Inarritu defends Penn's drug lord interview

MEXICO CITY•Oscar-winning Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has stood by United States actor Sean Penn for his interview with drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, saying in an article published on Sunday that the actor wrote a "fantastic" story.

Speaking with Spanish newspaper El Pais, Inarritu said the news value of Penn's interview with Guzman was limited, but said the star had every right to go looking for the kingpin, delivering a great story on his quest to find him.

"I understand Sean Penn. He has been an activist for 30 years. And has written many articles. He has great curiosity and is attracted to controversial figures," Inarritu, who won the Best Director Oscar for his dark comedy Birdman last year, told daily Spanish newspaper El Pais.

He added: "He has every right to look for El Chapo. He wrote a fantastic column about how he reached him and, unfortunately, a not very successful interview because of what he could not ask.

"The news value is poor; the experience, very rich."

Penn has faced a barrage of criticism for agreeing to let Guzman green-light the article published in Rolling Stone magazine on Jan 9.

The interview was published a day after the Mexican authorities arrested "El Chapo", who had escaped from a prison in July through an underground tunnel.

While the Oscar-winning actor met Guzman for several hours in October, he had to send questions that the drug lord answered in a video later on, which prevented Penn from asking follow-up questions.

Critics have also accused the actor, 55, of seeming to glorify - or at least go easy on - a man blamed for thousands of deaths in Mexico's drug-related violence and contributing to drug addiction in America in his article which describes "El Chapo" as a "humble, rural Mexican".

Penn has become known in the Latin American region for befriending leftist leaders, including the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

In 2008, he interviewed Cuban President Raul Castro for The Nation magazine.

Inarritu, 52, could become the third director in history to win the Oscar for Best Director two years in a row. He was nominated last Thursday for the award for The Revenant, which is up for 12 Oscars and won three Golden Globes last week.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Inarritu defends Penn's drug lord interview'. Print Edition | Subscribe