Martin Sheen spoke to the press this week about his new role as Daniel Barry, a priest sent to a rural Irish parish in the 1950s in the film Stella Days. Having spent most of his vocation in Rome, the new post is quite a gear change.
Sheen spoke to Movies.ie before attending the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Asked if he enjoyed visiting Ireland he replied yes and that he has been visiting the country for decades.
'Well, it is one of the most comfortable places on earth for me. I love coming here, it's really the one place I don't make any plans - unless plans are made for me, if I am working or promoting something - when I come on my own, which is often, I just rent a car and head out in whatever direction I fancy, and whatever happens is fine. I have never made a reservation or an appointment, I just show up and they look after me. That's been going on for almost 30 years now. Longer actually, I first came here in 1973, next year it will be 40 years.'
Sheen revealed that he got involved with Stella Days when a man from his mothers ancestral Irish village of Borrisokane in County Tipperary gave him a memoir of the parish priest, who had been a huge film buff and who had opened the first cinema in northern Tipperary, in Borrisokane.
A friend bought the film rights and several years passed before they had the script and the funding, but they managed in the end. For Sheen it was a tempting project because he had become intrigued by the character of Father Daniel.
'What I loved about Stella Days, it was a priest who was reawakened to his humanity and less about his vocation, but about his person-hood. He had lived an honest life and he was motivated by love, but there was a missing link, in that it didn't begin by choice, he felt that his choice had been foreclosed as a child. He found himself and he realized that he had lived an honest life, so he could go on.'
Sheen also admits filming in his ancestral home was a factor that also attracted him.
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'It was a very low budget, independent feature and a local story and made in the place where it happened. It was very gratifying because I had just come from Galicia, making the film The Way in my father's home, so I felt I had completed that connection to my heritage, and then I came to Ireland and completed this one in my mother's village. It is absolutely astonishing that I would bring both countries together in that way with a film. In a sense I felt that I had completed a personal mission in both of my parents' homes and it satisfied something deeply personal with me. I wasn't just playing a part; it was playing a part of myself.
Asked how he feels to be a part of the forthcoming blockbuster The Amazing Spider-Man, Sheen sounds thrilled. 'It has really come down to, and not just me but for a lot of guys my age who have been around as long as I have, you either get offered small parts in big pictures or big parts in small pictures. I love playing the big parts in small pictures because it is about what we do for a living, but you get paid far more to play a small part in a big picture [laughs] so Spider-Man permitted me the luxury of doing Stella Days because it was such a big pay day. I had very little to do, but it was great working with Sally Fields, she is one of my favorite people in the whole world.'
Trailer for "Stella Days":
Trailer for "The Amazing Spiderman":