TEHRAN, Iran – Sean Penn (search) has stepped into the shoes of a reporter once again.
The Oscar-winning actor has left a wake of excited fans and bewildered clerics around the Iranian capital while on a special assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle to cover Friday's presidential elections.
Last week, Penn attended Friday prayers at Tehran University where worshippers gave the well-known chant of "Death to America." On Monday, he told an audience at Tehran's Film Museum that such cries hurt prospects for starting a dialogue between Iran and the United States.
His trip has offered Iranian photographers the rare taste of paparazzi-style celebrity hunting. Iran has a highly respected domestic film industry that has won countless international awards, but few Hollywood stars have visited since the Islamic Revolution.
Given a press credential by Chronicle Executive Editor Phil Bronstein, Penn visited neighboring Iraq in late November 2003, shortly before Saddam Hussein was captured. He wrote a series of stories for the newspaper.
Penn, 44, won a best-actor Oscar in 2004 for his portrayal of a grief-stricken father seeking revenge for his daughter's death in "Mystic River (search)," directed by Clint Eastwood.