Sean Penn Files Defamation Suit Against Empire Creator (UPDATED)

EMPIRE: Lucious (Terrence Howard) has a secret that will change things in the special two-hour “Die But Once/Who I Am” Season Finale episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, March 18 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Chuck Hodes/FOX

File this under the “watch what you say to reporters” department. Sean Penn has filed a lawsuit against Empire creator, Lee Daniels, for an offhand remark he made in an interview, defending his star, Terrence Howard and his troubled past with domestic violence.

Penn has filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against Daniels. Filed Tuesday in New York Supreme court, it charges that in Daniels’ recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter (also reporting this story), Penn was falsely accused of domestic violence when he was compared to the Empire star.

“[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—in’ demon,” Daniels told THR in reference to to Howard’s recent legal troubles. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”

Penn retained former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart, who referred THR to the first paragraph of the complaint, when asked for a comment:

“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.”

Penn accuses Daniels of making self-aggrandizing statements, that tacitly condone Howard’s violent past, in order to bolster and promote his TV show, ahead of the Emmy awards.

Most problematic, the suit asserts, “…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.”

Click to read the entire complaint.

UPDATE: My brain is like a sieve. I don’t remember any of this. But. Hm. From the Daily Mail in 2009

In June 1987, Madonna went to the Cedars Sinai hospital for an X-ray after Penn apparently hit her across the head with a baseball bat. At the time, they had been having a heart-to-heart talk about reconciling.

Madonna did not make an official complaint because Penn was about to serve a short jail term for attacking a film extra. He served 33 days of a 60-day sentence in the Los Angeles County jail (23 hours a day in solitary) for violating the probation he’d been given for punching a fan.

Good going Sean. Your lawsuit is going to dredge up the past, after it had mostly been forgotten–all over an offhand remark made in an interview with a trade paper the general public doesn’t read.  The bad publicity is going to force him to drop the lawsuit in any case, if it’s not deemed without merit by the courts.

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