Martin Sheen is an activist, artist, and some say was one of the better presidents of the United States ....although he only played one on TV.
If you want a glimpse into how he "became" Marty Sheen then just ask the artist. He's happy to provide a glimpse into his childhood.
"I was a big movie fan when I was a child and a big comic book fan," says Sheen, 71. "I read Sluggo and Nancy and all the Archie comics. Remember those great classics?"
He was an even bigger movie fan.
"My passion was the movies," he says. "On Saturday afternoon, my parents knew where to find me. It didn't matter if the movie was a western or a drama. I was sitting riveted in a movie theater."
These days he is combining his passions of movies and comics by starring as kindly Uncle Ben in the hit film "The Amazing Spider-Man."
"I'm 21 years older than Spider-man," he says, admitting he didn't read that comic because it came too late. "I missed him totally. But I did do the afternoon Spider-Man cartoons.
"My kids would rush to the TV to see them," he says.
STARING IN "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN"
He says that playing Uncle Ben was a joy for him. Part of the reason is that veteran actress Sally Field plays his wife in the film.
"I loved that we could be so simple and direct with each other. We didn't play an image in the film. We just had to make it alive and personal," says Sheen.
"Sally and I knew that Peter Parker's aunt and uncle who raised him grounded the whole story," he says.
He says working with the new Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, was an amazing experience.
"This young man is a very special guy. His career is now launched and rightly so because he was such a generous actor," Sheen says.
"He had to do some heavy emotional work and the set was on fire when he went to those places. He'd do an equally intense performance off camera for the other actors which was courtesy of his generosity."
NEW SCREEN TRICKS
Sheen says that filming the new Spider-man was a new experience for him. "The technology was unbelievable," he marvels. "It was interesting because they would playback a scene almost immediately for technical reasons.
"I do think it's a mistake for an actor to watch himself," he says. "You fall in love with one take and that's not the one in the film."
"I remember hearing an artist say that they would never display their own paintings at home because they didn't want to be influenced by themselves," he says.
"When 'West Wing' was on TV, I'd always warn the family what was coming," he admits. "We'd gather to watch the show and I'd say, 'This is going to happen and you're supposed to feel this way about it.'"
"They were like, 'Can we just watch it for ourselves?'" he says with a laugh.
MARTIN SHEEN ON AGING
Sheen says that his work and family keep him young. "I'm a father and a husband and a grandfather. That's the most wonderful part of life," he says.
His career never stops.
"At my age at this time in my career, I'm delighted to be living let alone working!" he says.
"I give thanks and praise that I'm able to get up and walk around. I give thanks everyday that I'm still able to get up and walk around.
"Then I give extra thanks that I get movie offers," he says. "I don't care if it's a big budget movie or a small budget one. I'm just delighted to be on the team."
He does like a little message in his movies.
"I'm attracted to things that speak to me personally whether it's a villain or hero," he says. "With this new Spider-man, it's about what all young people are dealing with, which is that they're fractured by peer pressure.
"Uncle Ben says to hear that voice inside of you that's calling you to step up," he says. "I tell him that it's important to be your better self even if it will cost you.
"I know that the only way to become free is to step up," Sheen says. "I also know that anything worthwhile will cost you."
He says that his own youth was spent doing a few silly and stupid things.
"I was a child of the '50s," he says. "My heroes were James Dean, Elvis and rock and roll. My young adulthood was in the 60s during a period of great social concern. That political environment formed me in a large part. I learned to stand up for what I believe in."
"Was I young and stupid? Yes," he says with a laugh. "Now, I'm older and not so sure I'm not still stupid!"
EXTRA CREDIT AGING ADVICE:
What are Martin Sheen's best aging tips?
*Stop smoking. "I want smokers to pay a tax that goes into cancer research."
*Get moving. "I do yoga every single day. I get up and the first thing I do is stretch. It's very important once you hit 50. I love Bikram yoga, but I don't do the heat. I do it outdoors and I love it. I just have to do it every single day. The more you sweat, bend and stretch the easier it gets. I want to tell everyone over 50 that the most important thing every single day to do is stretch. Trust me on that one."