Image Credit: Glenn Harris/PR Photos; Chris Hatcher/PR PhotosThe F-18 has dropped its payload: Charlie Sheen has sued his former employer Warner Bros., and Two and a Half Men showrunner Chuck Lorre for $100 million. He’s also suing on behalf of the show’s cast and crew, though none have actually joined Sheen as parties to the lawsuit. (Read the suit here.)
In a document filed Thursday, Sheen laid out a detailed accusation that sought to portray his downfall as a scheme orchestrated by Lorre to push him from the hit show. Lorre’s motivation was an “egotistical desire to punish” the actor, the suit says.
“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,” reads the opening of the lawsuit. “Charlie Sheen is not only seeking payment for his own compensation for the series, but he is also pursuing claims for the benefit of the entire cast and crew to get paid the balance of the season’s 24 episodes.”
The suit claims that Warner Bros. had no problem signing Sheen to two more years on Men, even though he was dealing with substance abuse issues and had pending felony and misdemeanor charges pending against him. “Warner Bros. understood that Mr. Sheen suffered from alleged physical and mental disabilities … none of these resulted in Warner Bros. suspending Mr. Sheen. What did?”
The answer, according to Sheen and his attorney, is the actor criticizing Lorre during media interviews “after years of Lorre humiliating, harassing, and disparaging Mr. Sheen.” As examples, the suit cites a Lorre-penned on-air vanity card that referred to a “Hooker in the Closet” (referencing Sheen’s Plaza hotel trashing), and Lorre advising people watching Men to “avoid degrading yourself by having meaningless sex with stranger in a futile attempt to fill the emptiness in your soul.” (Sheen, it seems, assumed that statement referred to him.)
“Because of his financial leverage with Warner Bros. and CBS by having two other profitable series with them [Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly], Lorre convinced 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 condition, despite the fact that Mr. Sheen is in compliance with his contract,” the suit reads.
The suit goes on to accuse Lorre of refusing to produce scripts when Sheen was ready to return to work following the show’s suspension on Feb. 14 — a key point, since it suggests that Lorre, not Sheen, was responsible for production being halted. Warner Bros., insiders have maintained that since the original idea was to give Sheen a month off to get sober — so when the actor suddenly pronounced himself cured and said he’s ready to come back to work, it was unreasonable to expect scripts to be ready so quickly.
The suit claims Sheen has “suffered the intangible loss of employment-related opportunities” and asks for $100 million and punitive damages, plus compensation for other Warner Bros. employees impacted by the work stoppage.
One law professor wasn’t impressed by the lawsuit. “Mr. Sheen has as much right as any disgruntled employee to sue his employer, if he thinks he’s being treated unfairly,” said Anthony Michael Sabino of St. John’s University’s Peter J. Tobin College of Business. “But what is the legal basis for his claim? He has a contract with Warner, which is probably a thick as a phone book. What provisions of the contract he signed does he contend Warner violated? Conversely, what will Warner throw back at him as to contract provisions, more likely restrictions, that Warner says he violated? It’s one thing to go on the Internet and rant; it’s quite another to walk into an austere courtroom and make a case.”
Warner Bros., had no comment, but the studio laid out its side of the story in a letter sent to Sheen’s attorney last week explaining why the actor was fired. Read about that here.