By James Hibberd
Updated March 07, 2011 at 11:04 PM EST

Image Credit: Riccardo S. Savi/Getty ImagesHow did Charlie Sheen lose the highest-paid acting job in TV?

There wasn’t just one reason, according to a letter sent by Two and a Half Men studio Warner Bros. to Sheen’s attorney Marty Singer. It was everything that the media has obsessively covered about Sheen during the past four months — from the trashed Plaza hotel room to dodging rehab to his media rants.

The studio maintains Sheen defaulted on his contract due to several factors: Being unable to perform his duties on Men; admitting to cocaine use; making derogatory public comments about the show; and refusing to continue on the series without “radical changes” being made.

The extraordinary dismissal letter details the studio’s side of the story for the first time, informing Sheen’s attorney: “Your client has been engaged in dangerously self-destructive conduct and appears to be very ill. 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. Warner Bros. would not, could not, and should not attempt to continue ‘business as usual’ while Mr. Sheen destroys himself as the world watches.”

The studio says Sheen’s behavior took a dramatic turn for the worse in January and February, when, contrary to the actor’s claims, his partying began to impact his performance on the show. The studio says Sheen was late to rehearsals, had difficulty remembering his lines and hitting his marks. Exec producer Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards, which publicly annoyed the actor, “reflect Mr. Lorre’s growing concern and frustration with Mr. Sheen’s inability or unwillingness to acknowledge his serious problems and to seek help.”

After CBS and Warner Bros. suspended production on the series so Sheen could attend rehab, the companies were frustrated that the actor insisted on staying home instead of entering a facility.

“Warner executives requested several times that Mr. Sheen’s representatives send a letter from Mr. Sheen’s doctor explaining his diagnosis, course of treatment and prognosis, and certifying that Mr. Sheen could return to work on February 28,” said the letter. “No such letter was provided. Subsequently, Warner Bros. learned that Mr. Sheen had apparently fired his sobriety coach. Moreover, Mr. Sheen recently declared he had self-healed his addictions by saying that he ‘blinked and cured [his] brain.’ Accordingly, it is not surprising that no professional apparently was willing to attest that Mr. Sheen had self-treated, self-healed and self-cured his brain of his addiction problems.”

The letter continues to cite some of Sheen’s most bombastic quotes from his vacation at the Bahamas, most specifically his attacks on Lorre.

“At that point, the totality of Mr. Sheen’s condition, statements and escalating destructive behavior caused Warner Bros. to conclude that production in the 2010-2011 season was untenable,” said the letter. “Warner Bros. could not produce the Show when its lead actor had become demonstrably unstable — publicly lashing out with verbal abuse and overt threats to its executives and the creative voice of the Show, as well as destroying the already fragile relationships with key Show personnel that were indispensable to the creative process behind the Show’s success.”

The studio maintained it does not have to pay Sheen for the canceled Men episodes, a major point of contention between the parties. “As the lead actor in a successful television comedy, Mr. Sheen’s essential duties encompass more than just showing up and delivering lines,” Warner Bros. says. “One essential duty is working cooperatively and creatively with the other persons critical to the production. Mr. Sheen went from an actor who performed those duties to an individual whose self-destructive conduct resulted in his hospitalization, his inability to work at all for a period and the rapid erosion of the cooperative and creative process necessary to produce the Show.”

Also, Sheen’s references to cocaine use apparently gave Warner Bros. some leverage to swing the axe. The studio challenged the Sheen camp’s claim that there’s no “morals clause” in the contract, saying there is something very much akin to that: a clause that allows the studio to fire a performer who commits “a felony offense involving moral turpitude.”

“There is ample evidence supporting Warner Bros. reasonable good faith opinion that Mr. Sheen has committed felony offenses involving moral turpitude (including but not limited to furnishing of cocaine to others as part of the self-destructive lifestyle he has described publicly) that have ‘interfere[d] with his ability to fully and completely render all material services required’ under the agreement.”

In response to the letter, Singer says the actor will sue Lorre and Warner Bros., saying Sheen took two drug tests a week to prove he was sober and that he worked “flawlessly” when performing in front of a live audience.

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