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Salma Hayek: 1968(?)—: Actress - Fully Committed To Frida

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Hayek's remark made in pique turned out to be prophetic. One film on the artist's life was originally planned for HBO in 1994, but then the rights were acquired by Trimark. Hayek auditioned for the role, but as she told In Style, "they said that they didn't want to do it with a non-Mexican, but they didn't think any Mexican had a big enough name to do it." Hayek's acclaimed appearances in a range of films during this period helped win her the role, but Trimark had committed only $2 million to the film. "They were passionate about it, but we could never have made this movie for that amount," Hayek recalled in an interview with Los Angeles Times journalist Dana Calvo. "Then they said about $4 million, but it still wasn't enough. I was afraid that it wasn't going to be like the movie I knew it could be. I said, 'I'm going to star in it, I'd like to be a producer as well.… I just want to make sure it gets made right.' But they never imagined how involved I would be in the process."

Trimark eventually passed on the Frida property and Miramax acquired it. The screenplay was similarly beleaguered. It underwent numerous rewrites, but Hayek was able to lure some big names to co-star in the production. Banderas, Ashley Judd, and Ed Norton appeared, and agreed to work for union-scale wages to cut costs. Alfred Molina was cast as Rivera. As a co-producer, Hayek had to convince Dolores Olmedo Patino, a formidable Mexican woman then in her nineties who controlled the Kahlo estate, to grant filmmakers permission to use the images. Olmedo had been one of Rivera's models and mistresses. Hayek met with others who had known Kahlo, in an attempt to learn more about this complex woman.


Hayek even began painting to prepare for the role, and was surprised to learn she had some faculty for it. Molina commended her talents as both actress and co-producer. "I'm sure she feels it keenly, but what makes her such a wonderful person to work with is that she wears that mantle very, very lightly—and she doesn't expect you to share any of the weight," Molina told Vogue. "What she's done with this project—if she were a white man in America, she'd be as big as Harvey Weinstein by now. Because she's got the balls; she's got the energy; she's got the taste." Frida was slated for release in October of 2002.


In 2001 Hayek penned an article for Time International about Latinos in the film industry. Many Mexican-trained directors, she pointed out, leave to pursue careers in Hollywood. State controls on ticket prices and an ineffectual distribution system meant that just nine feature films were made in her country in 1998. But Hayek had new hopes for a revival: she noted that the government had recently enacted a film-industry protection bill, and earmarked $13.5 million to finance new films by Mexican writers and directors. "There is no doubt in my mind that, a decade after I left, a new dawn seems finally on the horizon for Mexico's cinema," Hayek wrote. "For those of us who have been waiting, working and hoping for most of our adult lives, it's an exciting day indeed."


Selected filmography

Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life), 1993.

Desperado, 1995.

From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996.

Fools Rush In, 1997.

54, 1998.

The Faculty, 1998.

Dogma, 1999.

Wild Wild West, 1999.

Timecode, 2000.

Frida, 2002.

Sources

Books


Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television, Vol. 32, Gale, 2000.


Periodicals


Advertising Age, February 4, 2002, p. 28.

Advocate, June 8, 1999, p. 44.

Daily News (Los Angeles), February 14, 1997, p. L3.

Entertainment Weekly, August 25, 1995, p. 91; December 29, 1995, p. 50; February 14, 1997, p. 42; August 8, 1997, p. 53; May 12, 2000, p. 50.

Houston Chronicle, February 13, 1997, p. 1.

In Style, January 1998, p. 92.

Independent Sunday (London), December 17, 2000, p. 3.

Interview, February 1997, p. 112.

Los Angeles Magazine, August 1996, p. 85.

Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2001, p. 8.

Newsweek International, November 22, 1999, p. 78.

Time International, May 24, 1999, p. 99; October 15, 2001, p. 79.

Variety, January 3, 2000, p. 30.

Vogue, December 2001.


—Carol Brennan

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