02/12/2003 at 01:00 AM EST
Sean Penn is being sued for $15 million by movie producer Steve Bing (yes, the same Bing who fathered Elizabeth Hurley's child), who accuses Penn of trying to extort $10 million from him in a dispute over a movie role, reports the Associated Press.
Penn, meanwhile, has filed his own lawsuit against Bing in Los Angeles Superior Court.
According to a statement from the actor's publicist, "Bing's lawsuit was filed against Penn as a defensive ploy to distract attention away from Penn's lawsuit and the real issues. The real issue is that Steve Bing backed out of the deal for reasons which are entirely indefensible and are outlined in Penn's lawsuit."
According to the New York Post, Penn, 42, claims that Bing, 37, is "borrowing a page from the dark era of Hollywood blacklisting" by booting him out of the role because of his opinions on American foreign policy and a possible war in Iraq.
The movie, which Bing wrote and was supposed to direct, was titled "Why Men Shouldn't Marry." According to court papers filed by Bing's attorney, Penn appeared to have lost interest in the project, but he still wanted Bing to pay him.
A statement from Penn's agent, Bryan Lourd of CAA, said: "Sean Penn has a closed deal on 'Why Men Shouldn't Marry.' Mr. Bing has filed his suit against Mr. Penn to confuse the issue. There should be no confusion: Mr. Penn committed to the movie and an agreement was reached."
Lourd says Bing's suit is a way to renege "on his commitment," says the statement.
Bing, meanwhile, claims Penn is trying to publicly embarrass the producer by announcing that a political disagreement had prevented him from making the movie.
Recently, Penn has received more attention for his political views than his movie roles. In December he visited Iraq and then complained that President Bush's wish to disarm Saddam Hussein takes "a simplistic and inflammatory view of good and evil."
Bing is seeking $15 million in damages and a court ruling that Penn does not have a "pay or play" contract for the film.