The epic saga of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s escape from a maximum security prison and recapture took a Hollywood twist on Friday night, when it was revealed that Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn had interviewed the famed trafficker in a secret meeting.
Mexican officials said that this meeting led to Guzman’s re-arrest, and that local diva Kate del Castillo played a big role in it.
In his bombshell interview for Rolling Stone magazine with Guzman, Penn revealed that Del Castillo was crucial in brokering the seven-hour encounter back in October, as she had been in contact with the drug trafficker for several years.
Known for her television portrayal of a female drug lord in Telemundo’s “La Reina del Sur” (“The Queen of the South”), Del Castillo was first contacted by Guzman in 2012, after she tweeted that he should start “trafficking with love.” She also stated that she would trust “El Chapo” over the seemingly corrupt Mexican government.
“Mr. Chapo, wouldn't it be cool that you started trafficking with love?” she wrote in the tweet. “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*** they want.”
She continued: “Imagine trafficking with corrupt politicians instead of women and children who end up as slaves. Why don't you burn all those whorehouses where women are worth less than a pack of cigarettes? Without supply, there's no demand. Come on, Don! You would be the hero 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?”
Her post created a lot of controversy in Mexico, and Guzman wanted to thank her for her support. He reportedly sent her flowers, Penn wrote.
“Her courage is further demonstrated in her willingness to be named in this article,” he added.
When Guzman was arrested for the second time in February 2014, the drug leader contacted Del Castillo again, when “gringos were scrambling to tell his story,” Penn wrote.
"He was interested in seeing the story of his life told on film, but would entrust its telling only to Kate," he wrote, adding that after Guzman’s escape from prison in July 2015, she had been “intermittently receiving contact from Chapo.”
It was this relationship that led Penn to Mexico in October 2015 to meet with Guzman, and ultimately paved the way for the Mexican Navy last week.
Life seems to imitate art for Del Castillo, 43, who not only played a ruthless leader of a drug cartel in “La Reina del Sur” but also incarnated a drug trafficker in the 2012 Telemundo soap opera “Dueños del Paraiso” (“Masters of Paradise”). In 2009, she also played a Mexican crime boss in the fifth season of “Weeds.”
Born in Mexico City, Del Castillo is the daughter of well-known Mexican actor Eric Del Castillo. She began acting at a young age; however, her big hit role came in the 1991 Televisa show “Muchachitas.” She then gained fame by touring Latin American with the play “Love Letters.”
Most recently she appeared as a recurring guest star on “Jane the Virgin” and has had appearances on NBC’s “Grimm” and CBS’ “CSI: Miami.”
She was part of the voice cast of 2011’s “Rio” and 2014’s “The Book of Life” alongside Zoe Saldaña and Diego Luna.
Last year Del Castillo starred in “The 33,” the drama based on the real-life story of the miraculous rescue of 33 Chilean miners a few years ago, alongside Antonio Banderas. Currently she is set to start in Netflix’s Spanish-language series “Ingobernable” (“Ungovernable”), where she will play the wife of President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto, also an actress.
According to Variety, Netflix has not commented on the status of the project in light of Del Castillo’s connection with Guzman and Penn.
Del Castillo, who splits her time between Mexico and Los Angeles, has not been shy about criticizing the Mexican government and is also active with humanitarian organizations on the issue of human trafficking and with PETA.
She has a massive social media audience, boosting 2.5 million Twitter followers – though she has remained radio silent since the news of her visit with Guzman broke Saturday night.
However, it seems that her association with Guzman and her desire to aggressively pursue the biopic rights to his story are the ones getting the most criticism.
According to Mexico’s El Universal newspaper, Del Castillo has become “a kind of public-relations for Joaquin El Chapo Guzman and the head of the film project about the most wanted narco in Mexico.”
According to the paper, Guzman’s lawyers contacted the actress in 2014 to produce an autobiographical film of his life and she even went as far as contacting an unidentified Argentinian director to write the screenplay.
Reportedly, she was also contacted to attempt to stop the release of the Mexican film “El Chapo: El Escape del Siglo” (“The Escape of the Century”) which is set to be released on Jan. 15.
There has been no word if Mexican or U.S. officials have reached out to Del Castillo regarding her connection to Guzman since his re-arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.