Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor Martin Sheen is just one of many celebrities who goes by a stage name. Pseudonyms are often used in Hollywood to help increase someone's chances of getting better roles or differentiate them from their peers. Often a stage name is key for branding an actor or insinuating their nationality or racial background.
Sheen's real name, Ramon Estévez, is unknown by many of his fans, because he made the decision to change it early on in his career. In an interview with Closer Weekly, however, Sheen revealed abandoning his birth name came with decades of guilt, saying, "That's one of my regrets."
"Sometimes you get persuaded when you don't have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in, and you pay for it later," Sheen said of the decision to forgo his Spanish surname. "But, of course, I'm only speaking for myself."
Despite being known worldwide as Martin Sheen, The West Wing star said he never "officially" changed his name, adding, "It's still Ramon Estévez on my birth certificate. It's on my marriage license, my passport, driver's license."
Sheen went on to say his regret over the stage name influenced one of his sons to make a different choice.
"The only influence I had on Emilio [becoming an actor] was to keep his name," he said. "When he started out, his agent was advising him to change his name to Sheen and he wouldn't do it. And I thank God he didn't."
Sheen and his son, Emilio Estévez, eventually worked together on a project that honored their heritage, 2010 film The Way. The actor told Closer Weekly that the experience was filled with "the deepest gratitude and satisfaction," as The Way was dedicated to Sheen's Spanish father and filmed in Santiago de Compostela.
"It is the best thing I've ever done," said Sheen. "Thousands of people have seen the film and been inspired to do the pilgrimage. That is a great source of satisfaction and pride."
Kirstie Renae is a writer, blogger, and Austin-based actress with a penchant for binge-watching TV with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter @KirstieRenae.