The indescribable Elvis Presley was more than just a singer, more than just an actor. He pretty much solely defined the culture of the 20th Century and was beloved by all sexes, all races, and all people. Actor Martin Sheen was a particularly great admirer of ‘The King’, especially in his youth, but also throughout his adult life.
Sheen once explained that it was Elvis that brought together “boys and girls” in their musical tastes. “Elvis was the first male singer that was equally loved by boys and girls,” he said. “We took our music very seriously; when we spent a nickel to hear a song on a jukebox, it was big. And there was no hesitation with Elvis. For boys and girls. Elvis brought us together; there was no hesitation with playing Elvis.”
Further explaining his love for the legendary singer, Sheen added, “He was unbelievable; he was revolutionary. He just changed the way we listened. And he had a profound effect on us all culturally and musically, emotionally and spiritually. I still miss him. It’s hard to believe he’s gone because there’s so much still reflective of him.”
Elvis, of course, turned his talents to acting, and Sheen explained that it was that profession that he had really set his heart on succeeding in. “When Elvis was a movie star, he wasn’t like a singer who did movies; he became a movie star,” he said. “The unfortunate part about it, and I’m not making this up, he expressed his disappointment that he was not groomed to be an actor more.”
Sheen continued, “He loved James Dean, and he really wanted to be a serious actor. But he was not managed well at the time. So there was no serious attempt to get him to the next level. And that was unfortunate because that was what he really wanted to do.” It’s true that Elvis never made the kind of impact in film that his fans had hoped for. If he had, perhaps he might not have died so early in his life.
As for a moment of Elvis’ career that Sheen remembers above all the rest, he said that Elvis’ first film, Love Me Tender, stood out distinctly. “I remember very specifically seeing his first movie over and over again, and it came to our neighbourhood movie house in Dayton, Ohio, and it cost 25 cents to get in there.”
“I couldn’t wait to get there because we thought he was going to be the one to fill the void that James Dean had left,” Sheen also noted. “We thought, ‘He’s the one, man’. And he was very good in that movie. They still had him singing, but I was more curious to see how he was as an actor. We were so desperate for a new hero in the cinema. For a while, he filled that.”