Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, pictured in Mexico after his recapture in January 2016, is one of the world's most notorious criminals and is on trial accused of spending a quarter of a century smuggling cocaine into the United States
Mexico City (AFP) - Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was so obsessed with telling his life story that he pursued an actress, journalists and a former Colombian trafficker who became a writer.
His contacts with Mexican-American star Kate del Castillo became famous after Hollywood legend Sean Penn wrote about his meeting with Guzman and the drug lord's hope that the actress would produce his biopic.
Mexican authorities say Guzman's obsession with Del Castillo, who played a drug capo in "La Reina del Sur," helped lead to his recapture in January, three months after he met with her and Penn.
But Guzman sought out a slew of other people to ghostwrite his story before getting in touch with the screen stars.
His desire to tell his side of his criminal life appears to have intensified when he was in prison between February 2014 until his Hollywood-like escape through a massive tunnel in July.
Andres Lopez Lopez, a former member of Colombia's Norte del Valle drug cartel, told AFP that he was among the people contacted by Guzman's associates during that time.
In 2014, Lopez said, "I started receiving 80,000 messages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, phone calls, you name it. It was Chapo Guzman's people, his lawyers."
Lopez is now a renowned author and scriptwriter for TV shows about drug traffickers such as "El cartel de los sapos" ("The Cartel of Toads") and "El senor de los cielos" ("The Lord of the Skies").
Lopez was surprised because he had received threats after he had tried himself to interview the Sinaloa drug cartel honcho in 2012 for a book he wrote on Guzman.
"It was almost a death sentence if I had the stupid idea of writing his story," he said.
Lopez panicked, but he decided to write the book anyway, speaking to former law enforcement officials who chased Guzman and "very close" relatives of the world's most powerful narco, whose nickname means "Shorty" and who rose from selling oranges as a child to running a drug empire.
But later Lopez met with Guzman's lawyers, who voiced concern that an upcoming TV series based on the book would portray a darker side than the infamous criminal wanted.
"Looking back more calmly, I could say that his imperious need to construct his own version was, in a way, to act as a counterweight" to what is said about him, Lopez said.
- Journalists reject conditions -
New Yorker journalist Patrick Radden Keefe plus the investigations director at US Spanish-language network Univision, Colombian Gerardo Reyes, and Argentina reporter Diego Fonseca all said they were contacted by Guzman's people. Mexico's El Universal newspaper declined an interview in 2008.
Guzman's wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel, said her husband had "always talked about this."
"More than anything, he wants to tell the version of events as they really are and not as they have been told," she told Telemundo channel last month.
But most of the journalists refused to interview Guzman because of the editorial conditions that he wanted to set.
"There seemed little chance that the drug lord, or his adjutants, would want me to write with any degree of accuracy about the man himself, when the myth was so potent and so widely accepted," said Radden Keefe, who was contacted a month before Guzman's July escape.
For his Rolling Stone magazine article, Penn agreed to let Guzman review the story first, a deal that drew criticism in journalism circles.
- Mexican 'Darth Vader' -
Fonseca said that when he was approached, he was told that he would travel to yet-to-be-determined airports, where a group of men would pick him up.
He couldn't bring a cellphone or a computer. The men would keep his passport and his eyes would be covered while he would be taken to an undetermined location.
The person close to Guzman who offered the interview suddenly disappeared and the meeting never materialized.
"El Chapo, a little Mexican Darth Vader, trusted our desire and our compassion to do his story. The Story," Fonseca wrote in El Pais. "As it should be, he awarded it to Hollywood through Sean Penn and Rolling Stone."
But it's Del Castillo, whose contacts with Guzman are being investigated by Mexican authorities, who may still get the last word if she makes the drug baron's much-desired biopic.