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Salma Hayek: 1968(?)—: Actress

Fought To End Typecasting

Despite lukewarm reviews, Fools Rush In marked a turning point in Hayek's career. "I was praying that I would get a part that I could work with," she told Daily News writer Bob Strauss, "that somebody would give me a chance to show that I could do all of these things besides dancing or being pretty—which I don't think that I am, but that's a whole different story." Proving such self-effacing comments erroneous, cosmetics giant Revlon signed Hayek to appear in advertisements that same year. She also launched her own production company, Ventanarosa, to acquire and develop properties for herself and other Latino actors. Hayek still encountered the occasional barrier. "Executives at the studios have a hard time giving me roles of smart women," she told In Style in 1998. "They ask how audiences can believe that someone from Mexico could be the editor of this fashion magazine," mentioning a role for which she auditioned and was rejected.

In 1999 Hayek and Ventanarosa inked a deal with Columbia Tri-Star Television and the Telemundo Spanish-language network, owned by Sony, to produce shows for both American and Latin American broadcast. As a producer, Hayek earned strong praise from director Barry Sonnenfeld, with whom she worked in Wild, Wild West. "Salma has tremendous perseverance," Sonnenfeld told Time International. "That's what a producer does—they make people do things they don't want to do."

Wild, Wild West and other American films in which Hayek appeared did well at Mexican box offices, and she continued to take the occasional Mexican film part. In 1999 she was cast in a small independent film, The Velocity of Gary, alongside Vincent D'Onofrio, and then played one of several fallen angels in Kevin Smith's Dogma. Next, she was tapped by director Mike Figgis for a role in Time Code, one of 2000's more unusual films. Hayek's character, enmeshed in a quarrelsome relationship with another woman, carried on one of four simultaneous plots, each of which progressed on screen in four separate quadrants. Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman praised the work, calling it "enthralling," and dismissed some of the press criticism which surrounded it. According to Gleiberman, "Time Code might better be described as a voyeur's delight. It gives you the dizzy sensation that you're seeing an erotically heightened soap opera of everyday life as taken in by the omniscient eye of a multi-channeled surveillance camera."

Next, Hayek trumped both Madonna and Jennifer Lopez to gain the title role in Frida, the long-awaited biopic of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Thirty-odd years after her 1954 death, Kahlo had emerged as both a feminist and a Latina icon. Her career was overshadowed by that of her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, but in the 1980s her paintings began to increase in value as art historians came to recognize her unique vision. The story offered any actress a career-making performance.

Hayek recalled seeing her first reproduction of the artist's work—known for its confessional, realist strain—in the home of a friend when she was a teenager. "And I went, Blech! That's disgusting. Horrible, gory, ugly, blech! And then I would go back and say, Hey, show me that picture by that artist who is so horrible," she told Vogue writer Sarah Kerr. "I was intrigued, and little by little I was enchanted, to the point where I absolutely loved her art. It started then." Hayek's strong features bore a slight resemblance to Kahlo's, and she began carrying around Polaroid photos of herself in traditional Mexican dress, which Kahlo favored, to show to producers who might be interested in a Kahlo project. After one audition, as she told Kerr, producers told her she was too young to play the part. "But I was so upset, and in my anger and naiveté I told them, 'Well, this film isn't going to happen until I'm ready to play her. '"

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Bob Graham (1942-) Biography - Awards to Francis Hendy Biography - Born to SewSalma Hayek: 1968(?)—: Actress Biography - Earned Novela Award In Mexico, Fought To End Typecasting, Fully Committed To Frida