Bright Lights Film Journal

Pariah-dise Now: Charlie Sheen and the busted bubble

“People misunderstand my passion for anger.”

Charlie Sheen… was I the only film lover who saw his interview last night on 20/20 and instantly connected his monomaniacal fervor to the way James Mason acted once the experimental cortisone treatments in BIGGER THAN LIFE took effect. Remember? I wrote about that Nicholas Ray classic last year:

“People say it’s lonely at the top but I sure like the view.” –

Among other people, he sounded like Dirk Diggler getting ready for his scene with the carpet dope in the heartrending “80s” section of BOOGIE NIGHTS. The main thing in all these instances is “unstable euphoria,” – it’s like you’re secretly afraid of losing your holy momentum, a single shred of self-doubt can set you tumbling down the mood scale. The risk is in coming off as insufferable egotistic when one is completely oblivious to his own erratic behavior. As someone who could only smirk when Charlie Sheen boasted of staying awake seven straight days, I can vouch for the manic denial present in his every sentence – this is a man who has too many people flattering his every whim for too long – and that’s the real evil of cocaine –

“I just decided that- to be within moments – boom!”

“Everything, all of it, I can’t specify one thing – a guy who wouldn’t bow down to stupidity.

Sorry but no one says “if you find any drugs give them to me, I’ll do ’em” when seriously getting sober, Charlie!! We’ve been there and so have you. As Michael Clayton said to a similarly manic Tom Wilkinson, “we all know where this goes, and how it ends.” I’ve seen it in my friends over the years, those that go into the cocaine especially, and I too know how this ends. He probably is sober at the moment, but that can trigger huge messianc manic binges, and let me tell you once the momentum slows even a bit, BAM! – How you see yourself at your drunken coke party and how you actually look starts to vary wildly, as does your tolerance, because what you could handle at 20 you can’t handle at 40, particularly if you’ve been handling it in excess for those ensuing two decades. Eventually your liver is like ‘uh uh’ and the shit just floats like stagnant oil spills in your system… watching him last night, I felt like I used to feel listening to newcomers at AA, or my own brain anytime… artistry and addiction go hand and hand to the point of madness, but once your humility is gone, good lord!

But, right? BIGGER THAN LIFE!