'Zero Dark Thirty': Martin Sheen Denies Protesting Kathryn Bigelow's Film

Martin Sheen
Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

“I know what hell he’s living in. I’ve had psychotic episodes in public. One of them was on camera -- the opening scene of ‘Apocalypse Now.’”

The actor says he joined a petition condemning the controversial picture by mistake.

Martin Sheen wants to set things straight: he doesn't actually think voting Academy members should snub Zero Dark Thirty over its controversial torture scenes, although he did join actors Ed Asner and David Clennon in a campaign opposing Kathryn Bigelow's film and urging peers to follow their conscience in casting best-picture ballots.

That, he tells The New York Times, was a mistake.

"It's my own fault," said Sheen, clarifying that he issued a statement on the movie unaware that his message would read anti-Zero Dark and not solely anti-torture.

The star of the classic film Apocalypse Now and TV's The West Wing praised the Mark Boal-penned nail-biter about the hunt for Osama bin Laden as having "done great, great service to the issue" of torture by shining a spotlight on it. He said he "was very moved and troubled by" the film, and stands with Bigelow in personally condemning the use of torture as an intelligence-gathering strategy.

STORY: Martin Sheen Joins 'Zero Dark Thirty' Protest

Sheen told the Times that he passed along a hand-written note to Bigelow and Boal during the Golden Globe Awards earlier this month and that the three had since spoken by phone.

Calling Clennon "one of my heroes," Sheen said he joined his letter of protest against Zero Dark earlier this month without properly discussing it first: the two communicated via Sheen's assistant, causing confusion.

For his part, Clennon emailed this statement to the newspaper: "None of us, who advocate the abolition of torture, have tried to discourage others from seeing the film. Ed Asner and I have expressed our opposition to the film’s encouragement of the tolerance of torture."

Zero Dark Thirty has been nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, but in a surprising snub, Bigelow did not make the cut in the best director category.

Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal recently jumped to Bigelow and Boal's defense against charges Zero Dark justifies terrorism, saying: "To not include that part of history would have been irresponsible and inaccurate."

Director Michael Moore, no stranger to controversy himself, also penned a defense on Facebook, calling the film "a disturbing, fantastically-made movie. It will make you hate torture."


Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

Email: erin.carlson@thr.com