Sheen appears to have discovered the ever-elusive concept of “enough.” How refreshing to see a high-profile person who believes that when you earn a lot, you have the ability to give back a lot.
“I don’t want to just be someone who enjoys the fruits of what other people have done and then pulls the drawbridge up and go, ‘Well I’m all right, Jack, I’ve had a nice time,’” he said.
Altruism isn’t new to Sheen. He sold his houses (one in the U.S. and one in the UK), to ensure that the 2019 Homeless World Cup could go on in Cardiff after $2 million for the project fell apart.
In 2017, Sheen pledged £50,000 over five years to fund a bursary (a British grant or scholarship for students in need) to help Welsh students go to Oxford University. The scholarship is based on family income.
“Where you come from and the financial circumstances of your background should not be a barrier to those of talent and excellence receiving much-needed support and development,” Sheen told the BBC.
Adding: “Jesus College, Oxford, has had a long and fruitful relationship to Wales since its founding in 1571 and it gives me great pleasure to use what resources I have to help young Welsh students of real potential get the opportunities for learning there that they deserve as much as anyone else.
“I hope that these bursaries not only make it possible for Welsh students to take advantage of the educational possibilities at Jesus but also help to encourage a sense of what is possible for young Welsh people generally.”
Sheen joins an esteemed group of famous folks with bursaries and scholarships named after them—actor Laurence Olivier, Beatle John Lennon, martial arts star Bruce Lee, Monty Python legend Michael Palin, chat show host David Letterman and musician Will.i.am.
Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Jesus College principal, said the college was proud of its “strong historical connection” with Wales’ people.
“We are hugely grateful to Michael for this generous support, which will positively impact the lives and futures of some of our more disadvantaged Welsh students,” Shadbolt told the BBC.
Sheen tells The Big Issue that he knew this was his calling after a 72-hour production of The Passion, performed in his hometown of Port Talbot, Wales in 2011.
“I got to know people and organizations within my hometown that I didn’t know existed,” he said.
“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 [came] back to visit three or four months later [to] find out that funding had gone and that organization didn’t exist anymore.”
He added: “I realized 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.”
The “not-for-profit” actor’s first film to be entirely dedicated to charity will be Last Train to Christmas, which premieres on Dec.18.
Just for fun, scroll through Michael Sheen’s Twitter profile to see the number of organizations he supports and/or fundraises for. Seriously, this guy is the real deal.