Penn files suit against Empire co-creator

NEW YORK • Actor Sean Penn has filed a defamation suit against Empire co-creator Lee Daniels, for comparing him to the series’ star Terrence Howard, who has a reported history of domestic violence.

The complaint called Daniels’ remark, made in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “reckless, false and defamatory”.

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

The complaint says Penn, 55, has “for years been the subject of scandalous, scurrilous and baseless attacks. But he has a right to defend himself and will no longer tolerate the reckless and malicious behaviour of others, who seek to aggrandise themselves or their projects at his expense.

“...and because of  Daniels’ defamatory statements, Penn brings this action for monetary relief and to deter Daniels and others from their defamatory actions”.

The document, as reported by USA Today and The Hollywood Reporter, notes that Howard has “reportedly and publicly admitted” to physically abusing women, adding that “Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest”.

Howard, 46, last week admitted in an interview that he assaulted his first wife, while his second spouse, to whom he was married from 2010 to 2011, was granted two restraining orders against him. Penn and Madonna were married from 1985 to 1989.

The complaint adds: “Daniels’ defence of  Howard (and his improper invocation of two of the greatest actors and humanitarians of our time, Brando and Penn) is apparently part of a misguided campaign to profit and further bolster and brand his show Empire.’”

The lawsuit was filed on Sept 22, a day before the second season of Empire premieredon Fox.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline ''. Subscribe