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Summer of Salma

In the summer blockbuster Wild Wild West, Salma Hayek plays the heroine opposite Western hero Will Smith. She didn't care about the script, she just wanted to take the first opportunity to work with Will. Hayek is excited to be working in the biggest (West) and the smallest (The Velocity of Gary) movies of 1999. She sat down to speak about her upcoming production company, doing anything for director Robert Rodriguez and don't even get her started on the so-called "Latino Revolution."

Andy Jones: You've started a production company. Do you plan to star in everything that you plan to produce?

Salma Hayek: Hell, no. We are right now in development with two television shows. I have a deal with Telemundo and I also have a deal with Columbia TriStar. So, one of the shows is for Telemundo, the other show, it's for everybody. Everybody's putting money into it and it will be showing in different countries. So, it's a strange concept. It's hard and we're pitching a couple of things to TriStar in the next couple of months.

Andy Jones: A while ago, you told a great story about how you had great recognition in your home country and then you came here and it was only the valets who recognized you. You're on all the magazine covers now. Have you gotten up to the level that you were before you got to this country?

Salma Hayek: Yes.

Andy Jones: Is it more fun here?

Salma Hayek: It's not fun anywhere. It's different because the Mexican audience is very chatting and open. I mean, especially since I was a television star there. They really feel like they're your cousins. So, they immediately come and attack you, they want you to sing for them, they want your phone number, they want to send you pictures. And, film... it's a little bit different. There's a little bit more of a distance. American audiences are not as passionate. They just stare at you. Sometimes they come over [to you], but mainly they just stare at you in a state of panic. In Mexico, when they are coming over, you're the one who panics, but film is a completely different world because there is just a little bit more of a distance. However, I say it's the same because many people recognize me. They don't react the same, but they do recognize me, pretty much.

Andy Jones: Has the timetable been pretty much the way you hoped? Have you progressed as far as you thought?

Salma Hayek: No. I came here and I said, "In three months I'll be speaking perfect English. Within a year I'll be a huge star."

Andy Jones: And how long has it been?

Salma Hayek: Eight years of constant hard work. That's four and a half years since I got my first job. So, it's not too bad. I came young.

Andy Jones: You have an interesting slate of films coming up. You've got Dogma and The Velocity of Gary.

Salma Hayek: I really love independent filmmaking. And maybe your question is, how will I pick the films?

Andy Jones: Right.

Salma Hayek: I don't have a system. Why did I do The Faculty? Robert Rodriguez gave me my first shot. He asked me if I could do a cameo in his film. And I was really busy, I was doing Dogma and getting ready to do this one. And I said, "Of course, yes! Definitely." "Should I send you the script?" "Don't worry about it." How many scenes do you have? Two scenes," he said. "I'm there. I'm there. And can we do it in a day?" And he said, "Yes." And I flew over and I said, "What do I do? Where do I stand, what do I say?" And I did it. And I will do anything he asks me to do.

Andy Jones: And Dogma's controversial.

Salma Hayek: I am in the biggest film this summer and in the smallest film this summer. [The Velocity of Gary] has got to be the smallest film there is out there for 1999. And it's a modern tragedy and it's very intense. [Wild Wild West] is an action-western comedy and it's as big as it gets. Why did I want to do this film? I wanted to do this film because I wanted to work with Will Smith, because it's fun. And Kevin Kline. And I wanted to be directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and I wanted to be part of a big blockbuster summer movie. Why did I want to do The Velocity of Gary? I wanted to do The Velocity of Gary because although I knew that nobody was going to go see that film, I loved the part. It was somebody that was so strange in my world, somebody that I have never come across and am so distant from who I am and where I come from -- I wanted to discover her. And then I wanted to help the people make the film because they couldn't get the money, and I really wanted to make the film. So, I became a producer and I found the money for the film. And that's why I did it. And every time it's for a different reason.

Andy Jones: So, where did you find this character?

Salma Hayek: Well, I went to the streets of New York and spent some time there. That was one of the things that I did. [I] talked to people and ultimately you find them all in your heart. They're all in there. You just don't want to see them sometimes or you don't want to know. But they teach you compassion. You know, sometimes we look at this kind of story or people just want to look away and they're out there. And learning about them and finding those reasons for doing things makes you a better person when you do run into them. And you don't look away. And you wonder about them. And you just see them in a whole different way. That's wonderful about being an actor, I think.

Andy Jones: Is it a relationship that you could ever live with?

Salma Hayek: Well, it's a strange relationship because I hate the other guy. It's not like we're having a threesome, like I'm sleeping with them both; I hate his guts. And he hates me. We're sharing a man and I don't know if I could share, but you know what? That means that she is a lot more noble and understands unconditional love better than I do.

