Film and television director Lee Daniels says Sean Penn’s $10 million defamation lawsuit against him is without merit and he’s hoping to have a judge dismiss it.
“Dismissal is required because the core of the complaint — that Daniels wronged Penn by falsely comparing Penn to someone else — is constitutionally [to quote Penn’s iconic movie character Jeff Spicoli] ‘bogus,’ ” Daniels’ complaint reads in part.
Penn filed the lawsuit after Daniels made a comment during an interview that compared the legal issues “Empire” star Terrence Howard was having at the time with those of Penn and other actors.
Daniels told The Hollywood Reporter that Howard “ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of the sudden he’s some f—in’ demon. That’s a sign of the time, of race, of where we are right now in America.”
Penn claims that Daniels’ comment insinuates that he has been physically abusive to women, including his ex-wife Madonna. This past December, the legendary pop star came to her ex-hubby’s defense by issuing a statement that said allegations that Penn abused her were “completely outrageous, malicious, reckless and false.”
Despite the lawsuit being filed in New York, Daniels has also evoked California’s anti-SLAPP law, which blocks legal action from being taken against statements protected by the First Amendment.
In an interesting maneuver, Daniels even mocks Penn by comparing him to his character, Spicoli, from the 1982 classic film, Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
“Spicoli understands the United States Constitution better than Penn. For his final, oral exam in high school history class, surfer-dude Spicoli expounds upon the intent of America’s founding fathers: ‘What Jefferson was saying was, “Hey! You know. We left this England place because it was bogus. So if we don’t get some cool rules ourselves – Pronto! – we’ll just be bogus, too. OK?’ To avoid being bogus, Jefferson and his contemporaries adopted the First Amendment, cherished protector of honest opinions and vigilant striker of lawsuits brought to punish and deter such opinions. This ‘cool rule’ animates the California and New York laws that mandate dismissal of Penn’s bogus claims.”
Needless to say, Penn’s attorney, Mathew Rosengart, was far from amused and issued a statement.
“Mr. Daniels should be ashamed of himself,” Rosengart began. “The Madonna Affidavit conclusively and incontrovertibly demonstrates that Daniels’ statements were false, reckless, and defamatory, and he has no defense to it, and certainly is unconcerned with the truth. Instead, his motion represents a sophomoric, and desperate, effort to stave off a trial, which we look forward to conducting, in order to hold Daniels liable for his egregious misconduct.”
It sounds as though this is one going to get a whole lot messier before the lawsuit is settled. Of course, we’ll be here to keep you posted every step of the way.