An interview that Hollywood star Sean Penn conducted with fugitive Mexican drug baron Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman late last year helped Mexico's government catch the world's most wanted drug lord, sources said on 9 January. Guzman, the infamous boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was arrested in northwest Mexico on 8 January, and returned to the Altiplano maximum security prison he broke out of in July through a mile-long tunnel that led straight into his cell.

Penn proclaimed it "the first interview El Chapo had ever granted outside an interrogation room", but the Rolling Stones exclusive has attracted widespread criticism. The New York Post blasted the actor as "El Jerko" on its front page, adding: "Penn pals with drug lord on the run." Actor Matt Damon, who won Best Actor, Comedy or Musical for The Martian at the Golden Globes on 10 January, was asked about the secret interview.

"It's nothing new, actors going and seeking out meetings like this. I don't want to throw any other actors under the bus, but I know a lot of very, very serious actors and filmmakers who've been having meetings like this forever. What happened? Did Stallone just walk in? Oh, Aaron Sorkin walked in, that's what happens when Aaron Sorkin walks in. But, no, so it's, and writers for that matter who take meetings like this. It's part of what we do to do our job really well and Sean somehow figured out that he had an audience, I assume, with this person and I'm sure was pursuing something creatively and thought a meeting with him would be valuable, so he did it," said Damon.

The Mexican government was aware the interview was being conducted, and was closely monitoring all movements, a government source said.