LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. "Two And A Half Men" star Jon Cryer gets personal in his new memoir "So That Happened." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says Cryer's book mostly reveals that survival in Hollywood requires a sense of humor and a healthy absence of ego.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: In "Pretty In Pink," John Cryer's Duckie Dale has one of the best onscreen friendships in '80s teen movie history. He pines after his best friend, played by Molly Ringwald, but she's about to date a rich kid, Andrew McCarthy's Blane, much to Duckie's disappointment.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PRETTY IN PINK")
JON CRYER: (As Duckie) You can't do this and respect yourself. You - you - you can't.
MOLLY RINGWALD: (As Andie Walsh) You know you're talking like that just because I'm going out with Blane.
CRYER: (As Duckie) Blane - his name is Blane. Oh, that's a major appliance. That's not a name.
DEGGANS: Despite the chemistry, Cryer revealed in his book that he felt like neither Ringwald nor McCarthy liked him very much.
CRYER: It wasn't that they were unkind. They're just very different people than me. I'm very outgoing. I kind of come from a theatrical background. And in the theater, you know, you expect to have this tremendous camaraderie with the people you're working with. It's a very different vibe.
DEGGANS: Later, he learned Ringwald had wanted her friend, Robert Downey, Jr., cast in his role. That's the kind of personal backstage revelation you get in "So That Happened," a breezy, often comic tale of Cryer's 30-year career on stage, film and television. The 49-year-old grew up in New York, the son of two actors. Cryer never quite fit in at high school, but blossomed at the legendary theater camp Stagedoor Manor. Cryer even dishes about setbacks, like squandering his post "Pretty In Pink" stardom with unsuccessful movies like "Superman IV."
CRYER: Here's where I bucked the trend (laughter) of most actors. I am unencumbered by confidence or self-esteem. And I think my performance as Alan has shown, if nothing else, that I am willing to debase myself completely.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TWO AND A HALF MEN" THEME SONG)
DEGGANS: Cryer landed on CBS's "Two And A Half Men" in 2003. He played a straight-laced contractor, Alan Harper, forced to move in with his wealthy, hard-partying brother, played by hard-partying actor Charlie Sheen. At first, they worked well together. Sheen knew his lines, hit his marks and was a friend, despite his reputation.
CRYER: I got to know a very different guy than everybody expected. And, you know, I still wish that he wanted to be the sober guy who I worked with for five or six years. But I don't think he does anymore.
DEGGANS: Cryer writes that Sheen's addiction progressed. In early 2011, CBS put the show on hiatus after Sheen did a stint in rehab. Executive producer Chuck Lorre wanted Sheen to get more extensive treatment, Cryer writes. Instead, Sheen went on a radio show and lambasted Lorre.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CHARLIE SHEEN: I've spent, I think, close to the last decade - I don't know - effortlessly and magically converting your tin cans into pure gold. And the gratitude I get in this - get is this charlatan chose not to do his job, which is to write.
CRYER: People would ask me so I'm sure that the feud between Charlie Sheen and your producer, Chuck Lorre, must've been going on behind the scenes for years. I had to show that no (laughter) that there was no feud. When it exploded the way it did with his anger at Chuck Lorre, we were all astonished. None of us saw it coming.
DEGGANS: Sheen was fired and "Two And A Half Men" went on successfully with Ashton Kutcher as Cryer's co-star. In February, CBS ended the show after 12 years. Like his best-known characters, Cryer stays sane in Hollywood with humor and a healthy sense of his own shortcomings, a handy trait for surviving three decades in one of the most fickle industries around. I'm Eric Deggans.
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