The documentary tells del Castillo’s version of events surrounding a 2015 meeting with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a Mexican drug lord who at the time was hiding from authorities. He’s since been captured and extradited to the U.S. and is awaiting trial.
When del Castillo met with Guzman, she said it was with the intent to make a film about his life. She brought along two film producers and actor Sean Penn, who went on to write an article for Rolling Stone magazine about the encounter.
Since then, del Castillo and Penn have clashed over their accounts of what happened. Del Castillo also suggests that Penn tipped off authorities to the meeting which ultimately led to Guzman’s capture.
Penn, through publicist Mark Fabiani, describes del Castillo’s efforts as “nothing but a cheap National Enquirer-esque tale spun by a delusional person whose hunger for fame is both tawdry and transparent.”
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, del Castillo talked about the film, Sean Penn and moving forward. Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: What do you hope to clear up with “The Day I Met El Chapo”?
Del Castillo: Well, first of all (the media) sexualized the whole thing. … that I had a sexual relationship with Mr. Guzman, that I was infatuated with him, that he was infatuated with me. … There’ve been a lot of men that have visited him and many other fugitives or drug lords and they say, ‘Oh my God, how smart, how intelligent, how brave of him.’ But if it’s a woman then they sexualize you.
AP: Your correspondence with Guzman began with what seemed like a complimentary tweet about him. How would you describe him now?
Del Castillo: I think we all have good and bad inside of us but we cannot forget who he is. He’s a criminal. … I saw him and he was a gentleman. He was very nice with me, with us. He loves his family very much so, so that’s part of the interesting thing that I want to show if I ever do the movie, his story life, what happens inside that mind. What is going on in his head? How a little kid from … Sinaloa becomes this No. 1 drug lord. … Who helps them? Because he’s not there by himself, right?
AP: You and Sean Penn have different accounts of what happened.
Del Castillo: He has a perception of what happened and I have another perception of what happened. … We tried to reach out to (Penn) many times in the documentary and he decided to ignore the requests and then he watched it and he didn’t like it and now he wants to say and be a part of it and sorry. He’s too late. (Note: Penn says it’s common to ask to see a cut of a project before agreeing to participate. After viewing it, Penn asked for a change which did not happen.)
AP: After you met with Guzman and before he was captured and Sean Penn’s article was published, what happened?
Del Castillo: When we got back, my nightmare started because I had to work for Sean literally translating his article, sending it to Senor Guzman, who is a fugitive by then so he’s not answering all the time and Sean is screaming that he has a deadline and El Chapo had approval. … I never saw the last version of it … and that’s where … we had so many fights. (Note: Penn says del Castillo is adding “new salacious allegations to her interview repertoire for the sole purpose of attracting attention for her documentary and for herself.”)
AP: You now live in the U.S. and haven’t been back to Mexico in two years. Do you feel you can’t go back?
Del Castillo: Well, legally I can go back because the investigation is over but they opened a new investigation and then they closed it and opened a new one. (There is an investigation into whether del Castillo received money from Guzman to finance the movie she wanted to make. She denies this.) My lawyers are advising me not to go yet.
AP: Has this affected your career?
Del Castillo: My whole life has been put on hold for two years. Thank God for ‘Ingobernable,’ the series with Netflix. If it wasn’t for them, I haven’t worked for two years and I’ve been paying for lawyers in the United States and Mexico. I’m an actress but I’m not Angelina Jolie. Sometimes you work, sometimes you don’t work so much. It’s been hard.