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Chuck Lorre Nearly Quit 'Two and Half Men' Because Of Charlie Sheen

Chuck Lorre
David Livingston/Getty Images

In a new interview, the show's co-creator speaks out over the public battles with the actor that almost made him leave during the period of time he characterizes as "painful."

Chuck Lorre says he was prepared to leave Two and a Half Men, the mega-hit sitcom he created for CBS, during Charlie Sheen’s manic media meltdown.

"I offered to quit the show last winter," Lorre told TV Guide in his first interview since Sheen seemingly went off the deep end, publicly trashing the producer at every opportunity. "I said, 'Listen, if for some reason I'm now the Antichrist I'm happy to leave. It's not in my interest to stop the show, and I certainly don't want to put all these people out of work. Keep going. Get another guy. Don't stop on my account.'"

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Sheen had blasted Lorre as a “little maggot,” among other unprintable names, prompting an exasperated Lorre to tell the network: “I can't work with a guy who has decided that he hates my guts."

In the end, of course, Lorre stayed and Sheen continued his downward spiral.

"(CBS and Warner Bros.) chose to make a moral decision as opposed to a financial one," Lorre said. "But people were really frightened that they were signing off on what could have had devastating consequences. This was not a game. This was drug addiction writ large. This was big-time cocaine and in his own words, an 'epic drug run' that could have ended with either his death or someone else's."

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Sheen, who will soon return to TV in his comeback comedy Anger Management, scheduled to air on FX this summer, became a headache for Lorre on and off the set. In fact, Lorre nearly threw in the towel in 2009, when his controversial star made headlines for pulling a knife on wife, Brooke Mueller, during a holiday trip in Aspen.

"When he started attacking people with knives, that's it," Lorre recalled. “That should have been it. I should have walked. That's unthinkable. No more. I'm done. But for some reason I thought that because she was willing to forgive him ... we could emerge from this fiasco and be stronger and healthier."

Then came the Plaza hotel-room-trashing incident nearly a year later. "Last January and February it was not working anymore. You couldn't do that much cocaine and work. It was heartbreaking to be around here last year. ... It was a painful year. I'll be sorting it out for a long time."

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The studio and network fired Sheen months later, and Sheen retaliated with verbal grenades and a lawsuit accusing his former boss of breaching his contract. The suit was settled. With Sheen out of the picture, Lorre recruited Ashton Kutcher to replace him as Jon Cryer’s foil with the added bonus of further expanding the show’s audience to include Kutcher’s youthful Twitter fanbase.

In a vanity card that aired following a September episode of Men, Lorre said: "Live and learn. Moving on. Game over." Not so fast, the creator continued: "There's just one problem. The thing inside me that died? It walks at night. It's angry. It's hungry. And worst of all ... It's writing a tell-all book."