Sean Penn Sues ‘Empire’ Co-Creator for $10 Million Over Abuse Remarks

Sean Penn Sues Lee Daniels for
Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

Actor Sean Penn filed a $10 million defamation suit against Lee Daniels, co-creator of Fox’s hit series “Empire,” contending that Daniels falsely accused Penn of hitting women.

The lawsuit was filed in New York Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The comment came in an interview Daniels gave to The Hollywood Reporter, in which he compared legal troubles faced by “Empire” star Terrence Howard to those faced by other actors.

Daniels said that Howard “ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of the sudden he’s some f—in’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

The lawsuit states that “in purporting to ‘defend’ the ongoing legal and related troubles of actor Terrence Howard … who has reportedly, and publicly, admitted to physically abusing at least one woman and reportedly been arrested approximately five times for violent acts against women — Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women. Nor has Penn admitted to ‘slap[ping]’ a woman or abusing others (as Howard has also reportedly admitted, reportedly asserting that he was acting in self-defense).”

The complaint includes a citation to a 2001 Whitemarsh Police Department report from a domestic disturbance, quoting Howard as admitting to an officer that he “broke the door down and hit my wife.”

Penn’s lawsuit says that Daniels’ statements were “egregious” on several levels, including that “in his purported ‘defense’ of Howard, Daniels not only appears to acknowledge Howard’s guilt, he also seems to condone Howard’s reported misconduct.”

The complaint also accuses Daniels of invoking “two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time” as part of a “misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show.”

It notes that even though Penn has had 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 says that Daniels’ “false and defamatory” statements have “caused Penn great anguish and emotional distress and have exposed him to pre-judgments and false judgments,” injuring his credibility and reputation.

Penn is represented by Mathew Rosengart of Greenberg Traurig.

A spokeswoman for Daniels did not immediately returns a request for comment.

News of the lawsuit was first reported in The Hollywood Reporter.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 50

Leave a Reply

50 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. bbelemjian says:

    In our recent class discussions, we have talked about defamation and how plaintiff must prove, in multiple ways, how the defendant’s words/actions hurt them emotionally and financially. In the case of Sean Penn suing director, Lee Daniels, for defaming him by being compared to Marlon Brando in terms of abuse towards women. According to Ted Johnson, Senior Editor for Variety, “The lawsuit states that “in purporting to ‘defend’ the ongoing legal and related troubles of actor Terrence Howard … who has reportedly, and publicly, admitted to physically abusing at least one woman and reportedly been arrested approximately five times for violent acts against women — Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women.”

    Penn also claims that, “The complaint says that Daniels’ “false and defamatory” statements have “caused Penn great anguish and emotional distress and have exposed him to pre-judgments and false judgments,” injuring his credibility and reputation.” Daniels’ comments may have been insulting, but they are not as serious as Penn is making them out to be. Anybody can look up instances where Penn had been reportedly violent but they were never confirmed. Daniels’ statements did not cause $10 million worth of damage to Penn. He’s done that to himself already.

  2. Sal U. Lloyd says:

    What? Sean Penn will NOT dare sue a gay guy. He’s in solidarity with them!

  3. filmsharks says:

    Don’t mess with Sean Penn. He’s a boss.

  4. Sheila says:

    This is awesome.

  5. He isn’t poor…aaaannnnd…he isn’t black! Of course there was no arrest!

  6. Tammy Porter says:

    Wow is Lee Daniels seriously using the “well other guys got away with it why shouldn’t he” defense for Terrence Howard??? And then complaining that because he’s not getting away with it, it’s because he’s black and NOT the fact that it’s because Terrence Howard has admitted it on multiple occasions?? And I thought Sean Penn would be the biggest jag off in the story.

  7. Mike says:

    Ahh that’s total BS Lee Daniels, way to play the race card. Chris Brown is an example and he got off easy as far as I’m concerned. Howard assaulted a woman, he deserves whatever comes at him, African American or not. Same with Sean Penn if he did what people say he did

  8. It notes that even though Penn has had 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.”

    says Penn arrested 6 times, mostly for assaulting photographers….and Madonna says he tied her to a chair and tortured and beat her

  9. It’s gotten that bad for your career, huh Sean? Your first action is to sue for 10 million? . . . GMAFB!!!!

  10. The funny thing is that this lawsuit is bringing up all the terrible stuff you were trying to downplay, so thank you for using him. Now everybody is talking about all the terrible stuff you did to Madonna. Sweet justice.

  11. Awww yes Sean, just because she didn’t press charges does not mean it didn’t happen. You scum of the earth. We all know what you did, just because you got away with it does not mean it never happened.

    • Bella says:

      How is this about Sean? He is doing what any celeb would do in his position. He should sue. L. Daniels will learn to keep his mouth shut about other celebs and stop defending T. Howard’s awful behavior.

    • Donna says:

      Wow you are bitter. What does that have to do with L.Daniels Name dropping another celebrity in defense of T. Howard, like that makes it okay. His show should be cancelled.

