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Penn wins battle on war

Los Angeles, May 9 (Reuters): A Los Angeles judge has uph- eld actor Sean Penn’s right to sue movie producer Steven Bing for $10 million for alleg- edly firing him from a movie because he opposed the US war in Iraq.

In what he described as “an easy call”, Superior Court Judge Irving Feffer rejected Bing’s attempt to kill the lawsuit because of lack of evidence.

Bing, who became famous last year during a bitter paternity dispute over the child he sired with British actress Elizabeth Hurley, has countered with his own $15 million law- suit accusing Penn of trying to extort money for a role he never accepted.

Penn will try to get that lawsuit dismissed at a June 18 hearing.

The feud has escalated to high drama in court filings, with Penn accusing Bing of “borrowing a page from the dark era of Hollywood blacklisting” and Bing saying the actor wanted “to turn their business dispute into a First Amendment crusade”.

In his countersuit, Bing seeks compensation for costs — such as hiring famed director Woody Allen — that he incurred before finding that Penn never intended to appear in the film, Why Men Shouldn’t Marry.

In court papers, Bing contended he doesn’t owe Penn “one cent” and warned that some of the actor’s anti-war talk was not protected by state labour laws guaranteeing free speech.

“Penn crossed over a bright line into unprotected speech when he publicly advocated the violent overthrow of the United States government” in an August 28, 2001, British newspaper article, the motion said.

The motion accused Penn of violating “any standard of decency by posing with portraits of Saddam Hussein and meeting with Hussein’s henchman (former deputy Prime Minister) Tariq Aziz” during a trip to Iraq last December.

Penn’s attorney dismissed the argument as “nonsense”.

“There is no authority supporting arguments that travelling to Iraq, being photographed with a picture of Saddam Hussein in the background, or meeting Tariq Aziz waives wrongful termination or any other kinds of claims,” Penn’s lawyer said in court papers.

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