Lawyers in Charlie Sheen fracas lay out strategies

Wed Mar 9, 2011 6:32pm EST
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By Matthew Belloni

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When attorney Marty Singer received a phone message last Friday from Warner Bros. litigator John Spiegel, who said he was calling to discuss Charlie Sheen, Singer thought perhaps Spiegel wanted to talk about a possible settlement of the public standoff that had ground CBS' "Two and a Half Men" to a halt.

After all, two days earlier, Singer had fired off one of his infamous letters demanding that the studio immediately resume production of his client's hit sitcom or risk a multimillion-dollar breach-of-contract lawsuit. So Singer left Spiegel his own message, saying he was ready to chat.

"He never called me back," Singer told The Hollywood Reporter.

Instead, on Monday, Warners' legal team messengered to Singer's office a bombshell 11-page letter abruptly terminating Sheen's services and pre-emptively initiating an arbitration proceeding against him. The star's "dangerously self-destructive behavior" -- including the "disturbing rampage" at the Plaza Hotel in New York last year, the "banging 7-gram rocks" of cocaine and the all-night parties with porn-star "goddesses" that caused him to have "difficulty remembering his lines and hitting his marks" -- rendered Sheen incapable of working on the show, Warners said, and, thereby, in default on his contract.

Studio lawyers also wrote that Sheen could be dropped if executives believed he committed a "felony offense involving moral turpitude," which he had all but admitted to during his bizarre, 24/7 media blitz.

Within minutes of its delivery, the letter had been leaked to the website TMZ, owned by WB parent Time Warner, and Singer promised to file his own lawsuit against Warners and "Men" co-creator Chuck Lorre, whom Sheen claims conspired to shut down the show.

The aggressive move by the studio has set up a legal showdown featuring some of Hollywood's top attorneys, with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars from TV's top comedy on the line. The case will likely play out over weeks or years regardless of whether Warners recasts the show, as sources say it is planning to do.

"This is only the beginning," Singer said, previewing his argument. "You know how many times Charlie has had drug and rehab problems in the past? This is about the hostility between Chuck and Charlie that has gone on for years. This is Chuck conspiring with Warner Bros. (to get rid of him)."   Continued...