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Sean Penn, Angered at Abuse References, Files $10M Defamation Suit

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on September 22, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sean Penn is not happy with the co-creator of the TV show Empire. But he's not throwing any punches, just launching legal attacks, Variety reports.

The actor filed a $10 million defamation suit against Lee Daniels, co-creator of the Fox television series Empire. Penn's complaint is that Daniels mentioned his name when discussing the legal troubles of the show's actor, Terrence Howard, who has been repeatedly accused of physically abusing women and has reportedly admitted as much.

Daniels on Defense After Defending Howard

Penn's lawsuit alleges that by mentioning his name in conjunction with the discussion of Howard, the Empire creator caused him great anguish and emotional distress, exposing Penn to false judgments. Interestingly, Penn invokes the name of his most famous ex-wife (Madonna), saying she would confirm and attest that his brushes with the law do not rise to the level of arrests and convictions for domestic violence, like Howard.

Penn is also protecting Marlin Brando's reputation. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Daniels -- talking about his own star, Terrence Howard -- said he "ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn."

Penn's Contentions

Penn begs to differ and did so in his defamation lawsuit. He reportedly refers to a 2001 citation from the Whitemarsh Police Department in which Howard is quoted admitting to an officer that he broke down a door and beat his wife. Penn also alleges that Howard has faced about five domestic violence accusations.

Penn claims offense not only for himself and Mr. Brando. By defending Howard, Penn complains, Daniels seems to be condoning Howard's egregious behavior.

The Company We Keep

While Penn was not happy about being compared to Howard, he seems fine with similarities between himself and Mr. Brando. His complaint alleges that Daniels is deliberately associating his show with greatness in efforts to promote it.

Referring to Brando and Penn as "two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time," the complaint against Daniels states that he used their names in a "misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show."

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