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Michael Sheen has declared that he is no longer seeking to profit from his acting career and will instead use his future earnings to fund social projects.
In an interview with British magazine The Big Issue, the Welsh actor and activist discussed how, after being prompted by a few life-changing moments, he had steered his career to the point where he had “essentially turned myself into a social enterprise, a not-for-profit actor.”
Explaining his shift in thinking, Sheen said, “I’ve realized in the last few years that I want to be one of those people who help other people the way so many people helped me. I don’t want to just be someone who enjoys the fruits of what other people have done and then pull the drawbridge up.”
He added, “I’m at the stage of my life and career where I have a window of opportunity that will probably never be this good again. I’m able to get people in a room, I can open doors. I don’t want to look back and think, I could have done something with that platform. I could have done something with that money.”
The Good Omens star said that his starring role in an epic 72-hour National Theatre production of The Passion through his hometown of Port Talbot in South Wales in 2011 was a “turning point” in his life. “That project involved the entire town and it was a big awakening for me. I got to know people and organizations within my hometown that I didn’t know existed. Little groups who were trying to help young carers, who had just enough funding to make a tiny difference to a kid’s life by putting on one night a week where they could get out and go bowling or watch a film and just be a kid,” the 52-year-old said.
“I would come back to visit three or four months later, and find out that funding had gone and that organization didn’t exist anymore,” he said, adding, “I wanted to help those people. I didn’t just want to be a patron or a supportive voice, I wanted to actually do more than that.”
The other big push factor for Sheen was a soccer tournament, the Homeless World Cup, which was held in Cardiff, Wales, in 2019. Sheen was a supporter of the event, and when he heard that it was in danger of not happening due to a shortage of funding just days before kickoff, he decided to act. “I had to make a decision — I could walk away from it, and it wouldn’t happen. And all those people from all around the world who were banking on coming to have this extraordinary experience, maybe a life-changing experience, wouldn’t have it. I thought, ‘I’m not going to let that happen.'”
Sheen fronted the money to keep the tournament going himself. “I had a house in America and a house [in the U.K.] and I put those up and just did whatever it took. It was scary and incredibly stressful. And I’ll be paying for it for a long time,” he said.
Despite the financial outlay and personal hardship, Sheen found that he could make the money back and keep funding things he believed in. “When I came out the other side I realized I could do this kind of thing and, if I can keep earning money it’s not going to ruin me. There was something quite liberating about going, alright, I’ll put large amounts of money into this or that, because I’ll be able to earn it back again. I’ve essentially turned myself into a social enterprise, a not-for-profit actor.”
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