Sean Penn: Intrepid Foreign Correspondent?

By: Joe Strupp

Sean Penn writing news dispatches from Iraq for the San Francisco Chronicle? It could happen — but don’t hold your breath.

Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein confirmed for E&P Online a report in this week’s Entertainment Weekly cover story that the paper had discussed this Penn Mightier Than the Sword scenario. The actor, of course, made a controversial trip to Baghdad last winter just before the war broke out and later wrote about it at length — but only in the form of a full-page ad in The New York Times.

Bronstein said he has known Penn for years. He said the subject of writing for the newspaper came up when he and the actor (currently lauded for roles in 21 Grams and Mystic River) were chatting about various topics in Bronstein’s office about two months ago.

At that time, Penn showed an interest in returning to Iraq some time soon and possibly writing what Bronstein termed as “vignettes about life there. … I wasn’t really interested in his politics, but he had written some [unpublished] things in the past about life in Baghdad,” Bronstein said. “He was talking about going back and I said we would be interested in running some of these little vignettes.”

Bronstein also said the paper would seek to credential Penn as a journalist if needed. “We like to engage Bay Area residents,” Bronstein said of Penn, who lives in nearby Marin County. “We have done stuff in the past with [Napa Valley resident and film director] Francis Ford Coppola.”

“I’d like to write about people I met earlier on,” Penn told Entertainment Weekly. “I’d like to see what their story would be now, now that Mr. Hussein is — presumably no longer in control of the country.”

But Bronstein said the idea remains just an idea as Penn shows no signs of returning to Iraq at the moment, focusing instead on his two new movies. Still, the editor and actor remain in touch. “We have a lot of mutual friends,” explained Bronstein, who is separated from wife Sharon Stone. “We may do something else with him.”

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