HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS SALMA HAYEK ON HAVING A LIFE BEYOND HER WILDEST DREAMS
At the age of 23, Salma Hayek was a star in Mexico thanks to playing the title character on television series Teresa. Two years later she packed her bags and moved to Los Angeles with the dream of making it big in Hollywood. The rest is history.
Now, three decades later, Salma is still finding herself involved in new and exciting film projects, including The Roads Not Taken, which she stars in with close friend Javier Bardem, and Marvel film Eternals, in which she plays a superhero boss. “Now they’re coming to me, that’s what’s been really invigorating at 53,” she said.
However, she also experienced the darker side of the industry when Harvey Weinstein made life difficult for her when she starred in and produced the film Frida. In an open letter she described him as “my monster” and detailed the numerous sexual propositions she was forced to reject. She was brave enough to come forward and stood at the forefront of the #Metoo movement, which has hopefully changed the landscape for women.
As well as success in her career, Salma has found happiness in her personal life with French billionaire François-henri Pinault. The couple married in 2009 and have a daughter, Valentina, 12, who is already showing signs of following in her mother’s footsteps.
Here, the actress chats about Valentina’s many talents, her thoughts on Harvey’s guilty verdict and achieving stardom...
Your latest film is about roads not taken. What is your experience of that?
There was a road I didn’t take, which haunted me for many years. When I was very little, I was drafted for the Olympics in gymnastics. And my father refused to allow me to go to a boarding school at nine years old in another city where I was going to be exercising six hours a day. I resented my father. He said, “I didn’t want you not to have a childhood.” Now I’m so glad I didn’t take that road because I really like my life.
Was it the life you always dreamed of?
I am very, very grateful for and surprised by my kind of witchcraft instincts, because a lot of the things I do impulsively make no sense even to me. But I just know I have to do them. And in terms of love, I think all the roads I took led me to discover the greatest love of my life, and the greatest love of my life brought me the other great loves of my
life – my daughter and my stepchildren. And so, in my case, I was very, very, very lucky not to take the other roads. And some of them looked quite good [laughs]!
Did you imagine that you’d find such stardom when you were starting out?
The things that have happened in my life are completely unimaginable. Even in my greatest ideas of my most extraordinary destiny, I never imagined how I feel right now. At some point in your life you just settle for doing the right thing and the best you can, instead of thinking about what you want and what you didn’t get or what you’re not getting or how someone’s getting it and you’re not getting it. It gives you the possibility to take roads that you never wanted to take, and you have the adventurous spirit to go and discover instead of planning so much. You may end up on roads that are better than in your imagination.
How was it working with Javier? It was a scary choice because it’s a very intense story, where you have to go to very uncomfortable places. If it doesn’t go well – the relationship with the actor – it can work for the movie, but, he’s like my brother – so how do I go back? The other scary part was that I can only do this role if I completely forget that I exist. I have to create another person, that has only her experience, that I keep very separate from me. When you have somebody next to you that reminds you of your life, especially your family life, it’s an obstacle. During the whole process of the rehearsals, we were talking and we would joke. And I think even Sally [Potter, the director], didn’t think it would work. At some point, on the first day that I arrived and we were having lunch and calling Penélope [Cruz, Javier’s wife] and talking in Spanish and Sally was like, “Oh my God, this is not going to work. It’s like a gang.” [Laughs] But the most beautiful, extraordinary, delicious thing happened.
And you are still good friends with Penélope?
My relationship with Penélope is stronger every day. I was with her and the kids recently and I talk to them all time.
What was the attraction of playing a superhero in Eternals?
I was blown away because, first of all, it’s just so bizarre, how do you say no? I mean, at 53, finally to be a superhero that belongs to a group called the Eternals. All the superheroes are people you would never have imagined except for Angelina [Jolie]. Angelina was born a superhero [laughs]! And maybe Richard Madden. But the rest of us are misfits. We are all superheroes – and I get to be the leader.
Is it exciting to find these new projects?
It really invigorated me that they are finding me. I always found them, but they didn’t want me [laughs]! And that now they’re coming to me, that’s what’s been really invigorating at 53. It’s difficult to make sense of it, you know? But that’s what’s been really strange. And you know what? Strange things happen to strange people.
You’ve previously said your daughter gave you notes on set. Is this still something she does?
No, no. She wants nothing to do with it. It’s all about her now. But I tell you this, she can act, she can direct, she can absolutely write. I produce and sometimes I’m like, “I wish my writers could write like her. I wish I could get her to write me this script.” She’s amazing at writing but she’s a really talented musician. So I don’t know what’s going to happen. She taught herself to play piano, guitar and ukulele in two months. And she also plays the electric guitar and a little bit of trumpet. She could definitely be a director or a lawyer, or a producer.
Would you like her to be a lawyer so you can protect her?
No, how do you protect someone’s soul when they become a lawyer?! No, I don’t want to protect. You know, my fear is that when some people have too many talents, they end up doing none of them. She can also paint, by the way. If it has all come so easy, they’re not used to pushing, pushing, pushing when things come that easy. That’s what worries me.
How do you feel about the Weinstein case closing?
Well, I think it’s very, very important, in this evolution that we’re going through, to make it legal, to make it palpable, that the abuse of power and the disrespect of women has strong consequences. Taking responsibility and sending the right message shows a maturity in our society and in the world. And for women, it gives us the strength to think that our voices are heard, that our pain matters to someone else and that it is okay to fight for our dignity and to demand respect. And this is very important. ok!