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Contributed by Alberto Motolinia

Click to enlarge and read the article in Spanish.

Translation by Morris

"Spying Frida"  by Gina Szclar

When Mexican painter Frida Kahlo became well-known in all the world, it was just a matter of time till anybody wanted to film her polemic existence. Salma Hayek got involved in this mission as if her life depended on that.

Since the shooting of "Frida" started in our country, the press and even the public have gone nuts in order to know of any detail concerning this production. If that comes from the fact that everything that is forbidden claims attention (there's been just a few or none access to the sets or contact between the stars and the press), or the mere fanatism towards the painter or the actress who plays her, it is still unknown.

Meanwhile, Cinemanía got to sneak into the Estudios Churubusco, place where most of the filming took place. Here we "exhibit" some of the people responsible of this so expected Frida's dream:


Art Director

How did you decorate the sets? Did you get antique objects or were they made specifically for the movie?

Basically we rented them in antique houses; a lot of furniture was also constructed, other were bought in la Lagunilla or in the Callejón del Sapo, in Puebla.

The recreation of Frida's house you made is incredible. Why didn't you shoot in the original house instead?

Throughout time the house has suffered many changes, since Frida was born until she lived there with Diego. It was decided to have a controled set so we could work on it, specially with arquitectonic changes and the transformation the garden has suffered. The furniture, including the wall paper, had to be recreated by decorator Hannia Robledo, who had some similiar stuff brought from England.

Who recreated the famous murals?

That was the titanic labor of two teams; one for Frida's work and the other for Diego Rivera's, because more important than anything were his murals. Mariano Grimaldo heads Diego's team, he studied in La Esmeralda and knows the fresco's technique really well. With a great team of painters they've spent several weeks working on that.

How did you choose the locations?

Above all, we looked for locations were we didn't have to make that much changes and, of course, which could resemble the era as much as possible and were there wasn't that much advertising. We had to cover some publicity, light registres, a lot of details; for that, the streets of San Luis were perfect. Most Coyoacán was recreated in Puebla, in San Angel we just shot Diego's house/study, not the exteriors, because there's a big avenue close to it. The publicity of the era was elaborated here in the graphic design department and we got borrowed some of the cars: it has been an excellent team labor.

What have you liked the most about this project?

That there is a lot of contrast. We have in one set a house from the beginning of the century from Coyoacán and in front the scenario of the Rockefeller Center lobby in New York. The carpenters, painters, technicians and the whole personal have done an extraordinary work. My favorite scene is when Diego cheats on Frida with her sister and she decides to cut her hair; we created a tridimensional set of the self-portrait she made of herself; she's in a chair with the floor in perspective, inclinated, and we did a chair in perspective and the result is undescribable, just as if Frida was getting out of the painting. That was probably the cheapest set of the movie, but it also was the most spectacular.


Casting Director

How did you do the casting? Did you take the physonomy of the actors as the most important quality?

Yes, I auditioned about two thousand people here and another bunch in Puebla and San Luis Potosí. I saw about six thousand extras.

Did you require special costumes for each extra?

Indeed. For example, in Puebla the Día de Muertos was recreated and we went to Tlaxcala, were almost an entire village participated and acted. Julie Weiss, the costume director, rented clothes from that era in New York. We also had a 300-people march and everyone was given a costume.

Which other "famous" people play "famous" people?

Geoffrey Rush is Trotsky, Roger Rees plays Frida's father, Diego Luna is Alejandro, her first boyfriend, Patricia Reyes Spíndola is Matilde, Frida's mother and, well, there's Ashley Judd as Tina Modotti, Antonio Banderas as David Alfredo Siqueiros and Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera, it's a lot of people.

How has working with Salma been?

She's a very dedicated person, it wouldn't surprise me is she were nominated for an Oscar, because she has really commited to Frida. It's impressive how she's gotten inside the role and the way she has cooperated with everyone.

Was there any difficulty transporting the material for the sets, make up, etc...?

Not at all, everything was transported by bus and some stuff was bought on location. For example, in San Luis we shot the entire train accident sequence; that train worked by an hydraulic system which was all built there. Did you have any difficulty during the casting process?

People cooperate really well; I think there was only a bit of difficulty when a Paris coffee shop was recreated in Puebla. It was complicated to contact extras with a more European type, because not always do they want to appear on screen. Foreign people have other mentality.


Press Chief

How difficult was it to recreate the era?

The film covers a ground from the 20's to the 50's, so we're talking about four different looks respecting makeup, haircuts and costumes. In Salma's case it was required to "do" Frida since age 18 until before she died, her transition to woman and how she acquired her own style. This was a very intense labor for the production people, and, of course, for the costume ones.

We know you've worked on "Gia", "The Pelican Brief", "Pay It Forward" and that you've traveled all around the world. What have you thought about working in Mexico?

I've been to Rusia, Africa, Thailand and Canada, but Mexico is enormous, it's like a labyrinth to me. I never know where I am, but I've loved how people want to work, they do it happily even if they've been shooting for 12 hours in a row and they're always willing to cooperate. I haven't seen that in other countries. The disposition to work here is impressive, they know what they do and they know that in movies time means money, so I'm very happy.

There has been a lot of talk about Salma and your attitude towards the press...

The only thing Salma wants is to concentrate on her work and people don't leave her alone. She's very professional and her character is very emotional; it is a lot of pressure for her, the movie rests on her shoulders. We've been like that because a lot of people has been involved in the project, Madonna, Jennifer; Salma has fought hardly for this; she took the project to Miramax and she personally talked to some of the actors she wanted for the movie because there was not a big budget, many of them are here because of her.

Does the movie have a special point-of-view because the director, the producer and most of the responsible staff are women?

That's true, Frida was much talked-about because she was quite liberal for her time; she was bisexual when that was considered a taboo, her relationship with Diego was also questioned a lot. Julie Taymor is a great woman and she's got a spectacular vision. This is her second movie, the first one was "Titus", based on a Shakespeare's play and starring Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange; she likes the great plays, she's using her great theatrical vision to understand Frida's art and her pain. But besides the feminine influence, I'm sure anybody who's a movie lover will enjoy it.

There's reporters from all around the world who have wanted to know more about the movie and get photographs, but everything has been quite restricted....

It's just that in the first week of shooting we had four or five London TV stations - CNN, NBC, APT. Everyone wanted interviews, with the few information they were asking for and the one we had they could be doing a movie of their own. Concerning this, next week comes photograoher Annie Liebowitz to work for five days with the actors in their characterizations; she's a very famous person, very busy, and it was her who asked us to do this job.