In his 30 year long career, Michael Sheen has made quite a name for himself as one of Wales’ top actors, dominating both the stage and the screen. More recently, however, the actor and filmmaker has earned a reputation for being a bit, well, eccentric. From Tron to Good Omens, Sheen has made it a habit to select pretty unusual roles for someone with his classical training — which, hey, we’re all about. Now though, the actor is taking his eccentricity (and philanthropy) to the next level, telling The Big Issue he has officially turned himself in to “not-for-profit” actor (via the BBC).
As for what that entails, Sheen said that from here on out, he intends to funnel his pay from various projects directly into different community-driven ventures. The Frost/Nixon star has already pledged a whopping £50,000 ($66,200) over five years to fund a bursary to help Welsh students go to Oxford University.
“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,” Sheen said. “I’ve essentially turned myself into a social enterprise, a not-for-profit actor.”
According to Sheen, the “turning point” came shortly after he wrapped up work on a 72-hour production of The Passion in his hometown of Port Talbot and realized there were countless people and organizations within his community doing good work that he was simply unaware of. Little groups, explained Sheen, 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.” Sheen said that following his discovering some of these organizations, he returned a few months later only to discover they had been shut down.
“I realized the difference between that child’s life being a little bit better or not was ultimately a small amount of funding and I wanted to help those people,” Sheen said. “I didn’t just want to be a patron or a supportive voice, I wanted to actually do more than that. That’s when I thought, I need to go back and live in Wales again.”
Since moving back, Sheen has also invested in another massive project: The Homeless World Cup. After funding for the $2 million dollar project fell through, Sheen sold off two of his homes in order to ensure the teams would get to play. While Sheen said the decision was “scary” and “incredibly stressful,” the alternative was seeing the tournament come to an end, which he simply could not do.
“I had to make a decision – I could walk away from it and it wouldn’t happen,” Sheen started. “I thought, I’m not going to let that happen. So, I put all my money into keeping it going. I had a house in America and a house here and I put those up and just did whatever it took. It was scary and incredibly stressful. I’ll be paying for it for a long time. But 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.”
While Sheen might be one of the first actors we’ve heard of doing this, here’s hoping he won’t be the last.