Kate del Castillo, 43, told The New Yorker that she assumed Penn was interested in working with her on a film project about Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera when he asked her to arrange a clandestine meeting with the infamous criminal last year.
Guzmán was arrested in January, around the same time the controversial Rolling Stone article was published. Last month, Del Castillo's lawyer told the Associated Press she had no knowledge of his intentions to interview the kingpin before the meeting. Penn disputes her version of events, saying in a statement to The New Yorker that he and del Castillo discussed the interview several times before meeting Guzmán. Meanwhile, Mexican officials are looking to question her in connection with a money-laundering probe involving Guzmán and her tequila business, Tequila Honor Del Castillo.
Del Castillo, who recently acted alongside Antonio Banderas in The 33, struck up an unlikely friendship with Guzmán after she passionately defended him on Twitter in 2012. Guzmán has emerged as an anti-hero to some in Mexico for rebelling against corruption and seemingly giving back to his region's poor.
Mexico's federal government via AP
Her tweet eventually caught the attention of Guzmán, who dispatched a lawyer to track her down to let her know he wanted to sell his life rights to her for a potential documentary or film project.
She eventually secured the rights and although she kept the project a secret, she says that she told an Argentine producer named Fernando Sulichin, who in turn told Penn.
After the Oscar-winning actor discovered del Castillo was in contact with El Chapo he asked to meet with her.
"Do you think we can go and see him?" del Castillo told the magazine Penn asked her.
"That sounds really dangerous. The guy's on the run, you know. But I can try," she says she replied. She had never met Guzmán face-to-face before, she says, and assumed Penn was interested in collaborating on a film project.
"Ask him," she says he repeated.
Del Castillo says she did as requested, texting Guzmán via a Blackberry provided by his lawyers.
Guzmán reportedly agreed to the meeting eagerly, and del Castillo, Penn, Sulichin and another producer boarded a small plane on Oct. 2 for the secret meeting.
The actress claims the first she heard of Penn's intention to publish the interview in Rolling Stone was when they sat down face-to-face with El Chapo – and she was floored.
"This was not how I was expecting the night to be," she told The New Yorker. "But at the moment I thought, 'Maybe we can base the movie on this article.' "
Penn disputes del Castillo's claims, saying in a statement to The New Yorker that "Kate was a valued partner in our journey, which was embarked upon with total transparency and full knowledge of our collective interests. From our first meeting, I discussed with her my intention to interview Joaquín Guzmán for an article in connection with the meeting that she facilitated. We discussed it again during the flight and the trip to Mexico with our partners."