You can’t say Kate del Castillo isn’t a woman of her word. In 2014, the actress was first contacted by the Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to discuss creating a film based on his life. Since then, A LOT has gone down, giving her plenty of reasons to want to distance herself from Guzmán and his story. But according to a recent interview with The New Yorker, del Castillo is still game to follow through.
The interview marks the first time del Castillo has told her side of the bizarre and shocking events that fascinated the world after Rolling Stone published Sean Penn’s first-person account detailing El Chapo’s time on the lam, and the drug lord’s working relationship with Kate del Castillo.
The controversial article led to criticism and intense scrutiny toward both Penn and del Castillo. Someone (fingers point to the Mexican government), leaked her conversations with El Chapo, and everything about her business relationship with Guzmán was dissected. For days, Kate remained quiet, but on January 13, she tweeted that she would eventually tell her side of the story.
Two months later, she finally has. Here’s what we learned from the actress’s sit down with The New Yorker.
Her family wasn't happy with her 2012 letter to El Chapo.
In 2012, Kate aired her feelings about the Mexican government, Catholicism, and El Chapo in a controversial tweet. At the time she wrote, “Today I believe more in El Chapo Guzmán than I do in the governments that hide truths from me, even if they are painful, who hide the cures for cancer, AIDS, etc, for their own benefit. Mr. Chapo, wouldn’t it be cool if you started trafficking with the good?”
Her dad, Eric del Castillo, defended her publicly, but critiqued her line-by-line in an email. Her sister, Verónica del Castillo, reminded Kate that she and Teresa Mendoza, the drug trafficker she portrayed on La Reina del Sur, were two different people.
Kate, in the meantime, just wanted everyone to chill. “I was so upset,” she said. “You know, why are they crushing me? I’m not saying all of this is true. This is just what I believe.”
El Chapo was a 'La Reina del Sur' Fanboy
El Chapo’s people first contacted Kate in summer 2014 after finding her parents’ contact information through the Mexican actors’ guild. In September, Kate visited El Chapo’s compinches in Mexico. They told her that if she wanted it, she could have the rights to his life story.
She excitedly accepted, but quickly asked, “Why me?”
“Because you’re very brave,” she remembered them saying. “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.'”
Kate didn't know whether El Chapo's story should be told through a doc or a movie.
As she worked on The 33, del Castillo mulled over her choices for the Chapo project. “I was still deciding between a documentary or a movie,” she said. “He wanted a big movie, and he wanted me to star in it.”
Unfortunately, Kate doesn’t say what role she’d fill.
Kate says she found out about the Rolling Stone story on the spot.
On October 2, 2015, Kate and Sean Penn boarded an eight-seater jet to Mexico. Kate put together a basket for El Chapo, which included her novel Tuya, a Jaime Sabines Gutiérrez book, a bottle of Honor tequila, and two DVDs (Under the Same Moon and 21 Grams).
Penn came equipped with a letter of assignment from Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner. Kate hadn’t seen it, and according to her, she didn’t find out Penn’s intentions until hours later when he asked her to translate a message to El Chapo.
La Reina del Sur called Penn’s version of the story – aka when he told her at their very first meet – “total and complete bullshit.”
“This was not how I was expecting the night to be,” she said. “But at the moment I thought, maybe we can base the movie on this article.”
Kate feels she caught on too late.
Rolling Stone translated Sean Penn’s original story into Spanish for El Chapo’s approval. She realized then that El Chapo gave his approval to an incomplete story.
Kate hadn’t thought of how much this story would draw attention to her. “She had been surprised when Penn told her, early on, that she should retain the services of a criminal-defense attorney,” according to The New Yorker.