Andy Jones: Tell us why you wanted to work with Will?

Salma Hayek: Oh, God. I wanted to work with Will because I thought he'd be fun. because I am a huge fan. I think he's very, very talented. Did any of you see Six Degrees of Separation?

Andy Jones: Yes.

Salma Hayek: How brilliant was he in it? I really think Will is not just some big movie star. He's a very, very good actor and nice and I wanted to work with him. And he was everything I expected and much more.

Andy Jones: Can you pick and choose projects now?

Salma Hayek: No. I still have an accent. Even though I am in Wild Wild West, I still have an accent. So, that's limiting, still. But maybe one day they'll realize that I can make them so much money that it won't matter. My accent will disappear to their ears because the money will be coming into their hands.

Andy Jones: It worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger, right?

Salma Hayek: It worked for Arnold, but only until they started seeing green. Actually, I do work with a dialect coach. For me, to get rid of it completely, I'd have to work with a coach 24 hours a day all the days for months and months and then work on the part for months, you know? And then I'd get rid of it. I don't know that it's worth it. Why can't they just love me as I am?

Andy Jones: Is this Latin explosion real? Do you feel inspired because people are embracing Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez?

Salma Hayek: Those people are professional Latinos now. That is b.s. I think if you look at the statistics, the hiring of Latin actors has dropped considerably. Hey, I'm doing great, but I can't sit here and say, "We're doing great! Latin Power!" That's not true. It's two of us. I have a lot of friends who are brilliant who are great actors, great actresses. And I get scripts for things they want me to do because they really like the Latin girl. And I say, "I'm not going to do this, but I'm going to give you a list of really good actresses, who, if you contact them, they will do better than me." And the movie doesn't get done. If I don't do it, if Jennifer doesn't do it, the movie doesn't get done. So, the statistics were published. It's not true. It's gone down. Now they're in the music industry, it has become the thing now to be Latin.

Andy Jones: My question was more that the American public might be more willing to have actors who have an accent or whatever.

Salma Hayek: Jennifer (Lopez) doesn't have an accent.

Andy Jones: No. What I'm saying is that it might be less of a hassle for you.

Salma Hayek: These actors that you're talking about, they don't have an accent. There are still people who have accents. There's no one else. The problem is that everybody says some of the Latinos you mentioned, the people we're talking about, their Spanish is pathetic. They learn Spanish when they became famous as Latinos. I'm a professional Latino now, but I knew them before. So, the thing is that you can't just put them all in the same thing as this big Latin explosion. Yes, they're in the music, but I can't sit here...and by the way, I'm doing great. Somehow, I've made it and I'm shooting a film right now. I'm promoting one and have two more to come. As an actress, I'm the one that's working the most. But I do have a lot of friends who are so talented you'd cry. Do you remember the girl in Like Water for Chocolate?

Andy Jones: Yeah. Sure. Absolutely.

Salma Hayek: She's been here all this time. She's been here seven years with me. She's better than me. She's so good. When was the last time you saw her? There are so many [Latinos] and there's a lot who also don't have an accent. It's hard.

Andy Jones: Well, what's the difference between you and her?

Salma Hayek: I don't know. I got lucky. I work very hard. I'm not afraid. I don't know, there's many things. I got lucky because I got smaller parts, 'cause if you stop and look at the parts that I have been given...what I do is I take what is there and I make it memorable. And then the audience is very good to me. So, I don't know why, but there's another girl who's very good. I'm a huge fan. I've been a fan forever. She is so good. She also has an accent. And she's beginning to do really well. Her name is Penelope Cruz and watch her, because she's brilliant. So, that's good. That really tells me that something's happening. But [it's not like] people are handing us parts and it's the Latin thing and it's like you're so lucky to be Latin. Try talking with my accent for a week.

Andy Jones: Does it put you in an awkward position, because you and Jennifer are getting all the parts?

Salma Hayek: No. But Jennifer doesn't get the Latino parts. Jennifer's from New York. Jennifer doesn't have an accent. I mean, she could -- there are no Latino parts. The Latino parts, when I get these Latino parts, the reason I don't do them, it's because I have a small part in the movie, it's an interesting woman or it's a very, very small, low-budget film. There are no Latino parts.

Andy Jones: You're about to play Frida Kahlo in the movie, Frida.

Salma Hayek: The exciting part for me is that I've been in love with this woman and her life and her work since I was 14 years old. And I am dying to be able to make a good movie about her, so that the whole world can see it. That's what really excites me.