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Could Charlie Sheen become the next Robert Downey Jr.?

March 8, 2011 |  7:30 am


A talented but troubled actor potentially suffering from a bipolar disorder is fired from a hit TV show after one too many embarrassing incidents involving substance abuse.

And less than a decade later, Robert Downey, Jr. goes from a tabloid story and "Ally McBeal" sideshow to the second-highest grossing film of the year.

It's far too early (and pat) to suggest that Charlie Sheen is headed for a career revival along the lines of Downey's "Iron Man" comeback or anything else possibly portended by Sheen's cameo in Downey's "Due Date."  First, Sheen (like Downey, 45) has to demonstrate he wants a comeback. Unlike the Iron Man's fall from grace in the late 1990s, which seemed to contain a certain amount of private shame, Sheen has embraced the dysfunction. Downey at his lowest moments seemed at least nominally interested in rehab, or not outright disdainful of it. Sheen's heal-thyself attitude doesn't exactly scream 12-step program.

Still, here are five reasons why an "Iron Man"-style resurrection isn't out of the realm of possibility for  Sheen in the years to come.

The comeback factor:
Americans love a public comeback almost as much as they love a public spiraling. In fact, "Different Strokes" cast members aside, it's hard to think of actors with substance-abuse problems who weren't given second and third chances. (Allegations of misogyny and anti-Semitism are a separate issue.)  Whether Sheen seizes the comeback opportunity is an open question. But he should get one.

The talent show:

Sure, you can mock the "I wasn't even trying" quip Sheen made to "20/20" about his early acting roles. But long before he bolstered a prime-time sitcom by playing a thinly disguised version of himself, Charlie Sheen had some promising film roles, including "Wall Street" and "Platoon." In fact, stack Sheen's early-career filmography against Downey's (best known in that era for "Less Than Zero" and "Chaplin") and the actor formerly known as Carlos Estevez probably comes out on top.

Producer push:
Right now, Sheen must seem like plutonium to anyone casting a movie, not least because of the insurance issue. Lindsay Lohan could probably get bonded more easily. But solve that conundrum and producers could make a case. Putting Sheen in a movie gets you instant attention that even millions of dollars in marketing couldn't buy. And sure, there's the distraction factor -- but the actor by most   accounts showed up for work on "Two and a Half Men" no matter how hard he was partying the night before. What's more, unlike TV, you wouldn't need a major commitment from Sheen to cast him -- just his willingness to step up for a few months of shooting and promotion.

Cash grab:
Sheen's got plenty in the bank now. But unless Mark Cuban pays him Dirk Nowitzki money to appear on HDNet, he'll will need some cash at some point in the next few years. And celebrities have a strange way of straightening out when their bank accounts are on the line.

Public platform:
Downey fought his way back to respectability the old-fashioned way -- semi-privately and with a steady diet of film roles. Sheen has far more potent and fast-acting tools at his disposal. As much as Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle have sped up and made public the actor's unraveling, they can also hasten his return, if and when he chooses to make one.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Rebooting Charlie Sheen: His famous roles, through a 2011 prism

Has anyone ever out-Sheened Charlie Sheen?

Critic's Notebook: Charlie Sheen's last straw

Photo: Charlie Sheen leaving a Colorado courthouse last summer. Credit: Rick Wilking / Reuters


Comments () | Archives (23)

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This is the best article on this situation I've read. Charlie Sheen is a good actor and has entertained audiences around the world for decades in great films and tv. He has more presence then Sam whatshisname in Avatar, Alex P something in #4, Garrett Hedlund in Tron, Channing Tatum, in fact why are up and comers so bland. Downey and Sheen have more talent, intelligence, and charisma than these cardboard cutouts.

Downey hit rock bottom, went to jail and had to be publicly humiliated to turn himself around. Sheen is not at that point (at least not to him) and as long as the media acts and enables and overlooks and laughs at his problems and/or illnesses (I would say addictions, but that has not been proven) he will not get better.

The answer to that question is an unequivocal, NO. Robert Downey has talent.

Robert Downey Jr. was hated by the public and Hollywood, the difference is
Downey went to hell danced with the devil and had the courage to change.

The support Charlie Sheen needs is the ability to save himself if he chooses to
there are no guarantees for the both of them.

My admiration is for Robert Downey Jr. who went from leasing his life to freedom; with recognition for his acting with a Golden Globe Award, Best Supporting Actor nomination and more.
He has stated that his approach to every creative endevour is through humility.


