(Reuters) - Charlie Sheen was fired from his starring role on TV sitcom "Two and A Half Men" because he was so addicted to cocaine that program makers feared he might die, or cause someone else to die, producer Chuck Lorre said.
Lorre, co-creator of the most-watched comedy on U.S. television, broke his silence about Sheen's meltdown and the decision to shutter the show down earlier this year in an interview with TV Guide Magazine.
Sheen, the highest paid actor on U.S. television at the time, was fired in March following weeks of drug-fueled partying, a half-hearted attempt at rehab and a series of wild public rants against Lorre and producers of the CBS network show.
Lorre said program makers Warner Bros and CBS "chose to make a moral decision as opposed to a financial one. 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."
Lorre said that he and others on the show had tried to intervene for months with Sheen, without success.
"I was so afraid my friend was going to die. When we would shoot a show on a Friday night, there was always that 'I'll see you Monday. I hope.' The holidays were the worst, because those long stretches of time were the ones we feared the most.
"I didn't want to be writing a sitcom while my friend died. Or worse, hurt someone else. We couldn't be complacent. There was a tragedy unfolding right in front of us. There was violence and blackouts. On a certain level, if you're looking the other way, you're responsible.
"You couldn't do that much cocaine and work. It was falling apart. It was heartbreaking to be around here then," Lorre told the magazine.
Sheen played drinking, womanizing bachelor Charlie Harper in a thinly-veiled version of himself on the show. When he was fired, the future of the series was up in the air until Ashton Kutcher was hired to replace Sheen and play a heart-broken Internet billionaire.
A record 27.7 million U.S. viewers watched the first episode of the show with Kutcher in September, which began with the funeral of Sheen's character.
Lorre said that Sheen, the character of Charlie Harper and the very public acrimony of the actor's split had become part of the fabric of the TV show.
"To not deal with it felt like a cheat. The unbelievably public nature of this debacle is part of our legacy now. It happened, and the dividing line between Charlie Harper and Charlie Sheen is forever blurred," he said.
Sheen issued a series of public apologies in September, admitting he was out of control in the months before and after his firing. He also signed a deal to star in a new comedy called "Anger Management", starting on the FX cable channel in mid-2012.
The full TV Guide Magazine interview with Lorre can be seen in the issue which hits newsstands on December 15.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)
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