Nellie Andreeva

Vanity Fair is previewing online a portion from its upcoming profile of troubled actor Charlie Sheen. Here are 2 pretty juicy excerpts, in which Sheen’s manager Mark Burg recollects how Sheen closed his most recent $100 million deal for Two and a Half Men last May during a Lakers game and how the actor first met the series’ co-creator/executive producer Chuck Lorre and agreed to do the show, from which he was recently fired.

“Don’t ever play poker with him,” says Sheen’s manager, Mark Burg, recalling how, in 2010, he made Sheen’s $100 million deal with CBS between the national anthem and the start of a Lakers game. “Warner Bros. was like, ‘We’re offering a million dollars [per episode] for two years, and nobody walks away from $48 million.’ I said, ‘Guys, he’s going to walk. I’m not bluffing.’” Burg tells (VF contributing editor Mark Seal) that CBS chairman Les Moonves “had two different schedules—one if Charlie didn’t come back,” before he gave in and made Sheen the highest paid actor in television history. “It wasn’t until the day before the up-fronts that I picked up my son at school, and we were driving to a Laker playoff game, and I had Charlie and his attorney Jake Bloom on speakerphone the entire drive down. At the time they were up to $72 million, a million and a half an episode. Jake gave Charlie a 25-minute speech about how this will set your grandchildren up and you could do whatever you want. ‘This is more than Kelsey Grammer made on Frasier.’ I parked the car, I’m now on my cell phone, walking into the stadium, and Charlie goes, ‘Pass. Mark, it’s a hundred million or I’m not doing it.’ Charlie hangs up, and Jake called up Bruce Rosenblum [president of Warner Bros. Television Group] and Les Moonves and passed during the national anthem. I’m like, ‘Wow, I hope he knows what he’s doing.’” Before the game began “they said yes [to $100 million],” Burg tells Seal.

“It was a really depressing meeting,” Burg says of Sheen’s first encounter with Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre. “Chuck wanted Charlie, and he kind of pitched the show, but there was no script yet,” he says. “Chuck’s dog had just passed away, and he was sad. He kept talking about the dog.” When they left the meeting Burg asked Sheen if he was going to do the show. “I’ve got to read the script,” Charlie said. When it arrived, “it was awesome, it was great,” Burg says, “the best half-hour show on television.” “Pass,” Charlie told Burg. “You know, you can’t talk Charlie into doing anything. He was nervous about acting with a kid. Angus [Jones] was what, six or seven?,” Burg says, explaining how Sheen eventually came around. “The script was so strong. It had ‘hit show’ written all over it. We talked about story lines and where it would go, and Chuck and Charlie sat down creatively.”

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