A couple of years ago, around 52, Salma Hayek noticed that something strange was going on. She was in a film set in Croatia, making her stunt her as she reprised the role of the fearsome scammer Sonia Kincaid in the sequel to the action-comedy The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Sonia spends much of the film brandishing firearms and f-bombs (and strap-on jokes) to show Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, who’s boss. During filming, Hayek received a confidential phone call from Chloé Zhao, Nomadland’s Oscar-winning director. Zhao was preparing the next Marvel Studios blockbuster, Eternals, and she wanted Hayek to play the ageless superhero and cosmic genius Ajak. Originally conceived as a male character, Ajak can lift 25 tons and fly at almost the speed of sound.
The petite 5-foot-2 actress said yes right away, but she’s still baffled as to why she’s suddenly in demand as a formidable action star. “I was like, ‘What’s going on?'” She remembers. “I mean, things have changed a lot in the last couple of years for women in general. But what I don’t understand is why this is happening to me.” Beyond the usual limits Hollywood places on her women her age and her black, says Hayek, another blow against her is that she doesn’t make movies in the United States since she prefers to stay. Close to her family. Somehow, however, the best directors continue to shoot. In April, Ridley Scott lured her to Rome to play a conniving psychic alongside Lady Gaga in the House of Gucci.
Hayek, who started as a soap opera actress in her native Mexico and later became an international star and producer with a billionaire husband and fashion executive, François-Henri Pinault, is one of those people who move across the world with such poise and self-assurance that you assume she is privy to some secret, that she has found a way to live with cheerful disregard for conventional categories and presumptions. She says she questions herself relentlessly. What has changed over time is “the quality of the questions”. Whether she’s meditating at home with her pet owl or complaining about her lack of authority over her teenage daughter, Valentina, Hayek says, “You learn to embark on a path of constant rediscovery. It’s like, ‘Who are you? And where are you staying. Next?'”
During her early years in Hollywood three decades ago, Hayek’s main questions tended more towards “Why does no one hire me?” and “Can I afford the rent?” Although she was a star in Mexico when she moved to Los Angeles, she has burned her nest egg during several years of failed auditions and disparaging encounters. Hayek recently saw a tape of her first audition in Mexico at the age of 18, and she realized she showed far more potential than she or her many opponents of her perceived at the time. “Many people have told me, ‘You’re not good, you’ll never make it,'” she says. “What if I listened to those idiots?” She then corrects herself: “I listened to them. I fell asleep crying and gave up, and then I tried again just a little – almost embarrassed to admit my dream of being an actress”.
After Hayek was spotted in films like Desperado and From Dusk till Dawn in 2002, she marked a significant turning point when she produced and starred in Frida, the saga of Mexican painter and border crosser Frida Kahlo. Hayek earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal in a film she saw as a personal mission, one she hoped would break Hollywood stereotypes about Mexico. But even that venture was nearly stifled by the industry establishment, this time in the form of Harvey Weinstein, whose company, Miramax, released the film. According to Hayek, when she refused to shower with Weinstein or give him a massage, he broke into a vengeful rage; she later asked her to appear completely naked in Frida while having sex with co-star Ashley Judd. Hayek detailed Weinstein’s abuse in an influential 2017 editorial for ‘The New York Times’.
She regretted not speaking earlier, as many women have been treated even worse by Weinstein. “Some people have been raped,” she says. “You wonder if I had said something [then], would it have been different? How come I didn’t have the courage? But I faced it to the best of my ability at the time.” This meant making the film despite Weinstein’s intensified efforts for sabotage. “For me, Frida was a political declaration, a social declaration, a feminist declaration,” says Hayek. “It was my way of screaming. And Harvey used my way of screaming to repress me even more. So I could not let him win.”
Hayek undoubtedly draws on her past conflicts every time she wipes out a villain on screen, but in real life, she tends to tackle obstacles with a softer mix of self-aware bluntness and wry humour. When I ask her if she often faces bigotry in Europe, where she has lived since she married Pinault in 2009, she tells the story of a group of elegant French women who were surprised to learn that she was breastfeeding her baby. . One of the women speculated that breastfeeding must be a tradition “that comes from the Indians of Latin America,” Hayek recalls with a laugh. “She really said it!” So Hayek explained the basic science behind the physical benefits of the practice for infants. “I was shocked that such sophisticated women, who have had so many children, didn’t take the time to investigate. They said, ‘Oh, but that’s terrible for breasts.’ I said, ‘Really? Look at my breasts. No problem!’ “
Hayek’s reputable body parts have gotten much space on Instagram lately, courtesy of a series of bikini thirst traps she posted this spring. She is quick to admit that the photos weren’t all brand new – she took them over a week over the Christmas holidays last year and saved them for later use, as she knew she would soon get fat for her role. House of Gucci. In fact, on New Year’s Eve, she had decided it was time to start taking selfies from the shoulders up on her. “It wasn’t even the end of the holidays yet, and I was like, ‘OK, bring me the caftans!'”, She says. “But I’m not ashamed to tell you because I’m thrilled to have gotten to that point. I was like that for a week, you know?”
