Mexican soap opera actress Kate del Castillo, the topic of much speculation regarding her link to drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, opened up this weekend with her version of the story.
In a 5,600-word piece published Sunday in Mexico’s Proceso newspaper, the 43-year-old writes about her initial connection to Guzman, which she said came as a film project to document his life.
She recounts how she was contacted by the drug lord’s attorneys in the U.S., flew to Mexico to meet them and then held discussions that eventually led to her encounter with Guzman and American actor Sean Penn in a remote area of Mexico in October 2015.
"What I wanted to do was document the life of a man named enemy number one by the most powerful nation in the world," she wrote.
The Proceso article was published just two days after The New Yorker magazine published online an excerpt of an interview with the actress, who best known for her role in “The Queen of the South.”
A subsequent interview with Diane Sawyer for “20/20” set for Friday will be the first time Del Castillo sits down for a televised report.
'El Chapo' Guzman, known as the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, was captured on Jan. 8 after a nearly six-month manhunt following his escape last July from a maximum security prison through a one-mile tunnel. It was his second such escape from a penitentiary.
Del Castillo wrote that his attorneys reached out to her via email in 2014 – when "El Chapo" was incarcerated – and she later met with them in Mexico. The drug lord and the actress had crossed paths years before on social media, when she tweeted that Guzman should start “trafficking with love" and that she would trust him over the corrupt Mexican government.
“My mind quickly went to the ‘fantasies’ from reporters who, years before, would ask me if ‘El Chapo’ Guzman had contacted me because of my tweet, something that in the moment was kind of funny,” she wrote in Proceso.
During her meeting with Guzman's attorneys, she said they wanted to give her the rights to tell his story in a movie, one that she would also appear in.
"Why me?" the actress recalled asking.
"Because he admires you, respects you, and fully trusts you," she said one of the lawyers told her. “He respects you because you speak the truth and are not fake; because of the tweet in which you mention him, because you are brave and because he wants to you to act in his film, because he liked your work in ‘Queen of the South.’”
The meeting ignited her desire to make the film and she met with several producers that she felt would be perfect for the role. It was one of these producers that introduced her to Penn.
“What we both wanted was to ask Mr. Guzman questions, to learn his story to document it, talk about the project, and finally, reinforce the words of my tweet ‘traffic with love,’” she wrote, adding that she reached out to Guzman’s lawyers to see about the possibility of adding a meeting with Penn to the agenda.
It was at this moment that she began texting back and forth with Guzman.
“I couldn’t believe it; I established communication with the most wanted man in the world at that time,” Del Castillo wrote. “My hands were shaking, sweating, I couldn’t express myself well.”
She said she told Guzman that having Penn involved in the project would give it more credibility. He accepted.
The day of the meeting, one of the capo's sons met the group at a hotel and took them on a journey by land, air, and land again.
Similarly to her claim in the New Yorker story, Del Castillo said she was blindsided when Penn asked Guzman if he could write an article for “Rolling Stone” magazine.
“It completely surprised me,” she wrote. “I had no knowledge of it.”
Penn has insisted that he told her beforehand, saying in a statement: “From our first meeting, I discussed with her my intention to interview Joaquin Guzman for an article in connection with the meeting that she facilitated. We discussed it again during the flight and the trip to Mexico with our partners.”
She dismissed it that as “total and complete (bull).”
"This was not how I was expecting the night to be," she was quoted as saying by the New Yorker. "But at the moment I thought, Maybe we can base the movie on this article."
In the Proceso article, the actress describes a tequila-infused night that ended with her sleeping with her clothes on a bed by herself — she said Guzman explained he never sleeps in the same room as his guests for their safety's sake.
"He hugged me and thanked me for having given a few hours of happiness. And he left," she wrote.
Mexican authorities have said they were investigating whether Guzman gave money to Del Castillo's tequila company. Officials have also sought to interrogate the actress, although they have said they consider her a witness not a suspect.
In a second article published in Proceso on Sunday, Del Castillo denied that the capo had given money to her to make the movie, or to her company.
"I have never received money from Mr. Guzman," she said.
AP contributed to this report.