What Was Sean Penn Thinking? Actor Interviews ‘El Chapo’ Before His Arrest

Mexican druglord Joaquín Archivaldo “El Chapo” Guzmán has been taken into custody, after months on the run, and his capture may be thanks to actor Sean Penn. While the fugitive was on the run in Mexico last October, Sean Penn interviewed him in secrecy, and the actor may be in hot water because of it.

Joaquin Guzman, 'El Chapo', is taken into custody.
Joaquin Guzman, “El Chapo,” is taken into custody.

According to USA today, the Oscar-winning actor and well-known activist, took a secret meeting with the kingpin of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which he wrote about in-depth for an exclusive Rolling Stone story. The article, titled “El Chapo Speaks” was published late Saturday and received mixed reactions from the political and entertainment communities.

In the Sean Penn interview, El Chapo discusses why his cartel has been so successful, as well as how he escaped from prison twice.

But how did Penn score the interview with the druglord to begin with? And why would Guzman be so willing to talk to Sean Penn?

Allegedly the meeting was arranged by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo and a middle man for the Sinaloa cartel. The reasoning behind El Chapo doing the interview is simple: he wanted someone in Hollywood to make a movie about his drug trafficking operation.

In an industry that glorifies drug use as fun and even glamorous, it seems logical that someone would want to make a movie about it. From Blow to Wolf of Wallstreet, when it comes to making movies about money, greed and drugs, it’s second nature to Hollywood.

“It makes perfect sense. Although drawing media attention to oneself when you’re a fugitive isn’t the brightest idea in the world, it isn’t surprising that the kingpin of a drug cartel would want a movie made after him,” said Paul Matarelli, author of the controversial book, All Roads Lead West, a fictional novel that talks about corporate greed, drugs and sex through the narrative of a fictional character.

While it makes sense that someone as cruel, greedy, and narcissistic as Guzman would agree to the interview, it still begs the question: what was Sean Penn thinking? The actor’s secretive actions are now under scrutiny by the Mexican Police, as Penn is being investigated for meeting with the cartel leader and not immediately disclosing his location to authorities.

Penn defends his decision to do the interview by writing, “I take no pride in keeping secrets that may be perceived as protecting criminals, nor do I have any gloating arrogance at posing for selfies with unknowing security men. But…this will be the first interview El Chapo had ever granted outside an interrogation room, leaving me no precedent by which to measure the hazards.”

PR experts have weighed in on the topic and agree that the bold move isn’t out of character for the actor. Penn is well known for breaking the rules and has branded himself as an activist and a “rebel with a cause.”

Nevertheless, orchestrating the secret interview with the world’s most notorious druglord, was a move that has many people coming down on Penn. Some people are labeling what he did as “insulting and pervasive journalism.” President Obama and several of the presidential hopefuls have also openly criticized the interview.

Now that the fugitive druglord is in custody following his January 8 arrest, the only question that remains is what are the repercussions will Penn face? Only time will tell, but this issue probably won’t be going away anytime soon.

[Photo credits: Getty Images & Associated Press]

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