In a surprising development, Rolling Stone has published the first-ever interview with fugitive Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzman, known as “El Chapo,” conducted by none other than Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn.
Several news outlets reported that Penn is now under investigation for the interview, according to a Mexican official. They are particularly interested in the location of the meeting. Since Penn had been in contact with Guzman for several months, authorities are presumably interested to find out why the actor did not earlier share any information on the wanted man.
According to the Associated Press, Penn’s interview helped lead authorities to Guzman, who was captured and returned to prison Friday.
The interview published Saturday evening was conducted in October while the drug lord was on the run from Mexican and U.S. authorities. Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, star of Telemundo’s hit 2011 telenovela “La Reina del Sur,” in which she played a ruthless drug cartel leader, accompanied Penn to a secret location deep in the Mexican jungle. It was arranged through a producer he calls Espinoza in the article. Castillo is also now under investigation in the stranger-than-fiction story that seems tailor-made for a telenovela of its own.
The CAA-repped del Castillo recently logged guest shots on CW’s “Jane the Virgin” as part of her effort to cross over into English-language TV. Her next big TV project is the Spanish-language Netflix series “Ingobernable,” where she plays the strong-willed wife of the president of Mexico. She previously had a recurring role in Showtime’s “Weeds” in 2009. She also co-starred in the 2007 Sundance film festival favorite “Under the Same Moon.”
To herald the El Chapo interview coup, Rolling Stone published a two-minute video of his sit-down with Penn (see below).
“I don’t want to be portrayed as a nun,” El Chapo tells Penn as the two dined over tacos and tequila.
After traveling to the unknown location in SUVs, Penn said they were surrounded by “30 to 35” armed guards, with an additional hundred soldiers in a nearby field.
None of El Chapo’s soldiers or associates spoke in English, so the jungle meeting was translated by Castillo, whom the drug lord had been in contact with after she tweeted a plea to him to use his power to help people. But the first contact was more of a meet and greet; the actor then spent several weeks trying to contact El Chapo via Castillo, and finally received a video answering the questions he had submitted.
In a radical departure from journalistic practice, the entire Rolling Stone story was submitted to El Chapo for approval, and Penn says the drug lord did not ask for any changes.
Though El Chapo formerly denied being a drug dealer, he told Penn that he wanted a feature film to tell his story, boasting, “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats.”
Chapo went on to admit that he once met drug kingpin Pablo Escobar: “Yes, I met him once at his house. Big house.”
When asked about GOP candidate Donald Trump, he gave a sarcastic, “Mi amigo!”
Using a gonzo-style approach, Penn details his secret trip to the Mexican jungle that originated with a secret meeting in New York and, ends, oddly, with the actor passing gas in front of El Chapo.
The Rolling Stone article also provides details of the drug lord’s escape from prison in July 2015.
Penn explained his interest in the outlaw, saying in the article, “I take no pride in keeping secrets that may be perceived as protecting criminals, nor do I have any gloating arrogance at posing for selfies with unknowing security men. But I’m in my rhythm. Everything I say to everyone must be true. ”
“I took some comfort in a unique aspect of El Chapo’s reputation among the heads of drug cartels in Mexico: that, unlike many of his counterparts who engage in gratuitous kidnapping and murder, El Chapo is a businessman first, and only resorts to violence when he deems it advantageous to himself or his business interests,” he continues.
“As an American citizen, I’m drawn to explore what may be inconsistent with the portrayals our government and media brand upon their declared enemies. Not since Osama bin Laden has the pursuit of a fugitive so occupied the public imagination. But unlike bin Laden, who had posed the ludicrous premise that a country’s entire population is defined by – and therefore complicit in – its leadership’s policies, with the world’s most wanted drug lord, are we, the American public, not indeed complicit in what we demonize? We are the consumers, and as such, we are complicit in every murder, and in every corruption of an institution’s ability to protect the quality of life for citizens of Mexico and the United States that comes as a result of our insatiable appetite for illicit narcotics.”
Watch an excerpt from the video below: