Golden Globes: 'Spotlight' Screenwriter Slams Sean Penn for 'El Chapo' Interview

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"I want real journalists interviewing people," said Josh Singer.

On Saturday night, Sean Penn announced that he met with escaped Mexican drug lord Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzman in a jungle hideaway. 

The meeting was documented in an 11,000 word article that Penn wrote for Rolling Stone magazine. The humanitarian actor has received both praise and harsh criticism about the meeting, which reportedly lead to the eventual arrest of Guzman.

On the Golden Globes red carpet on Sunday, screenwriter Josh Singer, who penned this year's journalism-centric film Spotlight along with Tom McCarthy, shared his displeasure with the way the actor handled the journalistic endeavor.

"What makes me sad about (Penn) is that we've had such a loss of investigative journalists over the last 10 or 15 years and so many metro dailies have gone out of business and reporters have lost their jobs. Now we need Sean Penn to go interview folks? That's a problem," Singer told THR. "I want real journalists interviewing people. I want people who actually understand what questions to ask and have a newsroom to come back to and figure out how to put out that story. To me, Sean Penn is a carnival show."

Harsh words, yet Singer said the situation can be helped if people support grassroots journalism. "Buy your local paper. Contribute what you can and hold the powerful accountable," he said. "I want stronger investigative journalism. That's what we need to spend money on." 

Spotlight director McCarthy, offered his pragmatic opinion of the matter, saying, "I think he has the right to do what he wants as long as safety is involved." 

Backstage at the ceremony, Ex Machina's Oscar Isaac said, "I think it’s pretty cool, I mean I think it’s a fascinating thing that he got to do that and got to get some incredible details about this man. Doesn’t sound like a very nice guy, but just as a study of a human, it’s fascinating."

After his win for The Martian, Matt Damon said this about the Rolling Stone article: "I haven’t read it yet. I definitely plan to. I have to go on my phone and I’ll read it. But it’s nothing new — actors going and seeking out meetings like this. I know a lot of very, very serious actors and filmmakers and writers that have had meetings like this and it’s part of what we do to do our job really well. Sean somehow figured out that he had an audience with this person and I’m sure was pursuing something creatively, and he thought it would be valuable, so he did it."

"The war on drugs is kind of bogus and it is really not working," said Adam McKay, who directed The Big Short. "It sounds like the guy, who is a drug dealer, was full of celebrity and his own ego. It is kind of hilarious. It's a very funny story."

Fox chief Jim Gianopoulos commended Penn, saying, "I think Sean was pretty brave. To meet with a character like that, that was pretty interesting. There was the narrative side of it and a journalistic side of it. Only Sean could pull off something like that." 

Producer Michael Sugar, who has shepherded several projects of sensitive nature like the Julian Assange-inspired The Fifth Estate, said Hollywood would be smart to be patient before pushing a film through based on the recent developments surrounding El Chapo. "My current thinking is that you want to see things play out in real life before you start making movies because you don't know how its going to end. This one has a long way to go to fully play out."

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