Sexy Salma finds Western living just
Sunday June 27, 1999
By LOUIS B. HOBSON -- Calgary Sun
HOLLYWOOD -- There's only one thing that
frightens Salma Hayek and it's not Hollywood
"I have arachnophobia. I hate the little things,"
admits Hayek, shuddering at the very thought of her
personal eight-legged nightmare.
Hayek teamed up with a bunch of hairy spiders to
film Will Smith's music video for the big, summer
special-effects comedy Wild Wild West, which
So what would have possessed Hayek to allow a
spider wrangler from Kenya to plop 20 tarantulas
all over her body?
"Will Smith. I'd do anything for Will. He fought for
me to be in Wild Wild West when no one else
wanted me. No one but Will could have gotten me
to lie down with spiders."
Smith met Hayek briefly backstage at the 1996
MTV awards. When he read that his leading lady in
Wild Wild West was named Rita Escobar, he told
director Barry Sonnenfeld to offer the role to
"I had to audition for Barry three times. He didn't
want me and I don't think the studio (Warner
Bros.) did either," recalls Hayek.
Sonnenfeld admits he was reluctant to cast Hayek.
"Of course, Salma looks the part but I didn't think
she could talk fast enough to carry off the comedy.
I kept trying to explain this to Will but he wouldn't
budge. He told me to cast her and then teach her to
Without Smith as her champion, Hayek would have
lost another role because a director, producer or
studio mogul didn't like her voice.
"The biggest obstacle for Latino actors in
Hollywood is the voice and the accent. In the nine
years I've been in Hollywood, it's never been about
how I look. The moment I open my mouth, the
problems begin. Speaking English is the toughest
thing I have to do every day of my life in
Hayek was 22 when she arrived in Los Angeles.
She could barely speak a word of English and no
one knew who she was.
Back in Mexico, it was a different case entirely.
Playing the title role in the soap opera Teresa had
turned Hayek into a major television star. She was
mobbed wherever she went.
Hayek was 18 years old when she auditioned for
her role in Teresa. She had never acted before.
"People told me I had chemistry with the camera.
They say the camera loved me and that made it
easy for audiences to love me too."
Hayek is quick to explain that being photogenic can
be a curse.
"Being a star has nothing to do with being a good
actress. I became a star overnight but what I really
wanted to be was a respected actress.
"I knew that was impossible in Mexico. I had to go
somewhere where I had to prove myself and to
learn and fail. That's why I gave up stardom in
Mexico for obscurity in America."
For two years, Hayek struggled just to get cameo
roles on such TV series as The Sinbad Show. Her
big break came when Robert Rodriguez cast her as
Antonio Banderas's love interest in Desperado.
The film portrayed her as a seductress.
"I don't see anywhere in the Bible where it says you
can't do movies where you kiss the guy and take
your clothes off, especially if it's with Antonio
Banderas," explains Hayek who was raised a
Though she has lost roles that meant a great deal to
her, Hayek has been working steadily in such films
as 54, From Dusk Till Dawn, Fled, The Faculty
and the made-for-TV version of The Hunchback.
"It's been a series of little steps here in America, not
the giant leap I made in Mexico."
British actor Edward Atterton, who was Hayek's
leading man in The Hunchback, became her
real-life leading man.
"It's been a really great relationship for three years.
The Catholic Church might consider we're living in
sin, but it's pure bliss."
Hayek is currently in Vancouver filming Shiny New
Enemies, in which she plays a policewoman who is
searching for some rare coins.
In September, she is set to begin filming Frida, a
biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Both
Madonna and Laura San Giacomo were touted for
the role, but for now it belongs to Hayek.
"I think the industry is finally beginning to take
notice of me. Being in Wild Wild West will help
even more because so many people will see it this
"The more visibility you get in Hollywood, the more
power you have."
Hayek is not exactly sitting back waiting for her
phone to ring. She's making the calls. She has
formed her own production company which has
begun producing TV shows for both English and
Spanish networks as well as feature films such as
The Velocity of Gary, an edgy story of a bisexual
"I'm 31 years old and I'm very happy. I'm at a
place in my career where if Hollywood doesn't give
me the roles I want, I can create them for myself."