New Delhi: Hollywood actor Martin Sheen says he agreed to play the role of controversial Warren Anderson only on the condition that the then Union Carbide boss is not portrayed positively in the film based on the 1984 Bhopal gas leak tragedy that killed thousands of people.
"I would not have played Anderson, if he was going to be portrayed as heroic. He was not. After the initial tragedy, he could have taken responsibility, cleaned up the mess and brought in a medical team to help the people that were still suffering. It would have made a difference," Sheen said in an interview.
"But he did not have the courage. He could not find that moment of clarity. He could not face accepting his responsibility. That's the difference between heroes and villains," the actor said about Anderson, an American and the former Union Carbide Chief Executive who died in September this year at the age of 94.
Sheen had planned to visit Bhopal to promote the film and meet the victims but had to cancel the trip due to visa issues.
The film, 'Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain', releasing on December 5, is a fictionalised account of the biggest man-made industrial disaster in history in the wake of the gas leak at Union Carbide which occurred on the night of December 2-3.
The 74-year-old actor, best known for his performances in 'Badlands', 'Apocalypse Now', 'Gandhi', 'The Final Countdown', 'The Departed' and 'The Amazing Spider-Man', said he agreed to do the film to bring out the greed of corporate America.
"He was not the first CEO from the west to go to the third world and use their resources and labour while ignoring the health of people there. It happened with the oil companies and it continues to happen. Corporate America is universal. It is not patriotic, it is profitable. That's the main concern," the actor said.
Sheen hopes the Ravi Kumar-directed film, produced by Sahara Movie Studios and Rising Star Entertainment and also starring Mischa Barton, Kal Penn, Raajpal Yadav and Tannishtha Chatterjee, would be "a source of remembrance and healing for the victims".
Sheen felt it was important to bring focus on survivors, who continue to fight for compensation and rehabilitation. "The compensation has been compromised on so many levels. Government officials on both sides failed in their duty. People have been shortchanged. This needs to be rectified. I was very much hoping to bring some attention to the situation," he said.
The actor felt the Indian government and Dow Chemical, the current owners of Union Carbide, should take responsibility and clean up the ground and water which is "horribly contaminated". Sheen said the film has tried to give a face to the victims which will help others to understand what really happened in 1984.
"I am very pleased with the film because the focus is on the victims. Ravi managed to put a face to these victims. You see them as humans, they are not nameless, faceless people. Very vibrant lives were taken that night and there has been no real compensation and effort to address that tragedy."
The actor, who had to cancel his trip to India since he could not get his visa on time, said it would have been his third trip to the country. "I was in India in 1981 to shoot a part in Gandhi and I had an extraordinary experience. I love the country and its people... And then, I came back to Hyderabad to shoot 'Bhopal'."
An activist most of his life, Sheen said it is difficult for him to be a bystander in life. "I have been an actor most of my life and that's how I make my living but being an activist is what keeps me alive. It is important to have an awareness about what is really going around in the world. You either contribute to changing things or you accept despair and don't get involved. I have chosen to become involved. I cannot do anything and be myself."