Charlie Sheen was well aware there was going to be backlash to his latest film, 9/11, but he couldn't pass on the opportunity to be a part of the drama with other actors for whom he has a profound respect.
Directed by Martin Guigui, the film about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack stars Sheen, Whoopi Goldberg, Gina Gershon, Luis Guzmán and Jacqueline Bisset. It revolves around a group of strangers trapped on an elevator as the attacks unfold.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, a day before the movie opened, Sheen explained what he learned from working on the project, his hopes to return to more dramatic roles and his previous statements concerning just what brought down the World Trade Center.
"I know I got lot of heat for the opinions I had that weren't just my own," Sheen told THR early in the interview. "I was not just coming up with stuff about 9/11. I was parroting those a lot smarter and a lot more experienced than myself, who had very similar questions. If I offended anyone, I apologize; and if I inspired anyone, then so be it."
The film and TV actor was referring to his conspiracy-minded, false comments he made years ago about possible “controlled demolition" causing the massive destruction of the iconic buildings.
"I am more about moving forward," Sheen said. "Not to put this behind us, because, as it was brilliantly written, we must never forget, but there are still a couple of things just rooted in simple physics that beg some measure of inquiry. I was in contact with a lot of family members and they were in concert with a lot of my questions."
The film, distributed by Atlas Distribution Company, has nothing to do with who was behind the destruction, and Sheen said he did not want that to be a part of the picture.
"I saw it as an opportunity to do something dramatic, something I had not done in a long time," he said. "And I also saw it as a possibility to deliver something focused on the people in a very specific event."
He continued, "It is still a time when we really came together as a country, as a people. And I think given where we are at right now, maybe it is nice reminder, in spite of what led us there, to be more unified, be more united."
As for what he took with him from working on the film, Sheen told THR he has "more respect for those there on the tragic day and a lot more sadness for those who didn't survive."
The film is aligned with Tuesday's Children, Sheen noted, which is a response and recovery organization supporting youth, families and communities impacted by terrorism and traumatic loss, according to its site.
The former Two and a Half Men star explained he took the role of Jeffery Cage because he wants to return to dramatic acting, which he did more in his youth, such as starring in Oliver Stone's Platoon.
"The younger generation doesn't know a lot of my work before the comedy, so they can get a sense there is another gear there," Sheen said. "I am looking for something pretty edgy, maybe even one of these cable dramas. Even network shows, like Designated Survivor or Shooter. There is so much good product out there that I have to believe there is going to be room for me in something in the future."
At this point in his life and career, Sheen has developed thick skin, he said, but even still, the backlash from the announcement of 9/11 and then from the trailer still seems excessive, he said.
"I don't recall such a pre-critical backlash to United 93 or World Trade Center," he said. "Maybe there is the combination of those who are always going to gun for me and those who are always going to root for me. I'll stick with the rooters."
Working on the film, even though it was a short shoot of a little more than two weeks, was a joy for Sheen, he said.
"When I met Luis Guzmán, he said he lost a friend in the tragedy and wanted to honor his memory, so he thanked me for being a part of it," Sheen said. "The only thing that was difficult is that they shot all of Whoopi's stuff first because she had to get back to her show. So, all we had was her recorded voice through the intercom for that scene. I was happy to finally be in a film with her, but sad we didn't have any scenes."
The film is based on the Patrick James Carson's play Elevator. Sheen said he made modifications to his character, including his demeanor and fate.
"I think it would have been a little too convenient for everyone to survive, which the original script had," Sheen said. "[Jeffery] Cage was incredibly rude to everyone in the first draft. And I thought, wait a minute, with what is going on, it just adds to the misery and there is no real room for it."
Sheen said he is expecting there to be positive reaction to the film. And he is expecting there to be negative reaction to the film. But he is not going to sit around and think about it.
"All I can do is show up and hopefully do a good job," Sheen said. "Certain people are going to feel the way they feel regardless. So I can't really give that much energy. But, they are the same people who will buy me a drink at the bar and congratulate me on something else and then go write a shitty story on this and that."
He continued, "But I have to have faith that I will do something again someday where they will love me. But if not, it is really more of a reflection of who they are. It has nothing to due with me."