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The Real Reason Charlie Sheen Didn't Return For The Two And A Half Men Finale

The success of "Two and a Half Men" was practically guaranteed when it debuted on CBS in 2003. The show's stars, Charlie Sheen (Charlie Harper) and Jon Cryer (Alan) were household names from a lifetime of previous screen work. As costars, they shared top billing on "Two and a Half Men." They worked well together, too. "Charlie and I really hit it off. We had a great first few years on that show," Cryer told Entertainment Weekly. "It was incredibly smooth, we had a lovely time, it was working really well."

By 2011, 14 million viewers were watching each new episode. That same year, however, Sheen was booted off the show for good. TV executives fired him, calling him "dangerously self-destructive" (per Reuters), citing incidents involving drug and alcohol abuse, assault, and outbursts of rage. In Season 9, Ashton Kutcher (the former Michael Kelso of "That '70s Show") joined as Walden Schmidt, helping Cryer and the rest of the cast carry the show through its final episode.

Sheen's firing doesn't fully explain why he didn't return for the series finale, however. Like any big breakup, this one came with plenty of drama.

Charlie Sheen was a real character

When Sheen joined the "Two and a Half Men" cast, the show's creators knew who they were getting. Born Carlos Estevez, Sheen is the son of another veteran actor, Martin Sheen. His brother Emilio Estevez was an '80s Brat Packer. Sheen acted throughout childhood and got his big break in the 1984 post-apocalyptic film "Red Dawn," before he went on to star in 1986's "Platoon" and 1987's "Wall Street." Following these successes, he acted throughout the 1990s and even formed his own production company with Poison singer Bret Michaels. In 2000, Sheen took a role on the TV series "Spin City" when Michael J. Fox stepped down due to health concerns.

Sheen's professional resume was stellar, but his personal life was marked by controversy. Known in the industry for having drug and alcohol problems, he made headlines in 1990 when he accidentally shot fiancé Kelly Preston in the arm. In 1995, Sheen gained notoriety after admitting to soliciting sex workers through Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss. The next year, he was arrested for assaulting a former girlfriend, and it wouldn't be his last arrest.

The producers of "Two and a Half Men" liked Sheen for the role of Charlie Harper because the character was based on him. Still, they took a calculated risk when they hired Sheen, who eventually came unglued on set.

The troubled actor had to go

Sheen was married to Denise Richards at the start of the show. By 2005, the couple was divorcing -– and Cryer says that's when Sheen turned to drugs. "At first he could handle it, and he was still incredibly professional — and still lovely, by the way, to everybody on set — but you could just see that stuff was wearing on him," Cryer told Entertainment Weekly.

Soon, however, Sheen was making news for his behavior. He was accused of hiring sex workers, arrested on assault charges, and sentenced to rehab and anger management. He trashed a hotel room (per TV Guide) and landed in the hospital after a binge.

In 2011, during Season 8 of "Two and a Half Men," the show went on hiatus so that Sheen could deal with his problems. However, his path to rehab wasn't a straight one. He refused to enter a facility and fired his private sobriety coach. As his downward slide continued, Sheen destroyed relationships with the show's producers, according to The Hollywood Reporter, even verbally attacking Chuck Lorre.

When Sheen finally got his walking papers, he responded with an angry and delusional statement. "This is very good news. They continue to be in breach, like so many whales. It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge because now I can take all of the bazillions, never have to look at [them] again and I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension," he told TMZ.

Charlie Sheen was invited back, but it didn't happen

"Two and a Half Men" survived Sheen's departure by killing off Charlie Harper and bringing in Ashton Kutcher's character. By 2015, the show was in its 12th and final season. Despite his character's apparent "death," the producers hoped Sheen would reprise the role for the last episode.

In the original final scene, Harper would ring the doorbell, then rant to the camera about drug abuse and how he was above all that. Then, a piano would fall from the sky, killing him. It would be very meta, and thus fit the humor of the show.

Sheen disagreed. He was looking for an ending that would help launch "The Harpers," a spin-off he envisioned, starring him and Cryer. When he couldn't get what he wanted, he refused to appear in the finale, which still ended with Harper's death by piano. It was a sad end to Sheen's tenure on "Two and a Half Men," but not the end of his career or his personal growth. Years later, he's developing a new show and admits he could have done better.

"There was 55 different ways for me to handle that situation, and I chose number 56," Sheen told Yahoo! Entertainment. "And so, you know, I think the growth for me post-meltdown or melt forward or melt somewhere — however you want to label it — it has to start with absolute ownership of my role in all of it."