Why Martin Sheen Told ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert She Should Quit Acting

Melissa Gilbert got her big break as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie when she was just 9 years old. About 10 years later, Martin Sheen told her she should “get the f*ck out of the business.” Here’s why.

Martin Sheen and Melissa Gilbert | Vince Bucci/Getty Images

How Melissa Gilbert knows Martin Sheen

Gilbert first became acquainted with Sheen through her then-boyfriend, Rob Lowe. Lowe was a member of the Brat Pack along with Emilio Estevez, the son of Martin Sheen. So Gilbert would often hang out with Lowe and his friends at the Sheens’ home.

Martin Sheen’s stories about filming ‘Apocalypse Now’

One time when the group was swapping filming stories, Sheen spoke about his experience filming Apocalypse Now with Francis Ford Coppola.

“He recounted the now infamous stories about how he had been wasted while shooting the movie’s opening scenes, how he had lacerated his hand on the mirror and actually bled, and how production was shut down after he suffered a heart attack,” Gilbert wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale.

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“But he also told a story that no one else knew,” the Little House actor continued. “A couple moths after his heart attack, he said, they were shooting scenes on the river in God knows where, and out of the blue Francis turned to him and said, ‘You know, I could cut that opening footage and make you look like Mickey Mouse.'”

“Well, that would make you Walt Disney, wouldn’t it, Francis?” Sheen responded.

Martin Sheen told Melissa Gilbert she should quit acting

Gilbert writes about another evening she spent at the Sheens’ where “Marty” gave her some advice.

“We were all together one night, all of us just hammered (Marty was still drinking then), when he turned to me and said very seriously, ‘Don’t be an actress. Quit now. Just get the f*ck out of the business,'” she wrote.

Gilbert was “baffled” by Sheen’s comment.

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard in 'Apocalypse Now'
Martin Sheen as Captain Willard in ‘Apocalypse Now’ | CBS via Getty Images

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When she asked him what he meant, he said: “You don’t want to be a f*cking actress … It’s the worst job in the world. It will break your heart, and then it will break your heart again, and then just because it doesn’t give a f*ck it will break your heart yet again.”

Though Gilbert was taken aback by Sheen’s intensity, she also understood what he meant.

“Few businesses are crueler than show business,” she wrote.