Sean Penn wins a legal round against producer. Judge rules Steve Bing can't accuse Penn of attempted civil extortion under California law

By Gary Susman
June 24, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

In what may be the most offbeat civil dispute this side of the Spike TV imbroglio, Sean Penn has won his first legal victory over producer Steve Bing in their competing lawsuits over the never-made film ”Why Men Shouldn’t Marry.” Penn has accused Bing of blacklisting him from the film over his outspoken antiwar views, while Bing says Penn was demanding too much money and threatened him with exposure of a potentially damning audiotape — a claim that may now be harder for Bing to make, thanks to a ruling against him on Monday.

Reuters reports that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Irving Feffer threw out the part of Bing’s lawsuit accusing Penn of attempted civil extortion, along with three other claims, ruling that California law does not recognize such an extortion claim. However, Judge Feffer invited Bing’s attorney to revise and resubmit the claims, and the attorney told Reuters he would do so and may even appeal the ruling.

Bing (”Kangaroo Jack”), who’s best known for impregnating Elizabeth Hurley, planned to make the comedy ”Why Men Shouldn’t Marry” with the twice-married Sean Penn and thrice-married Woody Allen in the lead roles. Penn says Bing, a noted Democratic fundraiser, dropped him from the movie after the public-relations fiasco of Penn’s trip to Iraq last winter, accusing Bing of ”borrowing a page from the dark era of Hollywood blacklisting.” He sued Bing for $10 million, but Bing countersued for $15 million, saying Penn dragged his feet over salary issues and was ”more concerned with speaking out against Iraq than closing a deal.” The pair’s next court date is July 3.