On the heels of his very long, very contentious El Chapo piece, Oscar winner Sean Penn has participated in a newly packaged 60 Minutes interview. The actor-writer explains to Charlie Rose that he wanted to publish last week’s Rolling Stone story to kick off meaningful discourse about the policy of the war on drugs. He thinks his article failed, though, because it’s received attention for other reasons. The talk, which aired Sunday night, is at turns hostile, thought-provoking, and kind of nuts. Roll the full clip below and savor the ensuing highlights (some of which you may or may not agree with).
On El Chapo’s (and Penn’s own) fame:
My article should not have made this much noise. El Chapo should not have been this popular a figure to read about.
On what he was really trying to do:
I do what I call experiential journalism. I don’t have to be the one that reports on the alleged murders or the amount of narcotics that are brought in. I go and I spend time in the company of another human being, which everyone is. And I make an observation and try to parallel that … I wanted to sit, observe, ask him questions. And then use that as an anchor into this article [about the policy of the war on drugs].
On being part of the drug problem by not doing anything about it:
I feel complicit in the suffering that is going on, because I’m not thinking about it everyday. I’m not watching these laws that are showing no progression, these rehabilitations that are not happening. So I’m looking the other way; I find that equally complicit with murders in Juárez.
On humans and humanity and understanding El Chapo:
To over-demonize any human being is not in our best self-interest. Like it or not, we’re married to ’em. They’re of our time, they’re affecting us. So like a marriage, you know, you might want a divorce … If all we aim to understand is that this is a very bad person, then let’s not understand anything else.
On other people not being him:
If somebody wants me to ask the questions that they want me to ask … there’s that little problem we run into in life. They’re not me.
On treating the potential repercussions of his article like he is in a Liam Neeson movie:
Charlie Rose: Do you believe that the Mexican government released [quotes saying Penn was “essential” in helping them track down El Chapo] because they wanted to see you blamed, and to put you at risk?
Sean Penn: Yes.
CR: They wanted to encourage the cartel to put you in their crosshairs?
CR: Are you fearful for your life?
On the state of journalism:
I’m really sad about the state of journalism in our country. It has been an incredible hypocrisy and an incredible lesson in just how much they don’t know and how disserved we are … Journalists who want to say that I’m not a journalist. Well, I want to see the license that says that they’re a journalist.
On his problem with how most of the people who have read his article are spending 99 percent of their time:
They think they know more about it. Let’s go to the big picture of what we all want. We all want this drug problem to stop. And if you are in the moral right, or on the far left, just as many of your children are doing these drugs, just as many of your brothers and sisters, your mothers and fathers, the teachers at school, are doing these drugs. Just as many. And how much time have they spent in the last week since this article come out, talking about that? One percent? I think that’d be generous.
On his realest regret:
Charlie Rose: But you’re really saying, what I really regret is not anything that did. I regret that people misunderstood what I did.
Sean Penn: That’s what I’m saying, yeah.