How Charlie Sheen Spun Himself Into a Potential $125 Million Settlement

Charlie Sheen's Mr. Nice Guy act may be part of a bigger ploy.

Sept. 20, 2011 — -- Charlie Sheen's settlement with Warner Bros. isn't a done deal, yet, but once it's locked up, he'll likely have ditched his "rock star from Mars" reputation and wormed his way back into TV's good graces.

A Warner Bros. rep told today that despite claims that the former "Two and a Half Men" star reached a more than $100 million deal in his lawsuit against his former boss, "there is no settlement." Representatives for Sheen declined's requests for comment. and the Los Angeles Times have reported that Sheen's deal with Warner Bros., which will be ironed out in a matter of days, will include $25 million he's owed for episodes he already shot and a share of the syndication of the nearly 200 "Two and a Half Men" shows in which he appeared. Sheen's syndication profits could total $100 million in the next seven to 10 years.

If that's how the deal shakes out -- and we may never know for sure, as most post-termination deals are officially confidential -- it'll be pretty sweet for Sheen.

"It's probably one of the largest post termination deals between talent and a studio, ever," said Mitchell Langberg, partner at the law offices of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, the firm that won a precedent-setting settlement for Valerie Harper in 1988 after she sued NBC/Lorimar Television for firing her from the sitcom "Valerie." (Sheen's "Two and a Half Men" character was Charlie Harper: Coincidence?)

"My experience is that in employment disputes between talent and studios, the studios are usually wrong," Langberg said. "The studio was resting its action based on Charlie's odd behavior. The problem was that it wasn't new behavior. Charlie's odd behavior and whatever caused it was public for a long time. Here we have a studio that was perfectly happy for many years to profit from Charlie's performances on and off screen, and the minute he starts criticizing Chuck Lorre, they can't work with him anymore."

In March, Sheen sued Warner Bros. and "Two and a Half Men" creator Lorre for $100 million. Considering he had one more season left on his contract at the time he was fired (his contract was due to expire in May 2012), the number of episodes in a season (as many as 24) and how much Sheen was getting paid (a reported $2 million), he lost out on $48 million of earnings.

Langberg estimates that the $25 million settlement figure being tossed around will pay for work Sheen did before getting the ax. The rest of his missed money, and then some, will come from the syndication profits.

"You can't not pay someone for work that they've done," he said, "and whether or not he was behaving well has nothing to do with his right to get a cut of the profits from the syndication."

Is the potential payday the reason for Sheen's morphed into Mr. Nice Guy? Probably. On Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" last week, Sheen admitted he would have fired himself last winter. At the Emmys Sunday night, he wished his former "Two and a Half Men" family "nothing but the best" for the upcoming season. He made fun of himself and let others take shots during Monday's Comedy Central roast. He's also trying to shop his new show, "Anger Management," to cable and broadcast networks.

"You can see that he's trying to be contrite," Langberg said. "He is looking as clean as can be and acknowledging that maybe he had something to do with the way things went down. Charlie is on the road to turning his image around as fast as humanly possible, and I think settling this lawsuit is a way to accomplish that quickly."

His former bosses are moving on as well. A source close to CBS told today that Sheen's well wishes are "old news from Sunday" and network is "focused on the ratings from Monday." Monday's premiere of the Ashton Kutcher-helmed "Two and a Half Men" drew almost 28 million viewers, the most in the show's history.