Lee Daniels and Sean Penn Resolve $10 Million Defamation Lawsuit With Heartfelt Apology

by Antoinette Bueno 12:17 PM PDT, May 04, 2016
Photo: Getty Images

The legal drama is over between Lee Daniels and Sean Penn.

The 56-year-old producer/director and the 55-year-old actor jointly announced on Wednesday that they've resolved Penn's $10 million defamation lawsuit against Daniels, which Penn filed in September.

As part of the settlement, Daniels apologized to Penn, and also donated to the Oscar winner's charity, J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

WATCH: Sean Penn Sues Lee Daniels for Defamation Over Comparing Him to Terrence Howard

"I am so sorry that I have hurt you, Sean, and I apologize and retract my reckless statements about you," Daniels said in a statement. "How thoughtless of me. You are someone I consider a friend, a brilliant actor and true Hollywood legend and humanitarian."

"I too have been the subject of false attacks by others, like those made here," he continued. "My most important role is as a father, and it is important to me that my children learn that it is wrong to reference gossip as fact, as I did here. That can be very damaging and hurtful."

Penn claimed in his defamation suit that Daniels made "false and defamatory statements" about him in an interview where the Empire producer brought up Penn, while discussing actor Terrence Howard's history of domestic violence abuse.

"[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some f**kin' demon... That's a sign of the times, of race, of where we are right now in America," The Hollywood Reporter quoted Daniels as saying.

Daniels now says his comments were "cavalier."

"Domestic violence is a very serious issue," he said in his statement on Wednesday. "My comments were cavalier; it was not my intention to diminish the severity of the issue, but rather to express a view regarding the disparate treatment of men of color in our national conversation. I apologize again for the distress that this has caused you and your family."

Penn accepted Daniels' apology, as well as the donation to his charity for an undisclosed amount.

"I accept Lee's heartfelt apology and appreciate the sincerity with which it was delivered," Penn said in a statement. "I also accept and appreciate his generous donation to J/P HRO, which will have a transformative effect on the lives of those we serve in Haiti."

The settlement is surprising, given that Daniels slammed Penn in a legal filing as recently as February, when he moved to strike and dismiss Penn's defamation suit against him, citing First Amendment protections. Daniels' counsel managed to slip in a humorous jab aimed at Penn's iconic Fast Times at Ridgemont High character, Jeff Spicoli.

"Spicoli understands the United States Constitution better than Penn," one footnote reads. "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. Okay?'"

Last December, Daniels called Penn's lawsuit "an assault on the First Amendment" in court papers obtained by ET.

"With fame, money and high-priced legal counsel, Penn has the power to buy most things," the documents read. "Fortunately for Daniels, the First Amendment is not for sale. It protects Daniels and others from lawsuits like this one, financially-draining attacks brought to punish free speech exercised to Penn’s chagrin."

WATCH: Madonna Says She Was Never Assaulted By Sean Penn in New Legal Docs

Meanwhile, Penn's ex-wife, Madonna, defended him last December, when she filed legal documents spelling out that she was never physically assaulted by Penn during their four-year marriage.

"Sean has never struck me," the singer said in the sworn legal statement. "Any report to the contrary is completely outrageous, malicious, reckless and false."

Watch below: