Sean Penn reports from Iran for S.F. newspaper. The Chronicle has hired the Oscar-winning actor to cover the Iranian presidential campaigns
Sean Penn
Credit: Sean Penn: CP, J.P. Moczulski/AP

Sean Penn didn’t make a lot of friends back home last time he went to the Middle East, but he’s back again. This time, the Oscar-winning actor is there on assignment, as a foreign correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle. Reuters reports that he’s in Tehran, writing about Iran on the eve of the June 17 presidential election there. The wire service photographed him taking notes as 6,000 worshipers attended a prayer service at Tehran University, with none of them taking notice of the Mystic River star. Accompanying Penn was a translator, helping decipher for Penn the chants of ”Death to America” and a hardline cleric’s exhortation to the congregants that they vote in order to ”make America angry.”

Penn chose to visit Tehran, he told Reuters, because of growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran. He previously wrote for the Chronicle about his second trip to Iraq, after the war began — this after critics questioned his patriotism for visiting Iraq shortly before the war. Talking to EW in late 2003, Penn denied he’d been manipulated by Saddam Hussein’s government. ”If there was a single mission I had,” he said, ”it was ‘Okay, I know there are kids in Iraq just like my kids. I just need to see them before I speak to [the issues], before I confirm all of the things I feel we’ve been lied to about.”’ He returned to Baghdad after Hussein had been deposed, he told EW, ”to write about people I met earlier on… to see what their story would be now.”