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Sean Penn Fights With Netflix Over El Chapo Documentary

“It is reprehensible that, in their ongoing, relentless efforts to gain additional attention and publicity, Ms. del Castillo and her team (who have zero firsthand knowledge) have sought to create this profoundly false, foolish, and reckless narrative,” Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Mr. Penn, said in an email. “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.”

David Broome, who produced the series, said, “We never say in this documentary that Sean Penn is in cahoots with the D.O.J.”

When Mr. Penn wrote about the meeting with Mr. Guzmán for Rolling Stone, it prompted controversy and befuddlement over how an Academy Award-winning actor was able to find and sit down with a notorious drug dealer who had twice escaped prison.


Sean Penn, right, spoke with Charlie Rose last year after writing an article for Rolling Stone about his visit with the drug dealer Joaquín Guzmán Loera, also known as El Chapo.

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To many in the United States, Ms. del Castillo was initially a confusing character in the story, but “The Day I Met El Chapo” examines her role in facilitating the meeting.

The documentary series began last year when Ms. del Castillo met with Mr. Broome, a reality show producer on shows like “The Bigger Loser” and “Ultimate Beastmaster”, and they decided to make something that focused on her side of the story.

“Her point of view had really never been told,” Mr. Broome said in an interview. (Ms. del Castillo was the subject of a lengthy New Yorker article last year.)

In addition to Ms. del Castillo, her friends and family members are interviewed, along with journalists and law enforcement officials. Mr. Broome said that he and Netflix both tried to get Mr. Penn’s participation, but received no response.

Then, in late September, one of Mr. Penn’s lawyers, Mathew Rosengart, requested that Mr. Penn be able to see the movie, claiming that similar requests from the actor’s agent, Bryan Lourd, went ignored.

After Mr. Penn watched it, Mr. Broome said, he said that he wanted to be interviewed and demanded that changes be made.

“They tried to put on pressure and demand we change the documentary,” Mr. Broome said.

In a letter sent to the lawyer for Mr. Broome’s production company on Oct. 14, Mr. Boutrous said Ms. del Castillo was providing a “reckless, misleading and self-serving” account.

“It is profoundly disappointing that Netflix and your clients have chosen to disregard the extreme danger they are knowingly creating,” he wrote.

In an earlier letter that Netflix’s general counsel, David Hyman, wrote to Mr. Rosengart, he said that “to the extent that Mr. Penn may be in any physical danger, it is as result of his decision to meet with El Chapo in 2015.”

In a statement, Netflix said: “Penn was given the opportunity on multiple occasions to participate in ‘The Day I Met El Chapo’ and did not do so. 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 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.”

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