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Rare Courting of Hollywood Spelled Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman's Doom

Image: Undated Rolling Stone handout shows actor Sean Penn shaking hands with Mexican drug lord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman in Mexico

Actor Sean Penn met with Mexican drug lord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman in Mexico in October, while he was still the country's most wanted man. Rolling Stone via Reuters

Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman rose to and remained in power without much need for propaganda. He said what he wanted through money and violence, not the media.

That is why it seemed so out of character for Guzman, his country's most wanted fugitive, to seek out filmmakers to help make a biographical film — and agree to let Sean Penn interview him.

It turns out that authorities were watching. Law enforcement officials have said that Guzman's contacts with Hollywood figures helped them track him down in his home state of Sinaloa, where he was captured Friday.

Stunning Helmet Cam Video Goes Inside Firefight To Recapture 'El Chapo' 3:02

That act of hubris didn't jibe with Guzman's behavior during much of the Sinaloa cartel leader's reign, when he avoided interviews and rarely appeared in public or online.

"He's never sought the limelight. He never sought what people like (Colombian drug lord) Pablo Escobar looked for," said Malcolm Beith, a Mexico-based journalist who wrote "The Last Narco" about Guzman's rise to power and authorities' search for him. Escobar was the ruthless head of the Medellin drug cartel who donated to charities and won a seat on Colombia's national congress.

Related: Sean Penn Says He Has 'Nothin to Hide' About El Chapo Interview

By contrast, Guzman only showed a desire to be respected "in the pueblo, the countryside," Beith said. "It's clear that business was always his priority."

Drug lord "El Chapo" appears in a photo confirmed by the DEA.

To Beith and others who've followed Guzman's criminal career, the only possible explanation for the kingpin's sudden thirst for publicity was that, while living on the run, he became obsessed with his legacy — and finally began to believe the myth that had grown around him.

"I see no benefit for him except trying to show off, that he's really the legend that they say he is," said Gilberto Gonzalez, who investigated Mexican cartels for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and now heads the Texas Narcotic Officers Association.

Related: Who's Kate del Castillo, And What Did She Write to El Chapo?

Gonzalez said he was shocked that Guzman boasted in an interview with Penn that he was the world's biggest supplier of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

But Gonzalez said he was not surprised that it happened in the company of Kate del Castillo, one of Mexico's leading actresses, who helped arrange the interview and acted as a translator.

Video shows raid at "El Chapo's" hideout 3:17

Writing in Rolling Stone, Penn said Guzman had contacted Castillo with interest in having her tell his story for the screen, and that she had started meeting with potential investors.

Taking risks for the attention of an attractive woman is not out of character for Guzman, a notorious womanizer who's married many times and had many mistresses, Gonzalez said.

Related: Video Shows Gunfight at Drug Lord El Chapo's Safe House

"In a moment of weakness, in a moment of bravado, here's this beautiful actress translating for this actor from Los Angeles, and it's his chance to say what a great drug trafficker he is and how powerful he is," Gonzalez said. "And he started bragging. And it's just ironic and is really astonishing to see."

In the pictures of Guzman after his arrest, Gonzalez noticed that the aging kingpin, dressed in a tattered undershirt, appeared to have dyed his hair and mustache jet black.

"That's not a good Hollywood ending," Gonzalez said.