By Rachel F. Elson
Updated November 25, 2003 11:00 AM

The acting career of Sean Penn may have gotten a boost from “Mystic River” and “21 Grams,” but the activist thespian seems to have his eye on a very different kind of project.

The San Francisco Chronicle confirms to Editor & Publisher magazine that it may enlist Penn, 43, as a foreign correspondent to write dispatches from Iraq.

Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein (also the estranged husband of Sharon Stone) tells E&P that during a meeting two months ago, Penn showed an interest in returning to Iraq and writing “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 … I wasn’t really interested in his politics, but he had written some (unpublished) things in the past about life in Baghdad,” Bronstein said.

The outspoken actor, who has long been interested in journalism, made a controversial trip to Baghdad last winter as part of his efforts to prevent a war in Iraq. Upon his return, E&P notes, Penn wrote about the trip at length — but only published it as a full-page ad in The New York Times.

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

No visit is imminent, Bronstein says, as Penn is still promoting his two current movies. But the editor says the Chronicle would be willing to procure journalism credentials for the actor if necessary.

Penn’s big-screen career began two decades ago with roles in “Taps” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and has included such politically charged films as 1995’s “Dead Man Walking” and the 1998 war movie, “The Thin Red Line.”