His mantra of “winning” has taken the Internet by storm — more than 2 million people follow him on Twitter — but for Charlie Sheen, the obvious question is: has he completely lost the plot?
The troubled star’s sacking from the hit TV show Two and a Half Men on Monday came after the 45-year-old hurled himself into what Warner Brothers called his “self-inflicted disintegration” over the past two weeks.
In almost daily media outbursts he railed at his former bosses on the TV series, drawing accusations of anti-Semitism and mutterings that — like Mel Gibson before him — he would never work in Hollywood again.
On Monday, Warner Bros Television announced his sacking “effective immediately,” while a lawyers’ letter referred to his “dangerously self-destructive conduct.”
“Now, the entire world knows Mr Sheen’s condition from his alarming outbursts over just the last few weeks,” it said, lamenting “the public spectacle of his self-inflicted disintegration.”
That spectacle has included repeated claims by Sheen that he is “winning,” because everyone else would love to have his life of money, women and drugs, and that his critics are just jealous losers, whose life he despises.
Public relations experts say that Sheen could still emerge victorious from his public relations crisis — partly by making money from his own online activities, including attracting sponsorship for his hugely-successful Twitter feed.
“Charlie wants to capitalize on his current fame and publicity as much as he can right now because the future is uncertain and because he’s without a job,” said public relations expert Dan Shawbel.
“He will leverage his Twitter feed, Ustream.com channel, and other online outlets to monetize his personal brand,” he added, referring to the live streaming show, Sheen’s Korner, which aired over the weekend on Ustream.com.
Another Hollywood public relations professional, Jerome Cleary, added: “If I was Charlie Sheen I would immediately do a deal for a reality show to begin filming this week with E! or HBO or Showtime.
“I think Charlie is with it and happening and I think it’s great that he is using Twitter and UStream initiatives and I would encourage even more.”
Monday’s sacking could certainly be a turning point: Some had argued that Sheen was playing a clever game, pressing CBS to get a better deal — in one outburst last week he said wanted US$3 million an episode, up from US$2 million.
That is clearly no longer realistic. The TMZ celebrity Web site reported that Sheen would follow through on a threat to sue Two and a Half Men producer Chuck Lorre and Warner Brothers over his dismissal.
And it cited Sheen himself as saying: “This is very good news. It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge,” the ironic name he has given his home outside Los Angeles.
Whatever happens in the coming days, Sheen follows in a grand tradition of Hollywood stars going off the rails. Other recent examples include Mickey Rourke, Robert Downey Jr, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan.
Gibson’s career has never recovered from a 2006 drunk driving incident in which he was reported to have made anti-Semitic remarks, fueling a slide that has also included allegations of domestic abuse.
One major difference, of course, is the explosion of social media.
In a world of Twitter, Facebook and easy ability to livestream anything you say or do, Sheen has the power to broadcast his own message, without the need for huge budgets, or the filter from traditional media.