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Baghdad Surprise

Sean Penn says Iraq views cost him a job. He and producer Steve Bing are embroiled in dueling lawsuits over ''Why Men Shouldn't Marry''

Sean Penn | POLITICS AS USUAL Penn visits a children's hospital in Iraq
Image credit: Sean Penn: Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Newscom
POLITICS AS USUAL Penn visits a children's hospital in Iraq

Sean Penn and producer Steve Bing were planning to make a movie together called ''Why Men Shouldn't Marry,'' but maybe they should have called it ''Why Men Shouldn't Work Together At All.'' Penn claims Bing booted him from the picture because of the actor's public statements against the imminent war in Iraq. Bing claims Penn dropped out of the movie on his own and is now trying to extort his salary from Bing by crying ''blacklist.'' Both sides are taking their claims to court in dueling lawsuits.

The film, in which the twice-married Penn was to star with the thrice-married Woody Allen, was about a bitter divorced man (Penn) who tangles with a matrimonial guru (Allen) who believes in marriage despite his own numerous divorces. Bing, best known for denying the paternity of Elizabeth Hurley's baby until a DNA test proved he was the daddy, was to direct from his own screenplay. (He also wrote the current kiddie crime spoof ''Kangaroo Jack.'')

Penn, who said he had an oral agreement with Bing to star in the movie, filed a $10 million breach-of-contract suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, in which he accused Bing of ''borrowing a page from the dark era of Hollywood blacklisting,'' E! Online reports. In recent months, Penn has taken out a large anti-war ad in the Washington Post, visited Iraq on what he said was a fact-finding mission, and spoken out against the likely war on ''Larry King Live.'' He claims Bing's lawyers wrote him a letter suggesting that Bing felt he would be hurt by associating with someone of Penn's political viewpoint, saying, ''If a price is to be paid for Mr. Penn's behavior and his preoccupation with political issues, that price should be paid appropriately and be borne by Mr. Penn, not by his potential employer.''

Bing, who has been a generous Democratic donor and who footed the bill for last week's Rolling Stones concert to raise clean-air issues, filed his own $15 million suit against Penn on Tuesday, accusing the actor of a ''shake-down effort,'' and insisting that Bing ''had, in fact, encouraged Penn to speak his mind and to say whatever he wanted to on political issues.'' He contends that there was no ''enforceable contract'' between him and Penn.

A Bing spokesperson said on Wednesday that he still plans to shoot the movie in August with Allen on board. The Penn role has not yet been recast.

Originally posted Feb 13, 2003
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