in hotels with them.
PLAYBOY: Ghosts of people you know?
SHEEN: Sometimes. When my friend [Wild Orchid and 9½ Weeks writer] Zalman King died, I went to comfort his widow, Pat. We were making a toast, and I saw Zalman, who’d been dead for four hours, dance through the background. It was a trip. People are going to read this and go, “Pfft. More meds for Sheen.” Whatever, man. I know what I saw. Another dear friend of mine, Stephanie, her father died. I was at her house, and he walked past me on the stairwell one day.
PLAYBOY: The ghost of Stephanie’s dad?
SHEEN: Yep. I know it was him. I have no doubt. I’m not fucking high or experimenting with psychedelics and shit. I just accept stuff like that and don’t try to figure it out. I saw these people, or their spirits or whatever, for a reason. I don’t know what the reason is right now, but maybe it’ll be revealed some other time.
PLAYBOY: Are you planning to grow old gracefully?
SHEEN: Nope, no way. Because I refuse to grow up. I won’t become the adult guy.
PLAYBOY: But you can’t stop old age from happening, unless you check out early.
SHEEN: I don’t want that either.
PLAYBOY: Could you see yourself at 90 as the old guy whose life is pretty much over but who has the best stories?
SHEEN: That I’d be fine with. As long as I’ve got people I love who still want to hear my stories. It’s all about the stories we can tell 20 years from now. That’s been the good and bad of my life. I’ve been out with people who are like, “I’ve got to go home.” And I’ll say, “What’s a better story in 20 years, that you went home and slept or this night continued?” And they’re always like [sighs], “All right, I’ll go.” You can put people’s feet to the fire a bit just by reminding them that we’re constantly creating our own history.
PLAYBOY: Some of your stories probably sound like fiction.
SHEEN: I’m sure, yeah. Sometimes it feels like it all happened to somebody else. I’ll read about it in a magazine and it’s been run through this whole machine. It’s processed and propagandized and skewed. And then it has this life of its own, in addition to what it might’ve actually been.
PLAYBOY: But when you’re an old man surrounded by grandchildren, the only version they’ll hear is yours.
SHEEN: Yeah, I guess that’s true. I kind of like that romantic image of being in a rocker with my family gathered around, all these generations in one room, listening intently to my stories. “Tell us one more, Grandpa Sheen. Tell us about the time you got banned from the Radisson for putting a cheeseburger in the air-conditioning vent.” And I’ll be like, “Well, actually, there was a small fire involved too. But it’s getting late, kids. It’s almost six p.m. We’ll pick this up tomorrow.” [laughs] Yeah, I like that. [pauses and smiles] I think I’d be okay with that.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the July/August 2012 issue of Playboy.)