I’m told that Sony Pictures’ first choices to play Richard Clarke in the film version of his first-person book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, were George Clooney and Russell Crowe. Not Sean Penn, whom ABC News today is reporting has been cast in the role. This may explain that scoop: Clarke, who was Dubya’s former White House counterterrorism adviser, works as an on-air analyst for ABC News. Both Penn and the film’s director, Crash‘s Oscar-winner Paul Haggis, are leading Hollywood activists against W’s administration. And Sony does have Penn starring in its remake of All the King’s Men (whose release has long been delayed). But that pic is an esemble piece, and I find the studio’s choice of Penn surprising to carry what is sure to be the box-office-challenged subject of politics in Against All Enemies. Don’t get me wrong, Sean is certainly a world-class actor. But, alas, he’s also box office poison.