Salma Hayek

Prestige issue 74, July 1999

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Salma Hayek during her visit to Gibran’s museum in Becharré © Prestige

«Cinema is wonderful, I change as much lives as I want!»

With her captivating smile, her figure to damn a saint, her angelic features, she was the undisputed star of the 52nd International Film Festival. With her hands moving while she talks, her refined and loose spirit, her humor. ..Her  velvet eyes, she conquered the Croisette.

She is not very tall but … she does not pass unnoticed. A crowd of fans agglutinated around her looking for a smile, an autograph. She was always available.

Always more beautiful. She seduced Cannes, they say, like Sharon Stone last year. Except that Salma seduces naturally, almost unconsciously. For example, this gesture to raise her shawl and drop it on her shoulders during our interview at the Grand Hotel betrays her Latin nature.

This is not your first visit to Cannes. Did things change for you this year? I came for Desperado with Antonio Banderas, for a very short period. I did not then have a film to defend. This year I’ve been here for just three days and I already feel exhausted. I’m stressed all the time. I’ll probably stay that way for eleven days. Also this year, I have a film in competition: El Coronel no tiene qui en le escriba to defend. The pressure is greater. Regarding this film I have to meet with distributors in the United States and try to convince them. On the other hand, I play in Kevin Smith’s Dogma which will also be presented at the Festival, but out of competition.

«I live in accordance with my name, why should I change it»?

Would the film of Arturo Ripstein mark your return to Mexico and the Spanish films? In fact, I come back every year in Mexico even in a furtive manner. I feel better to play in my mother tongue. I even shot in a Mexican film where I had a small role and I was dressed out in such a way that the audience had trouble recognizing me. I really looked like an ugly duck.

It is hard to believe that you can be ugly … I do nothing special to embellish myself. I just put some mascara. Nothing that is really different from my every day life … In fact, the most difficult thing for me, as for all the girls I think, is to decide in the morning what I’ll wear during the day. Take a jacket or not? Currently in Cannes, the question bothers me more: how long dresses do I need? Which makeup to choose every day? It bothers me a little. To think about it, it’s not funny at all.

How did you decide to become an actress? I have always wanted to be an actress. I had a very vivid imagination. Attentive to everything, I was also brought to the job. I was told that it was dangerous to take this direction. Then one day I saw a movie, Lily and chocolate factory. A place where it takes a little imagination to change a river into chocolate… I found it fantastic.

One should have wanted chocolate galore. At that time, I wanted even more to be an actress. The wonderful thing in this business is that you can change your life as much as you want. At the end of a movie we die to live again in another … You’re a detective in one movie, a criminal in the other. I have so many lives.

«I postponed my trip to Lebanon but I seriously think about it»

By choosing to become an actress, you have not changed your Lebanese name so far. No because I feel very consistent with my name. Moreover, in Mexico people believe that this is a pseudonym, that I should bear the name: Maria Lopes or something like that. In the US, I had no problem with my name. …

You are originally from Lebanon, have you ever thought about visiting this country?

My grandfather had been there in 1974 and he returned to Mexico, sad, thinking that he would never return to Lebanon. At the time I was a child. Then about four years ago I wanted to go to Lebanon but there were disturbances and my agent begged me to change my mind because I was for him his «bread and butter», that he had dependent children. Nevertheless, I still think about it seriously.

Your agent is cynical. We know each other very well, we understand each other. We are especially aware that we need each other.

Getting back to your two films presented at Cannes, let’s begin with Ripstein. It is Marisa Paredes who takes the lead role. As for me, I play the role of a romantic prostitute…This is a story adapted from a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and that takes place in the Mexico of the 50’s.

Most major Hollywood roles were often those of «prostitutes».This is not Hollywood … But I find the role important even if it’s not great. Unfortunately, people judge the appearances without wanting to know more.

Dogma by Kevin Smith has already generated controversy. Some people have condemned the film without having seen it yet. A bad reputation precedes it. Yet it is a humoristic film.

Smith is one of the future great directors of his generation has done a comedy, that has absolutely nothing against religion. People lack of sense of humor.

Kevin Smith’s speech is very intelligent. I do not defend him because I do not believe everything he says in the film. In Desperado I have to kill someone. I’m not a criminal so far, in real life I’m not going to go kill people. I do not want to be attacked for this film because what interests me is mostly the character I play, the fantastic script that I read. It’s true it was very long, they edited out.

What role do you play in this movie? I am a muse, Serendipity, that should assist Bethany aka Linda Fiorentino in the order of God to stop two renegade angels Ben Affleck and Matt Damon threatening the Existence. In fact, it is a muse who is angry because all those of which she is the inspiration did not recognize her role. Always in the shadows, she asks God to be recognized. God entrusts her with this heavenly mission to save the world.

Did this film change your relationship with faith? No this film has nothing changed in me in terms of faith. It did not give me food for thought, I remained the same after the movie, I have not agreed to participate because it addresses the issue of religion but because there is a question of humanity. I repeat, it is an intelligent film, funny, brilliantly written. I wonder how people were able to take things seriously: the good, the bad, beliefs…

And in The wild, wild, west of Barry Sonnenfeld with Kenneth Branagh? Here, I have to save nobody. This is an avant-garde film … It’s good to play with Kenneth, but he is unrecognizable in the film. Finally, it is a surprise. This actor is a true perfectionist.

We have also heard of Shining New enemies. This is an outright comedy. A very eccentric film directed by a team of Swedish filmmakers under the label Tractors and produced by Miramax. I play the role of a detective who gets hold of a serial killer.

Projects abound. According to which criteria do you select the roles you are offered? I have no preference for a character. I play everything that interests me. I choose different roles. I hate to always interpret the same characters.

«People judge by appearances without seeking to know more»

What is your dearest project? It’s a dream dear to my heart for a long time. After having realized it, I could die in peace … It is a project so close to my heart that my production house will take care of it. I have not had time to realize it until now because I had a hectic filming schedule!

And it’s the life of the painter Frida Calho that I want to bring to the screen. I will play the main role in front of Alfredo Molinar. The name of the director, I will keep it secret. With this movie I have fulfilled my biggest dream. At the end of the interview, before another group moved to the interview table, a swarm of photographers wanted to take her in a photo. Naturally I wanted to do the same, she smiled: «I prefer to take a picture with you …» Well, that’s it in a nutshell Salma Hayek! Interview at Cannes by MARIE-JEANNE ASMAR