By Matthew Belloni
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Charlie Sheen's lawyer wasn't kidding when he promised earlier this week 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.
Warner Bros. declined to comment on the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Sheen's attorney Marty Singer.
Lorre's attorney, Howard Weitzman, said in a statement: "The allegations in the complaint against Mr. Lorre are as recklessly false and unwarranted as Mr. Sheen's rantings in the media. The accusations are simply imaginary."
Weitzman suggested Sheen's motivation was simply about money.
"This lawsuit is about a fantasy 'lottery' pay-day for Charlie Sheen," he said. "Chuck Lorre's concern has been and continues to be about Mr. Sheen's health."
Singer blamed 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 told The Hollywood Reporter 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."
The lawsuit claims that plans were afoot to boot Sheen even before his series of bizarre media appearances over the past few weeks. It notes that 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 2699, the state's private attorney general statute, which allows individuals to initiate lawsuits on behalf of others.
"If you look at the quotes from Charlie from Day One, this is not just about him," Singer said in the interview. "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 said. "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 said. "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."