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West of Both Worlds


“I think I’m in the biggest and smallest budgeted film of the summer,” reveals 30-year-old acting beauty Salma Hayek, whose over $100 million WILD WILD WEST bows this fourth of July weekend and whose under $2 million indie THE VELOCITY OF GARY (*not his real name) hits the art house circuit two weeks later.

While the former Mexican soap actress has found success on the American shores in a wide variety of films (including those big blockbuster type films) she admits there’s also something quite appealing creatively when she gets involved with smaller indie projects.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for the independent film and I will always go back,” says Hayek. “No matter how big the films get, no matter how big my trailer gets I will always go back. I fight it sometimes. It’s been very bad for my career at times but I like doing the intimate work where you’re not distracted with other things. There’s a freedom to it.”

Hayek’s own production company Ventanarosa produced her latest THE VELOCITY OF GARY which focuses on a young street hustler named Gary (Thomas Jane) who is caught up in a world of porn stars, phone sex operators and transvestites. When he meets sexy porn star Valentino (Vincent D’Onofrio), Gary ends up in an interesting love triangle that has waitress Mary Carmen (Hayek) and Gary vying for Valentino’s love.

“It’s a very intense movie,” says Hayek. “It’s a modern tragedy and a really, really weird movie. I loved my part and it was a great role to play.”

Funding films with great parts for her may be fun at times – but Hayek admits she does realize “I need to start making some money now” which is when she jumps aboard films like WILD WILD WEST. But getting those parts proves to be even more complicated.

“It took Barry six months to make up his mind if he wanted me,” says Hayek. “He made me come back again and again. He wanted to make sure I could say the dialogue faster, but the bottom line was he didn’t think I could be funny. Finally they gave me the movie and after 10 minutes on set I thought he hated me and was going to make my life miserable. After the first scene, though, he came up and said ‘you’re adorable and you’re so funny. I didn’t know you could be funny. That’s why I didn’t want you. I am sorry, I should have known better. What an idiot I was. I wasted so much time and money. I should have hired you in the first place.’ So I asked him what other movies of mine he had seen and he said FROM DUSK ‘TILL DAWN [with Hayek having little more than a glorified cameo as a vampire stripper].”

The Hollywood games aside, Hayek has found herself attached to an impressive slate of upcoming films. She appears in Kevin Smith’s controversial DOGMA, which is still shopping around for a distributor after the Catholic League protested its religious content and caused Miramax films (who is also owned by conservative Disney) to drop the film from its company. Now it’s even asking Disney to drop specialty label Miramax.

“I know there’s this group pissed off and doing some protests, but the last information I got is they haven’t even seen the film – and they’re protesting?” questions Hayek. “I think they’ll protest anything that has Catholic something in it.”

Catholic herself, Hayek notes she didn’t agree with everything Smith had written, but she herself doesn’t feel it’s her right to get on the pulpit about anyone’s art.

“It was an artistic choice to make this film, not a choice for life,” says Hayek. “Do I believe in everything the script says? No.”

In the film, Hayek plays a frustrated muse looking for some of her own creative satisfaction.

“I play a muse upset because I have all these really great important famous people who use me and get all the credit, fame and acclaim,” says Hayek. “I get no recognition for my participation in the process, so I ask God for permission to come to earth and try for my own fame and fortune as a writer. When I arrive, I get writers block though and somehow get involved in this divine celestial mission to save the world.”

Up next for Hayek – if they get the right director – is her pet project FRIDA based on the life of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, a role Madonna was original attached to many, many years ago.

“Having Madonna involved has been really good for this project —she brought a lot of attention to this artist,” says Hayek, who would pester the right owners about who was playing a role when Hayek was hardly a blip on the Hollywood radar. “Madonna had an authentic and sincere interest in the artist. She had a lot of her paintings. She has a following and I had been studying her for many years. It came from the heart for her – she admired this woman and wanted the world to know about her. Other actresses, though, when the project become hot jumped on, wanting to do the role when Madonna left. It’s not a labor of love for them. I’ve been developing it for years now and it’s become my pet project. I understand the philosophies of the time and place. I was 14 years old the first time I came into contact with her. It’s been a long relationship that has evolved in many ways. I am Mexican and I understand Mexico in the ’30s and ‘40s when the artist would express the reality of the country in a sociopolitical way.”

Transforming herself into Kahlo has been the most complicated part of the process. Miramax has greenlit the project, but there is a concern not to make Hayek too unattractive.

“Frida and I have the same facial structure which is the most important thing and the hardest thing to alter with prosthetic,” says Hayek. “We have the same mouth and same eyes. Of course Frida didn’t wear the makeup I wear and she had one eyebrow and her hair was different. She also has a different nose and her ears were bigger. We have done some prosthetics for the ears and the one eyebrow, but Miramax doesn’t want me to change the nose and they don’t want me to wear the mustache, though I want to wear the mustache. The similarities though are really scary.”

As Hayek admits her Mexican heritage is very important to her, she also notes at the end of the day her family lineage has made her a unique product in Hollywood.

“Part of who I am is being Mexican, but it’s not at all who I am either,” says Hayek. "I’m also half-Lebanese and at the end of the day the truth is I don’t have a drop of Mexican blood in my body. My grandparents from my father’s side are Lebanese and my mothers's side is Spanish. I grew up in Mexico and I feel for a lot of the struggles the country is going through. The country has been really good for me and I want to give some of that back.” To do that Hayek’s company is geared up to not only produce American films, but also Spanish language film and television with output deals through both Columbia-TriStar television and Telemundo.

“I’m mixing it up a bit and doing a little of both,” says Hayek. “I’m definitely very interested in creating more opportunities for Latin talent and supporting Mexican television and cinema. I also feel that there are a lot of themes where Latins can be included in that universe that don’t have to be strictly ‘Mexican’ films. Many people don’t hire actors because they’re Latin. I think they should give equal opportunities to everyone because maybe they will discover someone really inspiring in the process.”