    • Mike says:

      …but your assuming it happened with the same amount of evidence that it didn’t. Unauthorized story isn’t exactly proof. Hell, an unauthorized Saved by the Bell movie came out last year so that must have the same amount of credibility, right? I don’t know for sure but none of us do

  12. Kdot says:

    So he wasn’t arrested doesn’t mean he’s not an abuser. We all know what he did to Madonna. This dude is delusional to sue. But Lee Daniels is also a little too dismissive of what Terrance has admitted to doing. They’re all horrible men off screen if you ask me. Terrance is a known abuser and an admitted one. Sean Penn is a known but never admitted abuser. All bad if you ask me. Great actors with bad off screen habits. Marlon Brando I have no idea about as in too young to know the allegations against him. Either way it’s a shame that Daniels thinks this is all fine and dandy and it’s just race that’s causing the uproar. And don’t start with me. I’m black. I just don’t have time for domestic violence sympathizes or these racists on this board who use articles like this to essentially do what Daniels is doing. In the end they’re both bad. The end.

  13. Bruh says:

    Sean DID abuse Madonna, and other women have talked about his brutish ways…..he is just after publicity. I hope Daniels allows it to go to court. Have a seat, Penn!!!

  14. In 1988, Penn was charged with felony domestic assault. He pled out to a misdemeanor. The guy may be wrong to some degree, but not enough that Penn will prevail.

  15. 85wzen says:

    Well done, Penn isn’t a friend of the press, everyone knows that, he didn’t like a photographer in his face day in and out, but he’s ‘clean’ and one should be more careful in subscribing Abuse to others like Daniels has done… if Brando were alive he would ‘contest’ this as well, Penn is Smart here in slapping down this Chump. Well done.

    • Kimberly says:

      No…He’s an idiot for trying to sue for something that is common knowledge. The fact that he’s suing is because he’s an oversensitive racist. And hopefully that racist, homophobic wife beating degenerate will lose.

  16. Penn is a truly great actor but obviously pretty nutty sometimes. I think he might be preparing for his retirement here. I bet if his last movie The Gunmen would have been a huge hit, he would have just let this slide.

  17. Donna says:

    Sue him Sean, and yank that awful show of the air. Lee Daniels is nothing but a bully and Ahole. Don’t name drop when you are trying to defend trash. It’s a shame because T. Howard is an amazing actor but is also an AHole. Does nothing to further the black mans plight.

  18. MarthaMay says:

    Two liberal lapdogs at each other’s throats. I love it.

  19. lee says:

    Penn was arrested for domestic violence when he was married to Madonna

  20. Jeff says:

    Get over yourself Penn

  21. Sean kenedy says:

    Lee Daniels and your lawyers, check out a private detective who was hired to protect Robin from bully Sean..It’s a “FACT” not a rumor!! Put coward Sean on the stand under the penalty of perjury and have him deny it!!

    • I’m no Sean Penn fan but in his claim I don’t think he says he never HIT a woman. He does say he was never convicted of it or admitted to it. Apparently Howard has and Penn’s other assertion is that while Howard’s transgressions seem ongoing through conviction or admission his are not. Legally I don’t know where it would fall but he has points, it was dumb shit for the guy to say and I expect some money will change hands. I would be surprised to see it hit a court room.

      • Mary Rose says:

        Yes, it’s considered slander. It was idiotic of Daniels & makes no sense. It’s not as if reporters are all over Howard(which they really were not) & have given Penn room(of all people Penn is not on their Xmas lists). And Howard’s ex wives are the ones who put forth the claims that he admitted to. it just put Daniels in a bad light.

      • Jimbo says:

        Agreed. Daniels ran his mouth and got bit in the ass. Well done.

      • Donna says:

        I agree with you Jim, Never through someone else under the bus when defending trash and condoning it. Lee Daniels is an idiot and should pay up.

  22. Scary Larry says:

    Godless liberal problems!

  23. Scott says:

    Madonna herself claims he tied her to a chair and hit her… sorry Sean, but you sounds like you have a short memory of abusing women.

  24. curious1 says:

    Wow, delusional much? Let’s see how quickly this nonsense gets thrown out by a judge.

  25. Michelle says:

    Everyone knows he beat Madonna. And God knows what he did to Robin. Hard to face the truth, huh Sean.

  26. Arnie Tracey says:

    Sean is innocent. So is Britney Spears, I think. No. Wait. There was the golf club strike on a vehicle. Wait that was Jack. Or both? Ah . . . Forgetaboutit.

    Sic ’em, boyee.

  27. Alley says:

    LOL. Sign you’re desperate for relevance – suing some high profile person.

    • Mary Rose says:

      Not saying Penn is not an abuser, but Daniels cannot just go throwing that stuff out there either & playing the race card. It is slander, whether we like it or not. And it makes no sense on Daniels part. race plays no part in this.

    • jUNE says:

      hes a two time academy award winner. I dont think hes trying to be relevant. Taking a job on a FOX show would be how he would remain relevant.

More Biz News from Variety

Loading