The meltdown isn't even over yet, and were talking about a come back?

No he is not and cannot. Downey is adorable to look at, has an innate intelligence that does not border on stupidity, and has cleaned up his life. Sheen is oceans away from that IF he lives long enough to even do that. I believe we all can change, improve and erase our foibles but it has to come from intent and Sheen thinks he is Gods gift to humanity. ugh.

Robert Downey Jr. got better. It's not looking so good for Charlie Sheen. He is very sick and he needs to be in a hospital before he kills himself.

I have to disagree with this articles comments about acting ability. Sheen might have had good roles and i'm not saying he can't act but Downey was always a strong actor and 100% deserved his oscar nomination for Chaplin. Sheen I don't think has delivered an Oscar worthy performance yet.

Sorry for this but your thinking is too anti-charlie. Jude or Not your approach is base on agree arguments. Be cool and see that the worse point is not point. He has now all the points in the basket.

Charlie should start off by redoing the movie "Less Than Zero." Maybe by doing the remake it would wake Charlie up.

Mr. Zeitchik, you may be as loony tunes as poor, besotted Charlie. Wow.

I pray for Charlie Sheen.I wonder and if others do also if someone that he knew drugged him from his success being jealous .I think John Stanmos was so wrong for what he asked Charles Father

Time for Charlie to turn the page and make good on his popularity. "Men' was too much like his real self. No wonder he did not need to practice before live filming. He needs more challenging roles to display his real acting ability. He will need to stop all the boozing, drugging and chain-smoking though.

Not so fast Dave. In the last few years (a quite possibly beyond a few) Charlie Sheen has always the SAME version of a character. How is that exciting? It's not good.

I suggest that you really take a look at some of the work that the "bland" newcomers have done besides the 'blockbuster' movies listed. A few - I'm not going to say, you can discover it on your own - are quite versatile actors (certainly NOT all). You also have to consider the material that some of these guys were given. In the blockbusters listed, for example, some of the scripts for those movies were atrocious, with painful lines to be delivered. I was actually surprised at what some of these guys had to work with and how much -again only SOME of them-they did with so little they were given to work with.

Everybody loves a good train wreck.

Sorry, but comparing Charlie Sheen to Robert Downey, Jr. is like comparing Kobe beef to a Mickey D's burger - a kind of travesty. Robert Downey has true talent, intelligence, charm and humor while Charlie Sheen is a 3rd-rate hack - sorry Martin. I've never seen the big deal. And to pay this guy, and those like him, such big bucks while vilifying and underpaying our teachers, is a compounded obscenity.

Although I hope for the sake of his family and children that Charlie Sheen gets help for his troubles, I don't think this comparison holds water. Robert Downey Jr. is a very talented actor. I don't think anyone's ever called Charlie Sheen "the best actor of his generation."

In a word, no.

Sheen might be the next Gary Busey, though.

Charlie & Mel should be put in the same padded room for a few days. Put a camera on them and call it two idiots.

Please don't even compare the two. Downey had addiction issues, but he never ranted & raved like a crazy person & bashed those who helped him along the way. That's why he was accepted back into Hollywood & into people's hearts. That's a true comeback - when someone beats an addiction. But Charlie Sheen is just acting insane & rude & biting the hand that feeds him. He ended his career.

Why always comparing Charlie Sheen to Robert Downey people ?
You know Downey was vilified for a while before.
Downey is a talented actor who deserved his great roles but Charlie Sheen is also a great actor, just in a different way. The life would be so dull (even more in movies industry) if every actors were the same. As for the "come back" hey Downey did his "come back" in an old fashioned way (he was also really helped by his now wife producer..) Sheen doesn't need a come back but he could really well make a "reinvention" in a totally revolutionarian way to his career by embrassing and calling the shots with the "supreme" medias and now powerful social medias..of course if he does not make the OD "de trop"..lol..time will tell.

There was a comment about Gary Busey implying his a train wreck.. as I often hear people been critical of this actor..Gary is lucky to be alive from a near fatal head injury on his motor bike several years ago, he lost almost half his skull and was left with impulsvie behavior pattens and temperate emotions..today his surviving the best he knows how, fact is his very much a man of insight and very intelligent.
Mocking this man is sheer ignorance, I would suggest people stop showing their own stupidity by head bashing this unique individual and one I'm happy who survived his near death experience.

No matter how Gary Busey chooses to act doesnt' require the ignoramous attitudes from the real village idiots.


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