Sheen sues Warner for $100 million over 'Two and a Half Men' firing, closing

By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2011; 7:50 AM

Just when you think you're going to get a day off from covering the Charlie Sheen Scorched Earth story, having sworn to your editor a Charlie Sheen Reporting Abstinence vow, Sheen's attorney goes and files a $100 million lawsuit on behalf of his client against "Two and a Half Men" production house Warner Bros. and executive producer Chuck Lorre.

Sheen's suing for the $100 million - plus punitive damages - over the decision to shutter the hit CBS sitcom for the rest of this season. Oh, and for giving Sheen the sack-a-roo.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday morning in Los Angeles Superior Court, not only demands that Sheen get paid for the eight episodes of the show that were scrapped this TV season, but the actor also says he's suing on behalf of the entire cast and crew.

"Torpedo away. . . . You corporate Trolls were warned. And now you've been served!" Sheen tweeted early Thursday afternoon, right about the time tabloid Web site TMZ was publishing the legal document. TMZ is one of Charlie's preferred contacts with the outside world since production shut down on "Men."

"Defendant Chuck Lorre, one of the richest men in television who is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, believes himself to be so wealthy and powerful that he can unilaterally decide to take money away from the dedicated cast and crew of the popular television series 'Two and a Half Men' in order to serve his own ego and self-interest, and make the star of the Series the scapegoat for Lorre's own conduct," Sheen's attorney, Martin Singer, wrote in the pretty zippy court filing.

Singer alleges that the decision to cancel the eight episodes left this season was made because Lorre hated Sheen and because Lorre allegedly wanted out to focus on his other shows. Lorre also produces CBS sitcoms "The Big Bang Theory" and "Mike & Molly" for Warner Bros. TV. The complaint says that Lorre's contracts on those two shows are much richer than his contract on "Men."

"Men" was the first of the three shows to premiere on CBS. In succession, the network purchased the other two.

Singer alleges that Warner Bros. negotiated Sheen's latest contract when the actor was facing felony charges in Aspen, Colo. Warner Bros. cited felony charges in its letter dismissing Sheen, which it sent out Monday.

The letter from Warner Bros. cited Sheen's arrest and that guilty plea to a charge of assaulting his wife, Brooke Mueller, in 2009, which was plea-bargained.

Sheen has sued because Warner Bros. said in its letter that his personal problems left him unable to do his job, Singer told the Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.

"When a production company and network are willing to hire someone who is a convicted felon and accused of putting a knife to his wife's throat, and they know that this person has substance abuse problems, it's obvious that their position in this dispute is ridiculous," THR says Singer said in the interview.

We'll pause here for a minute - you'll want to reread that comment from Sheen's attorney.

In Sheen's suit, Singer also says Warner Bros. fired the actor when he was ill, in violation of state and federal law.

In the suit, Sheen says Warner Bros. and Lorre "were able to generate more than a billion dollars as a result of Charlie Sheen, the cast and crew rendering services on the Series."

The complaint also says that "after years of Lorre humiliating, harassing, and disparaging Mr. Sheen," Lorre "unilaterally decided not to write scripts as required to complete the 2010-2011 season's contemplated episodes."

Warner Bros., the suit says, "capitulated to Lorre's egotistical desire to punish Mr. Sheen and to stop work on the Series for the rest of the season, and used its powerful public relations machine to create a myth to justify their conduct by wrongfully blaming Mr. Sheen."

Because of Lorre's financial leverage with Warner Bros. and CBS, the suit says, he persuaded Warner Bros. to "conspire with him and attribute the suspension of the Series and termination of Mr. Sheen's contract on Mr. Sheen's alleged statements, conduct and conditions, despite the fact that Mr. Sheen is in compliance with his contract and ready, willing and able to proceed."

Warner Bros. declined to comment, a representative said. Likewise, Lorre is declining to comment, his rep's office told The TV Column.

Sheen's suit was filed three days after Singer got a letter from Warner Bros. TV, giving the actor the hook.

"Your client has been engaged in dangerously self destructive conduct and appears to be very ill," Warner Bros. TV said in the letter, which continued:

"For months before the suspension of production, Mr. Sheen's erratic behavior escalated while his condition deteriorated. His declining condition undermined the production in numerous and significant ways. Now, the entire world knows Mr. Sheen's condition from his alarming outbursts over just the last few weeks."

In its letter, Warner Bros. also mentioned a clause in the contract with Sheen that, the studio said, allowed the studio to break the contract if he committed an act "which constitutes a felony offense involving moral turpitude under federal, state, or local laws, or is indicted or convicted of any such offense."

Then, as now, CBS had nothing to say.

No decision has been made about the future of "Men," although industry navel gazers have speculated that the fact that neither Warner Bros. nor CBS announced it was nuking the show is a good sign.

Sheen, TV's highest-paid actor, with a per-episode salary of nearly $2 million, had been saying in interviews that he intended to honor his contract, which ran through next season - the show's ninth - but that if Warner Bros. and CBS wanted him back for a 10th season, his price would be $3 million an episode, owing to the distress he said he has been put through.

Thursday's lawsuit wasn't a shock - for days, Sheen had been vowing to take legal action against Warner Bros. for shutting down the show and pink-slipping him.

Meanwhile, the Charlie Sheen tour continues to be ratings crack for anyone lucky enough to book him.

ABC News, for instance, just celebrated the best "sweep" ratings derby performance for its morning infotainment show, "Good Morning America," since November of 2007.

The centerpiece of this crowning achievement? The show's Feb. 28 broadcast, featuring an exclusive sit-down with Sheen (except, of course, NBC's "Today" show wound up with a Sheen interview, too, but that's another story). That day, "GMA" copped its biggest audience in well over two years - nearly 6 million viewers.

And, ABC News boasted, "GMA" that week posted its largest weekly crowd-size advantage over CBS's morning infotainment show, "The Early Show," in more than three years.

Because if there was one place Sheen was not going to go that week, it was on a CBS show.

Meanwhile, one day after Sheen shuttered his webcast, "Sheen's Korner," the actor made his debut on the Will Ferrell Web site Funny or Die, as star of a new cooking show, "Charlie Sheen's Winning Recipes."

"Let's face it: I am living the life of a rock-star Vatican assassin, and if you eat like me, you can be like me," said Sheen, in a apron.

He demonstrates the fine art of steak grilling on an outdoor grill.

"My tiger blood needs meat. I killed this cow myself. Winners stalk and kill their own food without weapons. I'm not some mouth-breather in a drive-through, gorging my pie-hole on mass-produced monkey grub. My body is a lock box of diamonds, uranium and assassin nobility. The best way to cook a steak is with moderate to intense observation. Duh! Winning! Steak is done."

"There's only one thing you can drink with a meal like this. No wine at Sober Valley Lodge. This is tea made from ground dinosaur fossils."

A Funny or Die exec assured the celebrity suck-up show "ET" that it was only grape juice Sheen was drinking in the scene.

Post a Comment

Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company