Why Charlie Sheen’s name change is important

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This June 3, 2012 file photo shows actor Charlie Sheen at the MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles. In an interview Tuesday, July 17, on Ryan Seacrest's radio show, Sheen said “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe publicly threw his name out there as a possible judge and the idea peaked his interest. Sheen told Jay Leno Monday night on “The Tonight Show” that his two demands would be that FX and his “Anger Management” team “would have to be into it” and there would need to be a charitable component to him taking the job. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, file)

Charlie Sheen will use his birth name, Carlos Estevez, in the credits of ‘Machete Kills’. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

If they they say the newly elected Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles is Latino 2.0, what model does that make bad boy actor Charlie Sheen who has come out of the ethnic closet, name wise?

It’s been no secret that Charlie, the son of actor and activist Martin Sheen, is Hispanic and whose birth name was Carlos Estevez.

But now Charlie will also be credited that way in his next film, Robert Rodriguez’s shoot-em-up, explosive-filled sequel to “Machete”, “Machete Kills” that will be on the screen Sept. 13.

The onscreen name change is making news, of course, because lately most everything associated with the unpredictable Charlie Sheen usually does.

He’s doing it, some say, to distance himself from the lingering controversy surrounding his painful parting from the hit TV series “Two and a Half Men”. Others say it’s because Rodriguez has a penchant for ethnocentricity in his films and likes to promote Latino heritage.

Of course, if Rodriguez was that ethnocentric, wouldn’t he have changed his name to Roberto?

Unfortunately, all that tabloid attention detracts from the underlying reasons of why Carlos Estevez has been going by Charlie Sheen his entire career—as well as why Martin Sheen and Latino actors for almost the entire history of Hollywood have had to Anglicize their names.

Why Latino actors change their names

In Hollywood’s earlier days, there was little opportunity for Latino actors as such, so they often changed their names.

Among the most famous was Rita Hayworth who changed her name from Rita Cansino and Raquel Welch who was born Jo Raquel Tejada. Charlie’s dad Martin has made no secret that he, too, changed his name from Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez to get work in Hollywood.

“I started using Sheen, I thought I’d give it a try, and before I knew it, I started making a living with it and then it was too late,” Martin Sheen told interviewer James Lipton on the TV series “Inside the Actors Studio”.

“In fact, one of my great regrets is that I didn’t keep my name as it was given to me. I knew it bothered my dad… It’s still Estevez officially. I never changed it officially. I never will. It’s on my driver’s license and passport and everything.”

Charlie Sheen’s decision to go by his birth name, Carlos Estevez

As a four-year-old, the third of Martin’s children took on the name Charlie, wanting to be called that so he wouldn’t be confused with his uncle, who shares his first name.

“We would both respond to the name Carlos,” he says, “so I changed my name.”

When Martin’s children—three sons and a daughter—followed him into acting, Charlie was the only one who took on his father’s stage name.

In the “Machete” sequel, Charlie Sheen is “introduced” as Carlos Estevez in the film in which Danny Trejo returns as the ex-Federale agent—and includes a bevy of stars, including  Oscar nominee Demian Bichir (“A Better Life), Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Charlie himself hasn’t said specifically why he has gone back to his birth name in “Machete Kills”—or whether it’s a permanent change—but speculation by some is that, at age 47, the “Anger Management” series star wants to reconnect with his ethnicity.

It was just last year in an interview with Univision that Sheen raised some eyebrows by saying he wasn’t very Hispanic and didn’t grow up Latino.

“I don’t wake up feeling Latino,” he told the interviewer. “I’m a white guy in America. I was born in New York and grew up in Malibu.”

“I wish I spoke more Spanish. I’m sure I can learn, but there hasn’t been a lot of time lately. It was never a part of my life growing up. My parents never infused it into our household.”

As Carlos Estevez in “Machete Kills”, Charlie Sheen may also give Hispanics something else to think about, along the Latino 2.0 line.

Charlie portrays the first Latino president of the United States, a gun-toting one at that.

See Carlos Estevez’s intro in ‘Machete Kills’ trailer

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