El Chapo’s Lawyer Had to Explain Sean Penn As the Guy From 21 Grams to Him

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What a trio. Photo: Getty Images

The controversial meeting between drug czar and escape artist Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and leonine actor Sean Penn required answering a lot of logistical questions, such as the where, the when, the how, and apparently the who? In a series of text correspondences published by the Mexican newspaper Milenio between El Chapo, his lawyers, and Kate del Castillo, the Mexican actress who facilitated the meeting with Sean Penn, El Chapo was eager to meet del Castillo, but didn't know who this Sean Penn character was.

Nicknamed "Papá," El Chapo asks, "What’s this actor called?” prompting the following exchange ("M" is the lawyer Andrés Granado), translated by The Guardian:

M: Sean Penn. The one who made the movie 21 Grams.

Papá: 21 Grams. What year was that made?

M: I’m checking so I can give you the exact date.

Papá: OK.

M: 21 grams came out in 2003. Apart from that he’s a political activist. He’s been very critical of the Bush administration.

Papá: That was his most recent film?

M: Nowadays he hardly does any acting. Now he produces. And he knows almost all the directors and producers in Hollywood.

Papá: What was the most recent film he produced?

Del Castillo, code-named Guapa and Ermoza (both variations on words for beautiful, naturally), and Papá also exchanged flirty text messages back and forth. (Fun fact: Del Castillo is best known for her work in the telenovela La Reina del Sur, where she plays a famous drug trafficker.) Back in January of 2012, del Castillo wrote a message to El Chapo exhorting him to do good with his drug-trafficking powers, and the warm feelings seem to linger. Del Castillo texted him, "I'm telling you that I am more excited about you than the story." She continued, "I confess that I feel protected for the first time. You will know my story when we have the time to talk, but for some reason I feel safe and know that you know who I am, not as an actress or a public person."

To ready del Castillo for her super-secret meeting, El Chapo instructed his lawyers to get del Castillo the "most beautiful" burner phone in the world. When he was told there were only black and gray varieties, he replied, "There’s no pink? Because if there is no pink, buy a silver one." (They eventually had to settle on a plain black BlackBerry.)

And if you think this is all just crazy enough for a telenovela, you're in luck: Jane the Virgin is planning on bringing the story to the screen, thereby sort of giving El Chapo what he wanted all along. It will also create yet another meta-layer for del Castillo, who has already guest-starred on the show as Rogelio's ex-wife. Intrigante!