UPDATED: It’s over for Charlie Sheen on the hit CBS comedy Two and a Half Men. But his ongoing war with the series producer Warner Bros. TV is far from over, with lawyers for both sides expected to take the lead in the coming weeks. The news of Sheen’s firing came shortly after 1:30PM this afternoon when the studio released the following statement: “After careful consideration, Warner Bros. Television has terminated Charlie Sheen’s services on Two and a Half Men effective immediately.”
Just like the studio did with its previous statement announcing the cancellation of Two and a Half Men for the rest of this season, Warner Bros. TV stopped short of announcing the end of the series, meaning that continuing the sitcom with a new actor next season is a possibility. Two and a Half Men has one more season under a three-year pickup at CBS. There has been a lot of speculation about CBS and Warner Bros. TV putting together a wish list of actors to potentially succeed Sheen on the show, with names like John Stamos and Rob Lowe bandied about. CBS would not comment on the future of Men beyond this season.
Sheen’s termination by Warner Bros. TV follows a relentless media blitz by the Two and a Half Men star, who has been taking numerous swipes at CBS, Warner Bros. and the show’s co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre over the past two weeks. He also launched a Web-based series, Sheen’s Korner, and is in talks with Mark Cuban’s HDNet for unscripted/talk show projects.
Today’s decision is fueling a new legal war between Sheen and Warner Bros. In preparation, the studio last week hired top attorneys Ron Olson and John Spiegel. Sheen’s litigation lawyer, Marty Singer, last Monday fired a letter to the studio demanding that Sheen is paid in full for the eight unproduced episodes of the show’s current eighth season, but the actor had refrained from launching a full-blown lawsuit against Warner Bros. That is about to change after the letter sent to Singer today by Olson and Spiegel’s law firm, Munger, Tolles & Olson.
According to a copy obtained by TMZ, in it Warner Bros. details its reasons for firing Sheen. “Your client has been engaged in a dangerously self-destructive conduct and appears to be very ill,” the letter read. It chronicles Sheen’s recent personal troubles, including the New York hotel room incident in November, the wild Las Vegas weekend in January and the 36-hour bender at his house that led to Sheen’s hospitalization on Jan. 27. It claims that Sheen reneged on a promise he made as part of signing a new deal with Warner Bros. in May, which required him to continue rehab treatments. The letter also claims that on Jan. 28, in a meeting at his house with CBS and Warner Bros. TV top executives Leslie Moonves and Bruce Rosenblum, Sheen agreed to enter rehab. But, with an airplane waiting for him the next day, he refused to leave his house, which he subsequently dubbed Sober Valley Lodge.
Even before the production shutdown, Sheen addiction problems had begun to significantly impact his performance on the show, according to Warner Bros. TV. In the letter, the studio cites “his inability to perform the essential duties of his position, (including) his physical appearance, inability to deliver lines, inability to collaborate creatively with staff and crew, inability to work with the executive producers,” which subsequently escalated to “inflammatory comments poisoning key working relationships, and frustration of the show’s creative environment by the public spectacle of his self-inflicted disintegration.” In the end, according to Warner Bros. TV’s lawyers, the actor was fired for violating a clause in his contract by committing “a felony offense involving moral turpitude.”
Sheen today seemed unfazed by the termination. In his vintage colorful style of bizarre imagery, he reacted to the firing with a statement to TMZ: “This is very good news. They continue to be in breach, like so many whales. It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge because now I can take all of the bazillions, never have to look at whatshiscock again and I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension.” Sheen was far less restrained in an interview with Access Hollywood: “These guys are such yellow cockroaches that they didn’t even have the decency to call me,” he told Billy Bush, claiming that he was fired via text. “I put 5 bil in their cheap suit pockets and another half a bil in what’s-his-cheese’s pockets and this is the f**king respect I get? It’s just deplorable, and they should be ashamed of themselves!” Sheen’s lawyer Singer later added that they plan to sue both Warner Bros. TV and Lorre. Under his agreement with the studio, Sheen is bound to private arbitration, though he can sue Lorre in court. Warner Bros. also said it is considering legal action against Sheen to recoup lost revenues from the episodes dropped because of his personal problems.
This is a sad end to one of the most successful sitcom runs for an actor. For the past (almost) eight seasons on Two and a Half Men, Sheen reinvigorated his career, earned major awards nominations and amassed a fortune. Under his most recent contract for the show, he commanded $1.5 million-$2 million an episode.
As for trying to replace him on Men, it won’t be easy. While it has been done successfully on workplace comedies, including Sheen’s stint on ABC’s Spin City after the departure of Michael J. Fox (NBC’s The Office is planning a similar transition following the pending departure of Steve Carell), switching lead actors on a family sitcom is much trickier. Let’s face it, in real life co-workers come and go, but family members don’t get replaced. ABC tried to continue 8 Simple Rules after star John Ritter died, but that proved impossible.
Ironically, Two and a Half Men exists because of Sheen. The project only made it to pilot because Sheen agreed to do it — CBS boss Moonves had made the pilot order contingent on Sheen, so the comedy wouldn’t have proceeded beyond a script without the actor.