Hollywood star Michael Sheen has said he is now a “not-for-profit actor” after selling his houses and giving the proceeds to charity.
The actor and activist, 52, said organising the 2019 Homeless World Cup in Cardiff was a turning point for him. When funding for the £2m project fell through at the last moment, Sheen sold his own houses to bankroll it.
“I had a house in America and a house here and I put those up and just did whatever it took,” he told the Big Issue for their Letter to My Younger Self. “It was scary and incredibly stressful. I’ll be paying for it for a long time.”
Sheen said that when he “came out the other side”, he realised he could do these kinds of things and, if he could keep earning money, “it’s not going to ruin me”. He’s pledged to carry on using the money he earns from acting to fund more projects.
“There was something quite liberating about going, all right, 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.”
Throughout his career Sheen has worked with a number of social enterprise organisations. In 2017, he set up the End High Cost Credit Alliance to help people find more affordable ways of borrowing money, and he has pledged £50,000 over five years to fund a bursary to help Welsh students go to Oxford University.
He’s a patron of a number of British charities and was a vocal supporter of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Sheen, star of Twilight, Good Omens and Frost/Nixon, revealed the first “turning point” in his life was after a 72-hour production of The Passion through the streets of his hometown Port Talbot in 2011.
“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 said he 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.”
Last year, Sheen said he had handed back his 2009 OBE after taking a “crash course” in Welsh history, stating that he didn’t want to be a “hypocrite”.