Trying to lose weight is going slower than Hayek would like: “I lost very little. You say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.’ You earn it so fast, but it takes so long to lose it. “She is determined to get back in good shape, partly for health reasons and partly, she acknowledges, due to pressures of “what is expected of a woman that people consider to be good looking. As she gets older, she is not expected to age. . “But thanks to a meditation practice she has maintained for years, Hayek says, she is usually quite good at accepting things as they are. Given “how much mileage I put on my body,” she explains, “and how much pressure and judgment I put on it, my body has been incredibly generous. I don’t think I’m a hot tamale, but I know for my age, for the lifestyle I’ve lived, I’m not doing too badly. And I attribute all of this to meditation. “Her practice involves a combination of breathing techniques that she began exploring in her late 30s when lower back pain sometimes kept her in bed. “It makes you experience your body with a truly delicious and fulfilling lightness. With the breath and the going in, you explore your body differently, and you learn not to go crazy with expectations.”
Valentina is now 13, and Hayek has been trying to arrange some mother-daughter time in the meditation room. No luck so far. “She’s like, ‘I can’t think of anything more boring! And if I’m going to meditate, I’ll do it in my spare time.'” Like many teenage parents, Hayek often finds herself baffled by her inability to communicate with the creature that gave birth. “She’s great and hypnotizes me over and over, but you know, when I talk to her, I find myself speechless,” says Hayek. She often repeats future conversations with Valentina in her head. “Or when we have a little fight, after her, I’ll think, ‘I should have said this or that, and I’ll tell her next time I see her.’ Then she comes next time, and I find myself speechless again. “
I don’t think I am some hot tamale, but I know that for my age, for the lifestyle that I lived, I’m not doing too badly.SALMA HAYEK
There seem to be few such communication problems between Hayek and her husband. “We understand each other very well,” she says. One of the most powerful men in the fashion world, Pinault, is the president and CEO of the French luxury group Kering, whose brands include Gucci, Balenciaga, and Saint Laurent. How does Hayek take advantage of her direct access to some of the most coveted dresses in the world? “I’m lucky, and it makes my life easier, but it’s never been a priority for me,” she says. Hayek notes that most of her close friends are obsessed with fashion and find it a little unfair that she ended up with Pinault. “A friend said: ‘I can’t believe that of all of us, the one who cares the least about fashion is the one who won that guy over!’ So I told my husband. He laughed and said, ‘That’s why you got me.’ “
House of Gucci explores the extreme pleasures and dangers of life at the highest levels of fashion, chronicling the scandalous 1995 murder of the family scion Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) by a hitman who worked for his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani (Lady Gaga). The film is based on a non-fiction book of the same name and is not supported by the fashion label. But given the social media frenzy sparked by onset photos of Driver and Gaga in their braided turtlenecks, fur hats, and other vintage adornments, the November release is sure to draw attention to the Gucci brand. Hayek first heard about the project before meeting Pinault through her dear friend Giannina Facio, who is producing the film and is married to Ridley Scott. (Gucci has made its archives available to the filmmakers.) Now, says Hayek, “the whole thing is very incestuous. It’s much fun for me.” Onset, Gaga assiduously checked the script through Hayek, asking her to check a few points with Pinault. And Hayek knows several people who remember the magical machinations of her real-life character, Pina Auriemma. Reggiani’s best friend and psychic, Auriemma, orchestrated the details of the Gucci murder and ended up serving her sentence in a Milan prison.
Though her screen time in House of Gucci is somewhat limited, Hayek has a way to leave audiences wanting more. In The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017), Sonia Kincaid was a supportive part of her, but the strong audience reaction led the filmmakers to star her in this year’s sequel, turning the project into a three-way friend. “So I said, ‘If we’re going to have a female lead in an action movie, let’s bring some of that femininity and have fun,'” recalls Hayek. Now Sonia’s savage gunslinger playfully alternates with her ferocious determination to have a baby with Samuel L. Jackson before menopause hits.
Hayek’s next project may be the most important of her career. “I shouldn’t tell you,” she says before explaining that she has written a script for a movie she has hoped to direct for about 17 years. Again, the odds of her are against her. “I’m highly dyslexic,” notes Hayek. “English is my second language, and I’m not a good writer. But it was too personal and complicated for me to find a writer to do that, so I had to write it myself.” Hayek has only two previous directorial credits, a music video for Prince (“Te Amo Corazón”) and a 2003 Showtime drama, The Maldonado Miracle, for which she won a Daytime Emmy. She promised herself that the next film she directed would be this. Hayek is currently looking around for it and can’t reveal any further details, but she says, “It’s a completely original script, and I stress ‘original’. The problem is it’s not a bad movie.”
Meanwhile, as quarantine draws to a close in the UK, Hayek has spent some quality time with her southern white-faced owl, which she adopted after seeing an ad for a relief organization. (Originally intended as a gift to Pinault, the bird is called Kering.) She Often allows him to fly around the house, including the bedroom. “When my husband is out of town, I sleep with the owl,” says Hayek. “Her favourite place to be is in the yoga room when I am meditating. She is completely calm. She understands It.” Hayek says she has developed an exciting and nuanced relationship with the bird, in part because Hayek doesn’t treat her like a toy. She knows the importance of allowing the sensitive creature to do her things.
“I understand her,” Hayek says. Then she laughs. “I don’t know if she understands me.”