Sean Penn Is Suing Lee Daniels For $10 Million Over What The Actor Claims Are Defamatory Remarks
After chatting with The Hollywood Reporter for an interview published in September, I bet Empire co-creator Lee Daniels didn't expect to be getting sued for some of his words. But now, Deadline reports that Sean Penn is suing Lee Daniels for "reckless, false and defamatory" remarks made during the director's chat with THR. Penn is seeking $10 million, per the lawsuit filed Tuesday. The Oscar-winning actor has not commented on the defamation case, but federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart who is working on Penn's case told Deadline, "Sean is dismayed at the gratuitous attacks and statements that have made over the years at his expense and he wants to take a stand and correct the record." The complaint's first paragraph reads:
As a result of Penn's status as a public figure, he has for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks. But Penn, like any citizen, has a right to defend himself and will no longer tolerate the reckless and malicious behavior of others, who seek to aggrandize themselves or their projects at his expense. Accordingly, and because of Daniels' defamatory statements, Penn brings this action for monetary relief, and to deter Daniels and others from their defamatory actions.
As for the "defamatory statements" mentioned, while chatting with THR, Daniels said the following in reference to Empire star Terrence Howard's previous arrests on domestic violence charges: "[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some f*ckin' demon. That's a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America."
Howard has previously spoken out about his arrests. Recently, in a Rolling Stone profile from September 2015 he gave his side of the story for two events, both involving ex-wives. He said of a 2001 incident in which he was arrested that involved his first wife, "She was talking to me real strong, and I lost my mind and slapped her in front of the kids. Her lawyer said it was a closed fist, but even slapping her was wrong." And of an incident with his second wife that took place in Costa Rica, "She was trying to Mace me, and you can't see anything so all you can do is try to bat somebody away, and I think that something caught her. But I wasn't trying to hit her."
According to Penn's complaint, "Daniels falsely equates Penn with Howard, even though, while he has certainly had several brushes with the law, Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest."
The complaint also alleges that Penn believes Daniels remarks and defense of Howard were "apparently part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show Empire."
Bustle has reached out to Lee Daniels' rep, but has not yet heard back.