Twenty-five years ago any outside observer would have predicted an amazing future for Charlie Sheen. "Platoon," "Wall Street," "Young Guns," "Eight Men Out" and "Major League" showed off serious range, and all were released within 28 months of each other. Fast forward to this week and examine the wreckage that is Charlie Sheen's career. His newest film, "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III " debuted to a less than stellar 40 percent on RottenTomatoes, and his FX show "Anger Management" dropped a catastrophic 67 percent in the ratings for its second season premiere. Those are not the metrics of an amazing future, so we've got to wonder: What the hell happened to Charlie Sheen? Why isn't he "back" as an actor, and why won't that ever change?
You'd have to point to Sheen's epic public meltdown as the catalyst for all of his recent misfortunes. Paul Simon said that "breakdowns come, and breakdowns go ," but Charlie Sheen's level-five unraveling in front of the American public permanently damaged him in a way that even Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson managed to avoid. It was as if technology, via flipcams and YouTube, rushed forward to find Sheen at his craziest, broadcast him to millions, and then left behind only charred wreckage where a man-sized actor had once been. For six straight months, you couldn't avoid the guy. He was getting booed at one-man shows, he was practically anchoring TMZ, he was criticizing his meal ticket and he was anointing porn stars as goddesses . Could even the most ardent Charlie Sheen fan find value in this spectacle? This wasn't Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, it was Charlie "Disturbed Thing" Sheen. Demographically speaking, hanging out with stars of the adult cinema is about as good a way as any to ensure that most female fans will turn their back on you. And though everyone watched circus unfold, curious as to how Sheen would top his latest antics, he was revealing something about himself that's death to an actor - his inner soul and belief system.
What do you know about Daniel Day-Lewis or Viola Davis? How about Philip Seymour Hoffman or Meryl Streep? Paul Giamatti? Do you fondly recall their gossip rag appearances, their very public disasters, their unhinged moments in front of millions? No, you certainly don't, because the average film viewer probably doesn't know anything about them beyond the fact that they are wonderful actors. To inhabit the skin of another person, to "act," you need to be a blank canvas. Well, blank canvases just won't do for US Weekly, and - as such - most luminary actors stay well out of the controversy spotlight. For every Lindsay Lohan there's a handful of Jessica Chastains. Even the ones who manage a little of both, like Russell Crowe, eventually have to peep down or just own the entire "bad boy" persona. Charlie Sheen didn't merely adopt that same "bad boy" mentality, he was born in it. Unlike Christian Bale, he wasn't screaming at a sound guy on a closed set, and unlike Lily Tomlin he wasn't questioning the creative process. Even unlike Crowe or Michael Richards, you couldn't distill his shenanigans down to a single act - because Sheen was omnipresent and ubiquitous. He was larger than life, and somewhere in that transaction he lost the ability to slip into a show or film without being CHARLIE SHEEN: Media spectacle. Suddenly, every story about his career was tinged with elements of "which Sheen showed up?" and "Can he put the past behind him?"
That's a terrible situation for anyone to be in, because it takes the spotlight off of whatever you're trying to accomplish, putting it firmly on yourself instead. Writers and directors - heck, even fellow actors - don't like the idea of working with a guy who is clearly bringing far more hype than substance to his craft. When Sheen bragged about his ability to carry a show, he was actively undermining his ability to, well, carry a show. Once you've boldly proclaimed, "I am a significant person who matters!!" you've also said "Feel free to disregard future works, go ahead and judge me on all the hype surrounding this disaster." You've indeed made yourself important, but you've become a "personality" instead of a person who works hard and loves their job. Carrying a show is the quiet work Claire Danes does, the subtle and humble performance of Bryan Cranston in "Breaking Bad." Cranston does interviews and promotes, but after that you don't hear from him. He's a ghost, and the show is always placed front and center. There are plenty of blogs and podcasts dedicated to "Breaking Bad," but Cranston knows a movement that was all about him would take away from everyone else doing solid work, ultimately hurting the entire creative process. Try and find a Danes or Cranston interview where they don't thank their fellow actors, the writers, or the showrunner.
So yeah, Charlie Sheen is probably doomed long-term. We've all now had a glimpse inside Charlie Sheen's head, and after a few months of looking around in there and enjoying the circus, we're all ready for a loooooong break.