If you need proof of Hollywood’s endless obsession with Latino drug cartels, look no further than Netflix. The streaming giant’s homepage posts stories—both real and imagined—about ruthless drug empires south of the border. Given the company’s expertise in the violent tactics such organizations use to neutralize their threats, you’d think they’d show a little compassion towards Sean Penn. If that last sentence was surreal to read, it’s because this is a surreal story to write.
You might recall that in October 2015, Penn had a clandestine meeting with the notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loer, otherwise known as El Chapo. As if that weren’t strange enough, Mexican actress Kate del Castillo was there, whose presence at the rendezvous was just as baffling as Penn’s. If you feel like reading about it, Penn wrote a sprawling and bizarre 10,000-word piece in Rolling Stone that did little to explain how he and Castillo ended up in a room with the most wanted man on the planet.
Perhaps more light will be shed in Netflix’s upcoming documentary The Day I Met El Chapo: The Kate del Castillo Story, which will reportedly chronicle the mysterious chain of events from Castillo’s perspective. It’s also the thing that’s got Penn in such a tizzy. According to a statement from the actor’s spokesman, Mark Fabiani, the documentary insinuates that Penn was responsible for Guzman’s eventual capture, and his client’s life will be put in danger if Netflix releases it.
Fabiani accuses Castillo of seeking “additional attention and publicity,” by creating “a profoundly false, foolish and reckless narrative.” Fabiani makes it clear Penn had nothing to do with Guzman’s capture and the mere insinuation could make him a target. “The notion that Mr. Penn or anyone on his behalf alerted D.O.J. to the trip is a complete fabrication and baldfaced lie. It never happened, nor would there have been any reason for it to have happened,” Fabiani wrote.
Netflix said it offered Penn an opportunity to tell his side of his story, but the actor declined. “The events surrounding the now-infamous meeting have been well covered, including by Penn himself in Rolling Stone and his many public comments since,” the company said in a statement. “The only new ground we’re breaking with this series is to give Kate a chance to finally tell her side of this stranger-than-fiction story.”
Penn’s lawyer demanded that Netflix make changes to the documentary, particularly the aspects that imply Penn tipped of the DOJ about Guzman’s whereabouts. In a letter sent to Netflix, Penn’s lawyer warned the company would have blood on their hands if someone harms Penn as a result of the documentary.
Despite the actor’s efforts to have the documentary changed to reflect his version of events, Netflix will make the original cut available for streaming on Friday. Hopefully, Penn emerges unscathed so that he can play himself when this whole thing eventually gets made into a movie.