"It got unwieldy the other night when my tweet master put my phone number on the Internet," Charlie Sheen says. "Wow. I got 498 texts in 31 minutes. And I got 220 phone calls."
The actor stands surrounded by reporters as he prepares his return to television after his firing from "Two and a Half Men" and concurrent media meltdown last year.
It's Sunday night, and he is taking any and all questions at a Fox party for the Television Critics Association winter press tour. The moment encapsalates the way people have hung on his words in the last year — and the sometimes violent emotions he's stirred.
"There's one text that was really mean and I called the guy," Sheen says. "Yeah, I did. It was really mean. He said he hoped I died of cancer and all this shit. I said 'Hey man, it's Charlie Sheen. Talk to me.' Click. Then I called him back three times. … I was pissed at that guy. He was somewhere in like Delaware."
For all the press he's done, Charlie Sheen rarely talks to so many reporters at once. His wide-ranging Q&A session Sunday marks the beginning of his promotion for FX's upcoming "Anger Management" (with executive producer Bruce Helford, above), in which he will play a therapist — also named Charlie — whose life is messier than the lives of his patients. The supporting characters include his wife and 13-year-old daughter, as well as patients who include prison inmates. It begins casting next week.
Sheen talked about why his new show won't have "poo poo jokes" like "Two and a Half Men" did, his work in the upcoming Roman Coppola film "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III," and even Ashton Kutcher's personal life. He also talked about what he's learned since his "Two and a Half Men" firing and the media tour that led some to question his sanity.
Here's our transcription of some of the questions Sheen answered. (He brushed off questions about his past drug and alcohol use.) Sheen kept his answers short, because there were a lot of questions.
Reporter: What did you learn from the last year?
Sheen: It was a radical example of stick with what you know.
Have you seen the new "Two and a Half Men"?
It's like a new show.
Do you think it's funny?
I think parts of it are funny, yeah.
Would you do anything differently with everything that happened with "Two and a Half Men"?
I would have been a little less vocal… that's about it though.
What's it like to lose $2 million an episode for "Two and a Half Men"?
I went from making $2 million a week to making $1,700 a week on Roman's film, and I was never happier. So it ain't about the money.
You were just talking to Kiefer Sutherland. You guys have known each other forever.
We have, yeah. We did "Young Guns" together back in '88. I don't think we knew each other before then. But we stayed in touch and I see him at these things and we threaten to get together and never do and this time we're going to. He's a super guy.
Are you going to try to get him to come to "Anger Management"?
I'd love to have him on the show. Yes.
Will the show have references to your personal life?
Stuff we can't avoid.
What's it like going out now?
It's fine. It's just the paparazzi, they make it a little difficult.
But other than that people are great?
They're fabulous, yeah, they're happy to see me.
I talked to Jenny McCarthy and she told me that when she did "Two and a Half Men" this year the people who missed you the most were the crew. Why did the crew identify with you and miss you?
Just because I made them feel — just something I've always believed in — that their job's as important as mine. That I can't do my job without theirs, and vice versa. A great idea can come from anywhere. The craft services guy, it's still a great idea. But you have to be in a work climate that allows that.
Also read: 'Anger Management' to Air on FX
Plus I made their jobs easier, because when in doubt, over-prepare. I've always believed if you don't know the words you can't make choices. So I always knew the words.
Did you hear from the crew while everything was going on?
Absolutely. They were all Team Charlie. It was pretty cool.
We all think we know what happened over the last year and why you were doing whatever you were doing. … What was happening that you were acting that way?
It was a lot about what had been going on for all those years on the ["Two and a Half Men"] set and it was also about the pressure cooking of 30 years in the business and finally wanting to say all the things that I didn't. And I said them all at once and it created a tsunami of bizarre proportions. But no, the reason that I pushed it is that I knew I was right. I knew I was absolutely right in my stand.
Right about what?
Right about what they had done that was completely wrong versus what I had done…
In terms of letting you go?
As far as who was in breach. … I knew that there was victory at the end.
What do you think of the show now?
I don't watch it that much. What I've seen I thought was pretty good. It's a different show. I kind of looked at their first one as a pilot for a new show.
Do you have an ownership piece of Anger Management?
I mean, uh, yes. Am I gonna lie to ya?
What are we going to see from you on the new show that we didn't see on "Men"?
Well, there'll be no fart jokes and dick jokes and poo-poo jokes. … That's when writers get lazy.
Does the role feel therapeutic to you?
How couldn't it? … We're planning some good shit.
You’ve had a lot of fans who stuck with you but some people say they won't watch you anymore.
Who are these people? I want names.
What do you have to do to win them back?
Just do good work and lead with that. Let the work speak for itself.
Given your bad boy image, do you think it's ironic that Ashton Kutcher has taken on kind of a bad boy image since joining "Two and a Half Men"?
Do you think it was intentional? Do you think it was a plan of his? I was impressed. I thought, hey man, make it colorful.
Do you have any advice for him for weathering the storm?
Naw, that's personal stuff that he's got to deal with. I don’t know the man enough to offer advice. I just wish him well and hope it all ends peacefully.
Charlie, you're looking great. How are you feeling and are you relaxing?
I'm just spending a lot of time with my children. I've got five of them.
How much are you sleeping? You've said you were at three hours a night.
I'm back up to like six or seven.
What things about "Two and a Half Men" have you told executive producer Bruce Helford you don't want to reproduce on this new show?
Every time I see him it's like a hundred warm hugs. Because to have my input welcomed is an alien concept for me. … He said I'm never going to make you say something that you don't want to say. And I said I'm never going to not say something that's written. So at least we hear it and then we'll make a decision from there. … We were in sync.
What’s your take on the news media over the last year?
It is what it was. I think that I started to figure out to work with them and not against them. There's too many of you guys. I can't fight you. I try to pick my spots wisely and just think a little longer before I speak.
(Editor's note: We'd love to identify the reporters who asked the above questions, but it was too frenzied to keep track. We also lightly edited the questions for the sake of clarity. Sheen talked to reporters twice; thanks to Vulture's Josef Adalian for sharing his recording of the second scrum.)