March 10, 2011 11:20am PT by Matthew Belloni
Charlie Sheen's Lawyer Explains Why He's Suing for 'Men' Cast and Crew (Exclusive)
Charlie Sheen’s lawyer Marty Singer wasn’t kidding when he promised to sue Warner Bros. and Two and a Half Men co-creator Chuck Lorre. The actor on Thursday filed a blistering $100 million lawsuit against the studio and Lorre on behalf of himself and the cast and crew of Men, demanding payment for the canceled episodes of the hit sitcom and millions of dollars in punitive damages.
"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 for Lorre's own conduct," states the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. Read it here (PDF).
Warner Bros. declined to comment on the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Lorre’s attorney Howard Weitzman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Singer blames the cancelation of the remaining eight episodes of this season on, "Warner Bros. capitulating to Lorre's egotistical desire to punish Mr. Sheen," a theory that permeates the 30-odd page lawsuit.
The complaint points out that Warner Bros. renegotiated Sheen's most recent Men contract when he was facing felony charges for allegedly assaulting his ex wife Brooke Mueller.
In his first interview after filing the suit, Singer tells THR his client was forced to sue to because Warners’ position—that Sheen was fired because his personal problems rendered him unable to perform his duties on the show—is not true.
“When a production company and network are willing to hire someone who is a convicted felon and accused of putting a knife to his wife's throat, and they know that this person has substance abuse problems, it's obvious that their position in this dispute is ridiculous,” Singer says. “What Warner Bros. is really saying is you can't mess with the 900 pound gorilla showrunner [Lorre] or you will get tossed.”
As Singer previewed in an interview with THR earlier this week, the lawsuit claims that plans were afoot to boot Sheen even before his series of bizarre media appearances over the past few weeks. The lawsuit claims Lorre has a financial incentive to de-prioritize Men in favor of his other Warner Bros/CBS shows The Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly because his deals for those shows are more lucrative.
In bringing the case on behalf of the cast and crew, Sheen has employed California Labor Code Section 2698, the state’s private attorney general statute, which allows individuals to initiate lawsuits on behalf of others. Singer tells THR why Sheen felt the need to bring the others who work on Men into the lawsuit.
“If you look at the quotes from Charlie from Day One, this is not just about him,” Singer says. “Chuck Lorre could dictate who gets paid and who doesn’t, and a lot of other people got hurt.”
Did any of the cast and crew ask Sheen to file a lawsuit on their behalf?
"I'm not going to comment on what people said privately,” Singer says. “But if the cast and crew did something on their own they would be blackballed. Once you file a lawsuit, you don't get paid and you don't get hired. Charlie is looking out for the people he's working with. Warner Bros. can try to cast this however they want but the complaint speaks for itself.”
Warners on Friday initiated a private arbitration against Sheen but Singer believes this lawsuit should proceed separately in open court.
“We believe this case should be public,” he says. “The only reason Warners wants an arbitration is because they don’t want the public to know the true facts. They want to keep things secret but they’re not gonna be happy when we get into their internal communications.”