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Charlie Sheen lucid in interview; OK, it was a 2007 rerun

Sunday morning at 6 a.m., Bravo repeated James Lipton's interview with Charlie Sheen on an "Inside the Actors Studio" episode from 2007. It was a shock to see Sheen clear-eyed and clear-headed. It was a relief to be able to tell when he was being sincere and when he was being facetious. He appeared to mean it when he called TV hit-maker Chuck Lorre, his current pet hate in his "Two and a Half Men" debacle, "really smart."

Sheen was funny talking about working in a no-budget 1980s horror movie called "Grizzly 2: The Predator" -- with George Clooney and Laura Dern! -- filmed in Budapest "before it became a cool place to go," with money so meager the producers "didn't have a bear." He was frank and perceptive about Oliver Stone, who directed Sheen's breakthrough picture, "Platoon." Stone was both "incredibly annoying" moment by moment, striving to keep his cast off-balance, and "helpful at the end of the day."

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The clip from "Platoon" -- Sheen's character, in a panic, acting like a cowboy in an Old West saloon, using bullets to force an innocent Vietnamese to "dance" -- contained by far the best acting of the night.

Most awkward moment: Lipton asked whether Sheen was playing "Stone" throughout "Platoon" -- and Sheen thought he meant "stoned." Blithe repartee and a gale of laughter followed.

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The hour with Lipton also featured affable talk about Sheen's big-screen comedy franchises, "Major League" and "Hot Shots," and his small part in "Being John Malkovich". He said he was in rehab when the opportunity to act in "Malkovich" came up -- and he jumped at the chance to get out of rehab for a couple of days. Lipton and the audience laughed. Was that an appropriate response? Lipton made a point of saying that his show had won a Prism award for shedding light on drug abuse. But he was just as kid-gloves with Sheen, in an unctuous paternal way, as CNN's Piers Morgan was in a sleazy fraternal way.

Lipton said a stolen-credit-card scheme that got Sheen arrested as a 17-year-old kid was "brilliant." Lipton spoke of his "great respect" for "confronting your demons" before Sheen really acknowledged that he had confronted anything. He supported Sheen when the actor called himself a stand-up guy who assumed responsibility for his bad behavior and didn't play the blame game. Lipton even suggested that a lot of people were grateful that Sheen was taking the heat for them.

The frankest minute came when Sheen said he found it painful to watch "Wall Street" because he could see how his life away from the soundstage "interfered with the work." He could tell when he was in pain "or fighting off a hangover."

Sheen, apparently clean at this point in 2007, said "No hard day [now] is as bad as the best day out there during the insanity" -- the opposite of what he says today about his party life and addictions. He also said that he's happiest on a TV or movie set because "everyone on the set has a defined reponsibility" and he feels that he's a guy "who likes order."

Well, maybe he still likes order in his professional life. Now it looks as if the volatility and craziness of his private life have removed Sheen from that structured arena where he said he felt some joy. (At the end of the show, he said he loved feelings of "relief" and hated feelings of "discomfort.")

Do you think it's possible for Sheen to recover professionally from his ongoing nuclear meltdown, at least as the light entertainer he's become? How much would you miss Sheen as a comic actor if he simply fades away? I actually think, if Sheen straightens out, his best hope as a performer would be for him to revive his dramatic career. That is, if he can really "face his demons."

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