DONE DEAL: Ashton Kutcher New Star Of 'Two & A Half Men' Replacing Charlie Sheen

By Nikki Finke, Nellie Andreeva

UPDATE 6:30 PM: We’ve just received word that negotiations have concluded, marking That ’70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher’s return to television after a brief movie career. He is replacing Charlie Sheen in Two And A Half Men. The deal made sense for series producer Warner Bros which already had an overall with Kutcher’s Katalyst production banner. In fact, an hour later, Ashton announced he was joining the show by tweeting to his 6.7 million Twitter followers: “What’s the square root of 6.25?”

Names like Woody Harrelson, Rob Lowe, John Stamos, and Jeremy Piven circulated in the blogosphere as possible replcements. But until this week, with Deadline’s scoop that the show was in final negotiations with Hugh Grant, there had been nothing concrete going on with any specific actor. Co-creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre only wanted to continue the show “if he can find the right actor and get excited about that,” sources told Deadline. What mattered most to Lorre was that Sheen’s replacement be “somebody Chuck can work with” after butting heads with Charlie for years in a situation that escalated into a very public and nasty feud this spring.

All along insiders at Warner Bros and CBS had been saying that they were going after “an A-lister” as the new star of the top-rated sitcom after Sheen was fired. The feeling was to contract with “an exciting actor who’d never done TV before,” and CBS chief Leslie Moonves especially was encouraging Lorre et al to “swing high”. As one insider told Deadline, “Everybody wants show back and to support Chuck creatively and to do something the advertising community will feel good about. The only issue was whether everyone could get the show up and running and right fast enough to make this fall’s schedule.”

Because Kutcher is both a producer as well as an actor, he has a good reputation as a responsible showbiz professional. Sure, the producers’ top choice, Hugh Grant, would have been a swing for the fences — a real coup that could have bought the aging comedy series another 3 or 4 seasons on the air. By contrast, Ashton, whose movie career went from warm to ice cold in just a few years, is a solid base hit.

PREVIOUS 4 PM: CBS’ Leslie Moonves is loving this media frenzy over Charlie Sheen’s potential replacement on Two and a Half Men. The latest name to enter the rumor mill, that of Ashton Kutcher today, is noteworthy. Like Grant, he has big screen rom-com credentials which could help attract women to watch the show. But he also has multicamera sitcom experience from That ’70s Show that would come in handy. And last but not least, he has 6.7 million Twitter followers. That’s more than the audience for the Two and a Half Men repeat this past Monday. (more…)

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