The Woman Who Brokered The 'El Chapo' Interview
Everybody is talking about the meeting between Sean Penn and drug kingpin "El Chapo" after Penn published an article describing their conversation in Rolling Stone on Saturday. The meeting occurred somewhere deep in a Mexican jungle three months after Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán escaped prison in July. A shootout on Friday, Jan. 8 resulted in Guzmán's arrest and has caused Mexican authorities to ask a few questions of both Penn and Kate del Castillo, the popular Mexican actress who reportedly brokered the rendezvous between the two men. Location is the prevalent question on authorities' minds, and del Castillo might know something they want — but how did the actress meet "El Chapo?"
It began when Guzmán realized his second escape from prison — as the world's biggest drug lord — made his life worthy of its own movie. According to Mexican newspaper El Universal, while Guzmán was behind bars at El Altiplano prison, his lawyers contacted del Castillo, who was first linked to his name back in 2012 when she declared that she believed in Guzmán more than the Mexican government. He learned of her interest in him after she wrote online:
Mr. "Chapo," wouldn't it be cool that you started trafficking with love? With cures for diseases, with food for the homeless children, with ALCOHOL for the retirement homes that don't let the elderly spend the rest of the days doing whatever the f..k they want. Imagine trafficking with corrupt politicians instead of women and children who end up as slaves. Why don't you burn all those whore houses where women are worth less than a pack of cigarettes? Without offer there's no demand. COME ON Don! You would be the HEROES of HEROES! Let's traffic with love. YOU KNOW HOW TO. Life is a business, and the only thing that changes is the merchandise. Don't you agree?
Del Castillo has played cartel leaders and traffickers in a myriad of telenovelas and television shows, including a role as politician and crime boss Pilar Zuazo in Showtime's popular series Weeds. She launched her career in Mexican telenovelas and is probably best known for starring as Teresa Mendoza in La Reina del Sur. She is otherwise known for speaking out on social issues, like anti-bullying via the El Bullying No Es Un Juego campaign, animal activism with PETA, and even occasionally against Donald Trump.
Some of her American roles include the film The 33, starring Antonio Banderas; Bordertown, opposite Jennifer Lopez; and episodes of the popular show Jane the Virgin. In 2009, she was appointed Ambassador for the Mexican Commission on Human Rights, and she helped start the Blue Heart Campaign to fight human trafficking around the world, which makes her interest in the kingpin curious, to say the least.
She is, however, a convenient branch between Guzmán and Hollywood, with homes in Los Angeles and Mexico City, big name friendships with stars like Penn, and one of the U.S.' highest-grossing Spanish-language theatrical release listed in her credentials (the Fox Searchlight/Weinstein film, Under the Same Moon). El Universal explained that Guzmán's lawyers reached out to del Castillo in 2014 regarding a biopic, and she actually contacted an unidentified Argentine director about its screenplay.
Apparently, said El Universal, she was not only the perfect go-to for his Hollywood pitch, but the only person he would trust to tell his story on film. The paper reported that in October 2015, del Castillo flew into Guadalajara, from where she traveled to an area called the "Golden Triangle" to meet Guzmán to discuss his life. The two allegedly became so close that his lawyers actually requested that del Castillo try to halt the release of a Mexican film on Guzmán's escape, El Chapo: The Escape of the Century, which was not authorized by Guzmán.
While it is still unclear exactly how del Castillo was able facilitate the meeting between Guzmán and Penn, according to the Associated Press, she and Penn may have assisted authorities in locating their target, as El Chapo was captured just a couple months after the interview took place.