LOS ANGELES — Terrence Howard tearfully told a judge Friday that his ex-wife repeatedly threatened to leak damaging information about him to get him to sign a divorce settlement in 2012.

The Oscar-nominated actor broke down while discussing the threats during a hearing in which he is trying to overturn the settlement agreement on grounds he signed it under duress. Howard said he was concerned his ex-wife, Michelle Ghent, would leak details about his sex life, and audio and video recordings of him.

Howard said the release of such information in 2012 would have ended his career. The 46-year-old actor now stars on the hit Fox series “Empire.”

“I was terrified of her releasing the private tapes,” Howard said, explaining that the video showed him in “intimate settings.”

Howard again lost his composure during cross-examination by Ghent’s attorney, who questioned the actor about domestic violence allegations. Howard requested a court recess after being questioned about several allegations of violence toward women.

With a photo of Ghent with a black eye displayed on a screen in the courtroom, Howard acknowledged that he had struck his first wife out of anger. But he denied he had abused Ghent, saying any attacks on her were self-defense.

In a deposition, Ghent denied she tried to blackmail Howard, her attorneys have said. She has accused Howard of domestic violence several times and has an active restraining order against him.

Howard said he paid Ghent $40,000 after she threatened to release materials including a video of him naked and dancing in the bathroom. Howard and Ghent were married in 2010, and she filed for divorce a year later.