Chuck Lorre Shares How He and Charlie Sheen Reconciled (Exclusive)

Chuck Lorre Shares How He and Charlie Sheen Reconciled (Exclusive)

After their 2011 falling out, it was hard to believe that Chuck Lorre and Charlie Sheen would ever work together again. But the pair has made amends and recently reunited on the set of Lorre’s new Max series, Bookie.

The show stars Sebastian Maniscalco as Danny, a Los Angeles bookie who is struggling with the changing landscape of sports betting as online gambling explodes in popularity. Sheen appears as an exaggerated version of himself who tells Danny in the trailer that he owns “Babe Ruth’s autopsy report.”

“I’m gonna tell you something I never told a client, ever,” Danny responds. “You shouldn’t bet on sports.”

So, how did the reunion between Sheen and his longtime showrunner and creative partner come to be?

“Well, I think it’s important to say first, for eight and a half years we had a terrific time,” Lorre recalled when he recently sat down with ET’s Deidre Behar to discuss the upcoming series. “We were friends, we worked together and we made a show we were proud of. We laughed a lot. It was a crazy, edgy, risqué show, and we took great pride in pushing the envelope.”

“And then it all went down in a very dark and difficult way,” he continued. “It was really hurtful, it was humiliating, it was depressing, it was infuriating. It was all sorts of horrible things. For a long time I couldn’t watch the show, I couldn’t watch reruns, it was just too painful.”

Sheen starred on Lorre’s hit sitcom, Two and a Half Men, for eight seasons before his substance abuse issues forced the show into a hiatus in January 2011 so Sheen could enter rehab for a third time. After Sheen fired back at Lorre with publicly disparaging comments — calling him a “little maggot,” a “stupid, stupid man” — CBS and Warner Bros. canceled the remaining episodes of the season, terminating the actor’s contract and banning him from their production lot.

The dismissal sent Sheen into a very public meltdown — it was at this time that he gave interviews claiming that he had “tiger blood” and was “winning.” He was later replaced on Two and a Half Men by Ashton Kutcher, and the show ran for four more seasons.

Sheen returned to TV in 2012, on the FX sitcom Anger Management, but Bookie marks his professional reunion with Lorre.

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“I was hopeful that Charlie was in a good place and up for it,” Lorre said of reaching out to Sheen, saying that he wasn’t afraid of trying to reconcile with the actor after so much time had passed. “I called his agent… they put me in touch with Charlie, and I said, ‘Here’s a funny idea.'”

“He couldn’t have been more gracious and enthusiastic and generous about the whole thing,” he continued. “We talked on the phone for probably and hour that first time, and I sent him the script — ’cause I’m asking him to play himself, a fictional version of himself, and I wanted to be respectful that it was something he’d be comfortable with.”

Lorre recalled that Sheen asked for a few “adjustments” to the initial script, which he happily made, and the reunion was officially on.

“The first time I saw him [was] before the table read for the first episode, which is nerve-wracking to begin with,” he shared. “It was just the most natural thing in the world. The two of us hugged… It was closure. It was healing. And it was a big weight off my heart.”

“And I don’t want to speak for Charlie, but I think he felt the same thing,” Lorre added. “It was a great opportunity for us to bury that darkness, and have fun.”

Max/Warner Bros.

One of the adjustments that Sheen requested, Lorre recalled, was to not have his character be actively in rehab, as he was in the original script.

“He said, ‘Can we not do the drug addict Charlie?’ and I went, ‘Yeah, let’s think about it and figure out another way for this to go,'” the producer noted. Instead, Sheen’s character is sober, but returns to a familiar rehab to run a regular poker game.

“It was a throwaway line where he says, ‘That’s a great rehab, I’ve been here many times,'” Lorre recounted. “I don’t want to do anything hurtful. I thought he was doing us a huge favor by doing this to play himself. And if it was uncomfortable for him, I don’t want him to be uncomfortable.”

Lorre co-wrote and produced Bookie with Nick Bakay, a former ESPN analyst who helped Lorre understand the complicated ins and outs of the sports betting world, which the producer noted “requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and research.”

“For me, [Bookie] is about a couple of guys trying to scratch out a living in a world where technology is threatening to take away their living with legalized gambling sweeping the country and blessed by all the major sports,” he shared. “The small-time bookie is a threatened species — a dinosaur looking up at a meteor coming down.”

The longtime TV producer said he could identify with the feeling, as he watches streaming services change the landscape of television production in a major way.

“When I started writing television sitcoms, there were probably 40 or 50 on every week. Now maybe there’s five. That’s an industry. That’s it,” he reflected. “The thing I love to do, could be taken away from me because of things I have no control over.”

He had no qualms, however, about casting Maniscalco as his lead — particularly after seeing his performance in Martin Scorsese’s 2019 gangster epic The Irishman.

“I met with [Maniscalco] about a year and a half ago, and we talked and he was looking to do something in television. The obvious place to start was his standup,” Lorre recalled. “He’s a master of that craft, and it was the obvious place to build the show on. [But] when I saw The Irishman, there’s a scene in The Irishman with Sebastian playing the role of “Crazy” Joe Gallo, a psychotic, pathological, murdering gangster opposite Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and he was spectacular.”

“I went, oh, forget about the standup act, which, it’s a great standup act, but he’s got chops for days as an actor,” the showrunner raved.

Bookie premieres on Max on Nov. 30. 


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