Nearly three months since Rolling Stone published Sean Penn’s interview with Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the actress Penn described as his “ticket to Chapo’s trust” is breaking her silence.
It turns out Kate del Castillo is not impressed with the actor-turned-journalist’s controversial interview.
The Mexican actress is making the rounds on various American television networks, starting with ABC’s Diane Sawyer. The media blitz comes on the heels of a New Yorker article that filled in some of the gaps in Penn’s piece of “experiential journalism” titled “El Chapo Speaks.”
In the interview with Sawyer, which aired Friday, del Castillo defended her relationship with Guzman. Sawyer suggested that text messages between them leaked to the Mexican press show del Castillo using a “seductive” tone. Del Castillo insisted she was playing nice with him so he would agree to see her while on the lam in 2015 after breaking out of prison and guarantee her safety.
“I was being nice because I wanted to get the story, access to the story,” she said.
“It’s a big opportunity to have someone tell their story, being alive and being the biggest drug lord,” she said. “I’m an actor and I’m not the first one that has risked a lot of things to have a good story.”
The relationship goes back to a tweet she sent in 2012. Amid ramblings about the Mexican government, relationships and disease, she brought up Guzman, imploring him to “traffic with love” and and be “the hero of heroes.“
The Mexican media raked del Castillo over the coals for the tweet but apparently it caught Guzman’s attention. According to Castillo’s version of events, Guzman’s associates reached out to her in 2014 and asked her if she would be interested in making a movie about his life.
“Why me?” she asked his lawyers in an in-person meeting in September 2014. According to del Castillo, the lawyers replied, “Because you’re very brave. Because you’re outspoken. Because you always tell the truth, even when it’s about the government. Because you come from a great family. And because he’s a fan of yours from ‘La Reina del Sur.’ “
She demurs when Sawyer presses her on who was seducing whom, suggesting that Guzman has a “crush” on her character Teresa Mendoza, the powerful drug trafficker she plays in the popular Spanish-language telenovela, “La Reina del Sur.”
Finally, del Castillo relents and admits. “OK, maybe yes. I don’t know. We have to ask him.”
As far as she was concerned, the film project was the reason a Hollywood producer introduced her to Penn, New Yorker journalist Robert Draper wrote. She and her producers thought having a big American name attached to the project might help its chances of getting made.
Del Castillo said she did not find out about the article until she and Penn were sitting down with El Chapo over tacos and tequila in the Mexican jungle, according to the New Yorker article. Penn denies this, telling the magazine in a statement that he was clear about his intention to interview Guzman in their first meeting.
The co-producers of del Castillo’s film, who accompanied Penn and del Castillo to meet Guzman, told the magazine that Penn’s article was discussed at some point on the trip, before they met Guzman.
She said one of her mistakes was being naive about Penn’s article. When asked by Sawyer whether she’s angry at Penn, del Castillo said, “Yes, a little bit.”
“I’m angry at myself because I believe in people and I didn’t know Sean Penn,” she said. “He wouldn’t be there if not for me.”
She still intends to make the film, she said, without a dime from Guzman.
“Yes, more than before,” she told Sawyer. “It cost me so much in so many ways.”