February 28, 2021

Media Decoder Blog: Sheen Settles ‘Two and a Half Men’ Suit

The protracted conflict between Charlie Sheen and Warner Brothers Television ended quietly on Monday when the two sides agreed to settle a lawsuit the actor filed after the studio fired him from the hit CBS sitcom, “Two and a Half Men.”

Warner Brothers issued a statement saying that the settlement had been agreed “to the parties’ mutual satisfaction.” Mr. Sheen had also sued the comedy’s executive producer, Chuck Lorre, and that action was also settled by the agreement. No terms were disclosed and the statement said all the parties had “agreed to maintain confidentiality over the terms.”

Mr. Sheen filed his $100 million suit — saying he had been unjustly fired — in March, using especially vituperative language that was directed at both Warner Brothers executives and Mr. Lorre. Mr. Sheen said he was entitled to his salary for the eight episodes of the show that were not completed last season (at an estimated salary of $1 million an episode) and to a continued financial stake in future episodes, even though he would no longer act in them.

The show did continue, with Ashton Kutcher replacing Mr. Sheen as its star, and its premiere episode last week drew the biggest ratings in the program’s history. The high ratings make it likely that the series will be able to produce many more episodes.

In comments made before the settlement, executives involved in the negotiations said Mr. Sheen was not likely to be paid for the episodes that were not produced, nor was he likely to receive any fee from syndication sales of future episodes that star Mr. Kutcher.

But the studio, which had not sent Mr. Sheen a check since March, was prepared to fulfill its obligation to pay Mr. Sheen an undisclosed amount for the syndication sales of all episodes of the show that he did star in.

Mr. Sheen’s suit was hamstrung from the start by contractual terms, which dictated that the dispute would be handled by arbitration. But Mr. Sheen also began to make conciliatory public statements in recent months, taking the blame for the actions that ended his participation in the show.

Mr. Sheen did not release a statement on the settlement and calls to his lawyer, Martin Singer, were not returned Monday evening.

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Guard Dog to the Stars (Legally Speaking)

IT started with a fortune cookie. Two of them, actually.

Martin D. Singer still carries in his wallet the slip he plucked from the first in 1980, on the day he decided to join John H. Lavely Jr. to start their law firm, Lavely Singer. It reads: “Your intuitions in business decisions are good.”

On the firm’s first anniversary, Mr. Singer recalls, he and Mr. Lavely went out for Chinese again. And he got the same fortune.

Somebody knew the stars were in the market for a pit bull.

Since then, Mr. Singer and his firm of 15 lawyers have emerged as Hollywood’s foremost protectors of the unlikeliest of underdogs: celebrities who seem to have it all.

A growing tabloid culture, coupled with the brutal economics of a contracting entertainment industry, has left a surprising number of the glamour set feeling picked on — and looking for someone to even the score. That is often Mr. Singer, a stocky, bespectacled 59-year-old litigator. More than 30 years ago, he began taking odd jobs that were beneath established firms, then built what might have been a niche practice — shielding stars and their adjuncts from annoyance — into a Hollywood mainstay.

“He’s ferocious and fearless, he really is,” says Sylvester Stallone, one of the first in an expanding list of entertainers, executives and even political figures who have turned to Mr. Singer for help with contracts gone wrong, business relationships gone bad or most any other sort of problem.

“I think I was having trouble with a dinosaur, that’s how far back we go,” jokes Mr. Stallone when asked how he initially connected with Mr. Singer. “There was a dinosaur making some sexual innuendos.”

Lately, Mr. Singer has taken up the cudgels for Charlie Sheen with a lawsuit in which Warner Brothers Television and the producer Chuck Lorre are said to have illegally thrown Mr. Sheen off the hit television show “Two and a Half Men.”

“I really believe Charlie Sheen is a victim,” says Mr. Singer, voicing what seems to a core conviction: that even the rich and famous can be abused. And when that happens, they are apt to call in a heavy.

When Jeremy Piven dropped out of a Broadway production of “Speed-the-Plow” in 2008, Mr. Singer was there — to argue that Mr. Piven had been forced out by mercury poisoning from eating too much fish.

(In a union arbitration with producers, Mr. Piven prevailed.)

Mr. Singer helped save Arnold Schwarzenegger, while he was California’s governor, from two lawsuits by women who contended that they were smeared by political aides — one suit was settled, one dismissed — and this week has been keeping tabs on new reports that Mr. Schwarzenegger fathered a child outside his marriage.

In 2006, Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, hired Mr. Singer to deal with a news report that criticized a land transaction. (Mr. Singer says he doesn’t recall what he did for his reported fee of $25,000, and a spokesman for the senator did not respond to queries.)

Less grandly, Mr. Singer in March filed suit for Quentin Tarantino against a neighbor and a fellow writer, Alan Ball, contending that Mr. Ball’s screeching macaws were keeping Mr. Tarantino from getting his work done.

“That’s been resolved,” Mr. Singer says. Mr. Tarantino has since finished his latest screenplay.

“Some people said it’s the best script he’s ever written, because he had the peace and quiet,” Mr. Singer says.

IT is a Monday afternoon in early May. Just outside the door of Mr. Singer’s office, on the 24th floor of a Century City tower, he can be heard growling orders for corrective action against yet another journalist who, in his view, has done a client wrong.

“Let’s demand a retraction,” comes the low, throaty command.

Mr. Singer is remarkable for transformations that turn what Mr. Stallone describes as a warm and fuzzy friend — his full face and jocular smile recall the comic singer Allan Sherman — into a foam-flecked attack dog.

“If you rattle his cage, you’re in for a fight,” says Mr. Stallone, who has had Mr. Singer go to bat for him in court.

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