Martin Sheen drawn to ‘strong family message’ of ‘Anne of Green Gables’

Martin Sheen, pictured in April 2015. Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

MILTON, Ont. – Martin Sheen says Anne of Green Gables is a great classic with a strong family message rarely seen on TV these days.

It’s one of the reasons the Apocalypse Now star signed on to a new TV movie about the feisty red-headed orphan.

Sheen has been in southern Ontario shooting a new version of the tale, starring 13-year-old Ella Ballentine as Anne Shirley.

Sheen plays elderly bachelor Matthew Cuthbert, who adopts Anne with his sister Marilla, and is immediately charmed by her infectious spirit.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is set to air on YTV next year.

Sheen says he enjoys “playing the old codger” and would be open to doing a sequel if the film takes off with audiences.

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“It’s like doing Shakespeare,” Sheen says during a break in shooting at a verdant historical site in Milton, Ont.

“All the plays have been done and they’ve been done for centuries and like doing an opera, they’re done all the time. Why do them again? Because there are new generations…. That’s what classics do — they inspire our rejuvenation, they live in our culture and they need to be done in order to reacquaint ourselves with the best part of ourselves.”

Filming wraps next week in Ontario, said producer Peter Williamson. It moves to Prince Edward Island later this month to capture the Island vistas.

The author’s granddaughter, Kate MacDonald Butler, serves as an executive producer and says this version hews close to the book.

That includes depictions of Anne’s time spent at an orphanage, before arriving at the Cuthbert farm.

Sheen says he’s enjoyed his stint in Milton, located about an hour from Toronto.

Partway through shooting he decided to move to the picturesque locale rather than make the daily commute from Toronto.

Sheen says his free time has included a visit to a local golf range and mass at an area church.

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