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Take a Hayek!

Author/s: Michael Atkinson

Interview Magazine, Feb, 1997

Actress Salma Hayek is her own WANTED poster. She's smart, sharp, sleek, sweet, sultry, savvy and surprising. And in every other respects, she's sensational

On the eighth day, God created Salma Hayek. And it was damn good. Half peasant, half bombshell, Hayek is the raw stuff of daydreams, a mythical seductress with a figure so sublime it could make you bite a rock. A former Mexican soap-opera star, she has broken into Hollywood aboard the runaway meat trucks of director Robert Rodriguez; she is now posed to become the biggest international Mexican movie star since Lupe Velez.

It's not just about her looks. Check her out giggling as she plucks a bullet from an unanesthetized Antonio Banderas in Desperado (1995), or playing a vampire stripper in the Tarantino-scripted movie From Dusk Till Dawn (1995). Hayek may be sultry to the point of heat exhaustion, but she's also in on the cosmic joke that makes her the clock stopper she is. In an ironic age, she's our Salome.

Hayek is poised to make this the warmest February on record with her new movie, Fools Rush In, while in March she plays Esmeralda opposite Mandy Patinkin's Quasimodo In TNT's The Hunchback.

MICHAEL ATKINSON: Salma, how would you describe your presence on film to a blind man?

SALMA HAYEK: That would depend on what character I was playing. How I would describe my characters is absolutely different from how I would describe myself.

MA: Let's talk about you, then. Right now you are very high on the movie Industry's most-wanted list. Why do you think that is?

SH: I don't know, but I do know I was lucky enough to have worked with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and to have played some very unique characters. How many times does one get to play a monster, like I did in From Dusk Till Dawn? Some men have a silly theory about beautiful women - that somewhere along the line they'll turn into a monster. That movie gave them a chance to watch it happen.

MA: Now, you came to Hollywood from Mexico five years ago, with no prospects, no offers -

SH: Nothing close to an offer. I knocked on many doors and got turned down many times until I finally got one line in Mi Vida Loca [1994].

MA: And a year later you were co-starring with Antonio Banderas in Desperado. How did that happen?

SH: I was on a Spanish-language talk show and the host asked me what was I doing in L.A. I said I wanted to do American films, and he said, "But you' re not getting any." And I said, "Yes, because American films don't usually have leading roles for Latin women. But I intend to change that." Robert Rodriguez and his wife [Desperado producer Elizabeth Avellan] saw that show and called me in to audition. No one else believed in me then, and I had nearly lost faith in myself. But they saw something that others didn't, and I will never forget that.

MA: I just watched Desperado again and was struck with the suspicion that you used a body double in your love scene with Antonio Banderas.

SH: I would have preferred to have had a body double. It was very hard to film that scene because I was either crying or trying to cover myself. Playing a stripper in From Dusk Till Dawn was easier because I was not with a man, only a snake, so I felt a lot safer.

MA: After those two movies, were you afraid of being typecast as a Latin vamp?

SH: I do have a Mexican accent, but that doesn't mean that I'm a Latin vamp. My new movie, Fools Rush In, is a romantic comedy and the girl I play in that is very warm, very sweet. I also have a film coming up called Breaking Up, and my part in that was not written for a Latina, and my character is not particularly pretty or sexy or exotic. So, no, I'm not afraid of being typecast.

MA: And you're playing what could be the ultimate Esmeralda in TNT's The Hunchback. Will you be doing any pole dances, like the Esmeralda in Disney's animated version?

SH: No, not this Esmeralda. Actually, there are some poles that I dance around, but not at all in the way a stripper does.

MA: In the end, what do you hope to accomplish in movies?

SH: I aim for a lifetime full of movies. I want to work for a long, long time and keep growing in my work, and if I am very lucky and very blessed, maybe somewhere along the line there will be one movie in there that becomes a classic.