Kate del Castillo, 'ticket to El Chapo's trust,' says Sean Penn misled her

Story highlights

  • Kate del Castillo arranged Sean Penn's meeting with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman
  • She says she did not know about Penn's article until they met Guzman in person
  • Penn says he was clear about his intentions in the first meeting

(CNN)Nearly three months after Rolling Stone published Sean Penn's interview with Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the actress who Penn described as his "ticket to Chapo's trust" is breaking her silence.

It turns out Kate del Castillo is not impressed with the actor-turned-journalist's controversial interview.
The Mexican actress is making the rounds on American television networks, including a talk with CNN's Carmen Aristegui. The media blitz comes on the heels of a new New Yorker article that filled in some of the gaps in Penn's piece of "experiential journalism" titled "El Chapo Speaks."
    The actress disputes some aspects of Penn's story, which recounts their journey with two mutual acquaintances referred to as "Espinoza" and "El Alto" from Los Angeles to an undisclosed location in Mexico to meet Guzman. Del Castillo also says she was not aware of Penn's intention to write an article about the encounter.
    Penn said through a representative that he stands by his story and the context under which the meeting occurred.
    "Sean stands by his article as accurate. Kate also fact-checked it before it went to print. She worked closely with Penn and Rolling Stone throughout the process, which she was very involved in," a representative told CNN in an email.

    'Mexico is bleeding, right now'

    In Penn's account, Guzman's son, Alfredo Guzmán, joins them on their journey when they arrive in Mexico. At one point on the long drive through dense mountain jungle, their SUV convoy stops at a military checkpoint, according to Penn.
    "Two uniformed government soldiers, weapons at the ready, approach our vehicle. Alfredo lowers his passenger window; the soldiers back away, looking embarrassed, and wave us through. Wow. So it is, the power of a Guzman face. And the corruption of an institution," Penn wrote.
    But del Castillo said the encounter never happened.
    "That´s one of the biggest inconsistencies that I see in Sean´s article, and that really bothers me, because that never happened," she told Aristegui.
    "I am the first one that will talk about the government, I would raise my voice against the government," she said. "It's just not true. So, why say that? And why just hurt Mexico in that way? We are already too hurt. Mexico is bleeding, right now."

    Chasing a story at any cost

    In an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer that aired Friday, del Castillo defended her relationship with Guzman. Sawyer suggested that text messages between them leaked to the Mexican press show del Castillo using a "seductive" tone. Del Castillo insisted she was playing nice with him so he would agree to see her while on the lam in 2015 after breaking out of prison and guarantee her safety.
    "I was being nice because I wanted to get the story, access to the story," she said.
    "It's a big opportunity to have someone tell their story, being alive and being the biggest drug lord," she said. "I'm an actor, and I'm not the first one that has risked a lot of things to have a good story."
    The relationship goes back to a tweet she sent in 2012. Amid ramblings about the Mexican government, relationships and disease, she brought up Guzman, imploring him to "traffic with love" and and be "the hero of heroes."
    The Mexican media raked del Castillo over the coals for the tweet, but it apparently caught Guzman's attention. According to del Castillo's version of events, Guzman's associates reached out to her in 2014 and asked whether she would be interested in making a movie about his life.
    "Why me?" she asked his lawyers in an in-person meeting in September 2014. According to del Castillo, the lawyers replied, "Because you're very brave. Because you're outspoken. Because you always tell the truth, even when it's about the government. Because you come from a great family. And because he's a fan of yours from 'La Reina del Sur.' "
    She demurs when Sawyer presses her on who was seducing whom, suggesting that Guzman has a crush on her character Teresa Mendoza, the powerful drug trafficker she plays in the popular Spanish-language telenovela "La Reina del Sur."
    Finally, del Castillo relents and admits. "OK, maybe yes. I don't know. We have to ask him."

    'I'm angry at myself'

    As far as she was concerned, the film project was the reason a Hollywood producer introduced her to Penn, New Yorker journalist Robert Draper wrote. She and her producers thought that having a big American name attached to the project might help its chances of getting made.
    Del Castillo said she did not find out about the article until she and Penn were sitting down with Guzman over tacos and tequila in the Mexican jungle, according to the New Yorker article. Penn denies this, writing in the Rolling Stone article that he mentioned it during their first meeting.
    "Penn told Kate at their very first meeting that he intended to write an article. It was his purpose and Kate was well aware before meeting Guzman," Penn's representative said. "It was clear Penn had no interest in making a film and they all knew it."
    The representative pointed out that "Espinoza" and "El Alto," the co-producers of del Castillo's film, confirmed to the New Yorker that del Csstillo knew of Penn's desire to write an article. They told the magazine that Penn's article was discussed at some point on the trip, before they met Guzman.
    She said one of her mistakes was being naive about Penn's article. When asked by Sawyer whether she's angry at Penn, del Castillo said, "Yes, a little bit."
    "I'm angry at myself because I believe in people, and I didn't know Sean Penn," she said. "He wouldn't be there if not for me."
    Del Castillo told Aristegui that she plans the film to depict the truth of the roles the U.S. and Mexico play in the drug trade, as well as of "how a little boy can turn out to be one of the biggest drug lords in the world, because he cannot do it by himself."
    She still intends to make the film, she said, without a dime from Guzman.
    "Yes, more than before," she told Sawyer. "It cost me so much in so many ways."