First, there was the news that Charlie Sheen was on yet another cocaine binge, this time with a porn star locked in hotel room closet. Then, there was Sheen’s in-home rehab. Next was the news that CBS was canceling the final eight episodes of “Two and a Half Men,” followed by Sheen’s bizarre media tour where he blamed everyone but himself, and spoke of reports about his behavior as “the gibberish of fools.” He did, however, admit to being under the influence of one drug: “Charlie Sheen.”
Now the latest: According to TMZ, Charlie’s lawyer is “going to pursue all legal options,” including a lawsuit against Warner Bros. and CBS for $320 million dollars. The hefty amount includes $64 million for lost wages — Charlie makes $2 million per episode, multiplied by the eight episodes this season and 24 next season — and, according to The New York Post, damages for “mental anguish.”
Charlie Sheen may very well be just another coked-out, womanizing Hollywood star who lives in a delusional world; however, Warner Bros. has a binding contract with Mr. Sheen to produce “Two and a Half Men” through the 2012 season. (CBS does not have a contract with Sheen, but Sheen’s legal argument against CBS will be that CBS interfered with the “performance” of the Sheen/Warner Bros. contract by canceling the show.)
Regardless of what Charlie tells 20/20, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Piers Morgan, and whoever else will listen, the battle comes down to the four corners of the contract.
Hollywood attorneys are no strangers to actors’ self-destructive behavior and aren’t generally concerned with anything other than their bottom line and economic interests. As a result, contracts often state that they can be terminated “without cause.”
Last year, when Charlie renegotiated his contract with Warner Bros., he probably didn’t see the boilerplate termination clause in the agreement. Or, if he did, he didn’t think that portion had anything to do with his off-the-screen antics, especially since the contract was signed while he was facing felony charges in Aspen for domestic battery.
Sheen’s attorney has said that Warner Bros. is “two-faced,” but that kind of allegation certainly won’t make its way into a $320 million complaint. The real question is whether Warner Bros. was forced to terminate its contract with Sheen due to CBS’s unilateral cancellation of the show.
Remember, there are two contracts here: one between Sheen and Warner Bros., and another between CBS and Warner Bros. While Sheen may certainly have a claim against CBS for its “interference” with his contract, the greater legal question is whether CBS legally terminated its agreement with the show’s producers. Sheen has an uphill battle if he thinks a CBS-Warner Bros. conspiracy exists.
A CBS senior executive said, “While the whole situation is regrettable, it will have no material impact to a company of our size.” Read the words carefully; there is no mention of a contract, just a brief statement about CBS’s economic interests.
At the end of the day, a lawsuit is unlikely. Sheen is posturing in all of his anger-filled interviews and his attorney’s letter to TMZ. The parties will either settle out of court and part ways, or they will agree to a truce and continue with the production of the show.
CBS may be able to legally dump the show, but they are most likely still running the numbers. Charlie Sheen is like a Terrell Owens: he’s a total nightmare to work with; however, he brings the team hundreds of millions of dollars.
It’s all about the money for all sides. CBS and Warner Bros. have too much to lose by dropping Sheen. They must continue dealing the Charlie Sheen drug to whoever will buy it.
Tamara N. Holder is one of the nation’s rising attorneys and legal analytical stars. She is a Contributor for the Fox News Channel. She founded The Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder, LLC, in 2005. Her work includes: criminal defense, expungement, race discrimination, police brutality, public policy, and pro bono practices. Seeing the need for outreach in this area, Tamara founded www.xpunged.com, a practice that provides a second chance to those individuals who have expungeable offenses under Illinois law. She is a former clerk to the Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Miramax/Dimension Films.