NEW YORK: Sean Penn on Tuesday filed a US$10 million defamation lawsuit against â€œEmpireâ€ co-creator Lee Daniels over comments Daniels made comparing him to the showâ€™s star Terrence Howard, whoâ€™s been repeatedly accused of domestic violence.
Danielsâ€™ comments appeared online about a week ago in the entertainment publication The Hollywood Reporter in a story about the upcoming season of the popular Fox television show.
â€œThat poor boy (Terrence) ainâ€™t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden heâ€™s some … demon,â€ Daniels said in the article.
â€œThatâ€™s a sign of time, of race, of where we are right now in America.â€ Pennâ€™s lawsuit, filed in Manhattan civil court, says Danielsâ€™ statements were egregious and injured Pennâ€™s credibility and reputation personally, professionally and in his philanthropic activities.
Penn has won two best actor Oscars, for â€œMystic Riverâ€ and â€œMilk.â€
He has made a major humanitarian push in Haiti after it was devastated by an earthquake, co-founding the J/P Haitian Relief Organization. But he also has a reputation for angry behaviour.
In 2010, he pleaded no contest to vandalism after he kicked a celebrity photographer, but the case later was dismissed.
In the 1980s, he was in court in connection with fisticuffs and spitting. He beat a man he thought was trying to kiss Madonna in a nightclub, and he admitted driving recklessly and punching an extra on the set of the movie â€œColors.â€
His attorney Mathew Rosengart said the lawsuit isnâ€™t just about Danielsâ€™ comments. â€œSean has been the subject of numerous baseless attacks over the years, as the complaint provides, and this is only the most recent example,â€ he said.
Daniels is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker of â€œPrecious: Based on the Novel â€˜Pushâ€™ by Sapphire,â€ â€œThe Paperboyâ€ and â€œThe Butler.â€
The new season of â€œEmpire,â€ which he created with Danny Strong, starts Wednesday.
A telephone call to Danielsâ€™ publicist on Tuesday, seeking comment on the lawsuit, wasnâ€™t immediately returned.
Howard has been forced to publicly address domestic violence allegations, including during testimony in a Los Angeles courtroom in August, when he acknowledged he struck his first wife in 2001 but denied abusing another ex-wife, Michelle Ghent.
Howard testified about the 2001 incident in Pennsylvania and said he drove to his ex-wifeâ€™s house after an argument and â€œkicked down the door and smacked her.â€ He said it was the â€œonly time Iâ€™ve struck a womanâ€ when it wasnâ€™t self-defense.
Ghent accused Howard of abusing her on a trip to Costa Rica in 2013 and has a restraining order against him. Howard denied abusing her.
A judge in August overturned a Howard-Ghent divorce settlement that entitled her to a portion of his â€œEmpireâ€ earnings after finding she had coerced him into signing it or facing leaks of embarrassing information about him.
In making the finding, the judge said Howardâ€™s claims of self-defense during his fights with Ghent were â€œnot credible.â€–AP