Stemming from an interview Lee Daniels did last week with The Hollywood Reporter pegged to Empire's upcoming second season, Sean Penn has filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against the showrunner, stating Daniels used "reckless, false, and defamatory" language to claim Penn has a history of abusing women and domestic assault. “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some fuckin demon,” Daniels said in the interview, acknowledging Howard's recent abuse charges. “That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Filed Tuesday in the New York Supreme Court, Penn's complaint asserts that Daniels's statements against "one of this generation's most highly-acclaimed and greatest artists and humanitarians" falsely equates him with Howard, and are at the behest of a "misguided campaign" to promote Empire. “As a result of Penn’s status as a public figure, he has for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous, and baseless attacks,” the suit claims (the entire complaint can be read in full here). “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.”
The complaint continues: “Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest.”*
Representatives for Daniels have yet to respond to the suit.
*This article originally stated that Sean Penn was charged with felony domestic assault in 1988, which is not the case. Vulture regrets the error.