California - Eight years
ago, Salma Hayek was a
big television star -- in her
And then she gave it all up
and moved to the United
"I came here saying that I
would learn to speak
perfect English and that
within a year I would be a
huge star," she says
That didn't happen. When
she arrived in the U.S.,
Hayek couldn't speak a
word of English and
although she's secure with
the language now, it's still
But she does hope that
audiences will notice how
well she's doing with
English in the current Wild Wild West, in which she plays a mysterious
entertainer who becomes a colleague of government agents played by
Kevin Kline and Will Smith. And she also hopes her presence in that
movie will help fulfil her dreams of major stardom.
"My accent in that film is less than my accent is talking to you now -- so
please, please tell me that you noticed it?" she asks in a wheedling tone.
"You did notice? Thank you! I worked hard with a coach for that film.
But to get rid of my accent completely I'll have to work with a coach 24
hours a day."
On the other hand, maybe her accent shouldn't matter. The mischievous
tone returns. "Why can't you accept me as I am?" she asks in a funny,
little-girl voice. Among Hayek's many assets is a sense of humour.
Another is a determination to succeed.
The level of stardom she enjoyed back home still eludes her in the U.S.,
but this dark-eyed beauty isn't giving up. Talk to her and you detect a
sense of mission -- a determination to raise the profile of America's
growing Hispanic population in the world of entertainment.
Hayek has been getting steady work in Hollywood, going back to her
first starring role opposite Antonio Banderas in Robert Rodriguez's
Desperado. More recently, she has adorned such films as The Faculty,
Fools Rush In and From Dusk To Dawn. But she's still upset that not
enough Hispanics are landing good roles.
She says when pundits talk about "Latin power" they're really talking
about two people -- herself and Jennifer Lopez. Then she adds a trifle
acerbicly that Lopez shouldn't really count because she was born in the
"Sure, I'm doing great. Somehow I've clicked in. I'm the one who's
working the most, but I have a lot of friends who are so talented you
could cry. That girl who was in Like Water For Chocolate -- she's been
here as long as me. She's better than me. But she has trouble finding
But she also knows she has a long way to go in dealing with a
Hollywood mentality which in last year's Mask Of Zorro cast Welsh
actress Catherine Zeta-Jones as the Hispanic female lead.
Zeta-Jones's involvement in Zorro infuriated Hayek, and it's situations
like this that led to her decision to set up her own production company,
which currently is negotiating deals with two major studios.
The company exists not only to find good parts for Hayek but also for
other good Latin actors. And she's not just looking for high-profile
projects. She cites the low-budget The Velocity Of Gary, a
comedy-drama about an unusual love triangle, which is due to arrive
later this summer with herself and Vincent D'Donofrio starring.
"I'm in the summer's biggest film, Wild Wild West, and in the summer's
smallest film. I did Velocity Of Gary even though I knew nobody would
probably see it, but I loved the part. It would be playing somebody who
was so strange in this world, somebody I had never come across in life
and who was so distant from what I really am and where I come from.
So I wanted to help the people making this film and when they couldn't
get the money I became a producer and helped them find it."
Hayek is starting to be recognized in public places, but she says it will
never be the way it was in Mexico.
"Mexican fans are very chatty and open. Because I was a television star
there, they really did think I belonged to them. If they met me on the
street, they would always ask for my phone number. American men are
different. They keep more of a distance. They're not as passionate. They
just stare at you in a state of panic."
Saturday 17 July 1999
The Ottawa Citizen