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“I don’t want to look back and think, I could have done something.” Actor Michael Sheen spoke to The Big Issue about nearly playing for Arsenal, heartbreak and the importance of giving back

Michael Sheen, the 52-year-old actor, has spoken in The Big Issue’s Letter to my Younger Self.

Today (Monday 6th December) Michael Sheen, the 52-year-old actor, has spoken in The Big Issue’s Letter to my Younger Self.

Michael Sheen revealed to The Big Issue that he could have pursued a career as a professional footballer: “When I was about 12, I had an opportunity to go to the next stage and play for the youth team [at Arsenal]. My life could have gone a very different way. But I didn’t go down that path because my mum and dad didn’t want to move the family to London. So over the next few years, I started to transfer that passion into acting. By 16, I was starting to really come into my own and thinking, maybe this is something I’m actually going to do seriously, rather than just something I enjoy.”

Michael admitted that a heartbreak at 16 left him far more guarded emotionally: “I’d had a real horrible heartbreak by that point. I was a bit wary about getting my heart broken. I’d gone the other way, never getting too serious about anything. I wasn’t great with processing emotion or talking about emotion.”

He continued: “I was doing pretty well with the girls at that point. I was trying to make my curly hair look like John Taylor’s hair in Duran Duran but it wasn’t working for me. Still, I was fighting the good fight with a lot of hairspray. I mean, I think you could have your own climate change conference about my teenage years.”

Sheen explained: “Doing The Passion in 2011 [a 72- hour National Theatre Wales production through the streets of Port Talbot] was a turning point in my life. I got to know people and organisations within my hometown that I didn’t know existed. Little groups who were trying to help young carers, 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. I would come back to visit three or four months later, and find out that funding had gone and that organisation didn’t exist anymore.”

He added: “I realised 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. 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.”

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The other turning point in the actor’s life was organising the Homeless World Cup in Cardiff, in 2019. “I had committed to helping to organise that and then suddenly, with not long to go, there was no money. I had to make a decision – I could walk away from it, and it wouldn’t happen. 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.”

He concluded: “I’ll be paying for it for a long time. But when I came out the other side I realised I could do this kind of thing and, if I can keep earning money it’s not going to ruin me. 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. I’ve essentially turned myself into a social enterprise, a not-for-profit actor.”

We are living in uncertain times and this winter, life continues to be extremely challenging for our vendors, who are out there working hard to lift themselves out of poverty. Please buy a copy of the magazine from your local vendor or a subscription (vendors receive 50% of the net profits). Alternatively, you can make a donation to The Big Issue Foundation. Visit: www.bigissue.com/bigwish

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