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Salma Hayek - Interview by Dorothee Lackner

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Stubborn like a donkey, that's how Salma Hayek describes herself. "And I always knew what I wanted." One of her goals was the American way of life. At the tender age of twelve she had it her way and switched over to an American school. After two years, however, she got kicked out of the catholic boarding school for being disobedient. The Mexican with a face like a Madonna had long been a celebrated TV-star in her home country, when she packed her bags a second time to start from scratch again, this time in Hollywood. And that’s actually to be taken literally, because it wasn’t as if the dream factory had been waiting for this actress who was as petite and delicate as she was vivacious. Endless castings, the small market for Latin Women, at first nothing but rejections - it was a tough lesson for this idolized star from Mexico. But Salma Hayek pulled herself together. She finally achieved her long awaited breakthrough in 1995 with her role in the Neo-Western “Desperado”. Since then she worked herself up consistently, and finally played a trigger-happy beauty in the blockbuster “Wild Wild West”, and in the bizarre religious satire “Dogma” she plays a divine muse, who enjoys a vacation from her stressful job in heaven by working as a stripper. Today the 34-year old, who is engaged to the actor Edward Norton, commutes between different worlds.

She now has a name in the international film world, has her part as a star in Mexico has a contract with Revlon as their Latina-model, and she is busy heading her own production company “Ventana Rosa”. Her debut film production, “El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba” (No one Writes to the Colonel) which is based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ bestseller, had barely hit the movie theaters, when she set her next ambitious goals; three Hollywood productions this year and the role of the legendary artist Fida Kahlo in her own production. “Stubborn like a donkey”, Hayek is going to achieve whatever she sets out to do.

Lackner: Was it important to you to have your debut as a producer with a Latin American script?

Hayek: The novel reflects the soul of my home country, even though it’s not a Mexican book. The characters are real and human. The movie expresses home and emotionalism beyond stereotyped ideas. Of course I’m proud to do a movie based on a novel by Gabrield Garcia Marquez. But I’ll really have to go all out for it. “El Coonel” is not exactly the kind of movie that’s going to sell easily in the United States. It almost torments me how much of my childhood went inside that movie. That’s why my heart is so attached to it.

Lackner: Weren’t you anxious to leave this small world?

Hayek: Yes, but my experiences go everywhere with me. Today I live in a completely different world. That results in certain inner conflicts... ...But hopefully one day the things that you leave behind and the experiences that you gather in different phases of your life will come together as a whole

Lackner: Why did you start all over again in Hollywood? You had already been a star in Mexico.

Hayek: Yes, the country worships its stars. And it enslaves them mercilessly. When you are popular in Mexico, you don’t have a single moment to yourself any more. You’re recognized everywhere, the stories in the press pursue you. Besides, I wanted to prove to myself, that I could achieve something. I was so successful in my early years, I knew that the camera liked me. I was famous, but how good was I really? That’s why I went to Hollywood.

Lackner: Was your intention from the start to produce as well?

Hayek: N, “El Colonel” was my acid test. There wasn’t sufficient money, legal problems; the whole project threatened to bust. That’s when I went out to get the money. Even my agent was impressed, didn’t think me capable of that. Then the shooting began, but suddenly the financing collapsed. I went out again. At the end they accepted me in the credits as a producer.

Lackner: Does that reflect the new self-confidence of the American Latino Community?

Hayek: This invisible wall that Latinos could never overcome, begins to crumble. They finally understand in this film industry which is entirely defined by money, how many Latinos live in the United States. 32 million potential customers, a minority that is growing rapidly and above all it’s enthusiastic about movies. That’s why, all of a sudden, we see Latinos on screen. Talent has only little to do with that.

Lackner: Are you worried that you’ll always be categorized?

Hayek: Basically I’m not afraid of anything. I rather think it’s quite normal that they cast me according to my type. When they look for somebody with fire, (ding-dong), Salma Hayek comes to their mind. Whenever they put me in this category, I just try to make the roles more interesting. And since I now have a place at the negotiating table, I can try to get other roles for myself. But I don’t take this tendency personal, that’s just how this industry operates. One thing I learned - precisely the one line of business, whose assets are creativity and imagination, is dominated by managers who are lacking just that.

Lackner: Would a place behind the camera be the next logical move?

Hayek: Why logical? I am not that presumptuous to believe that I can do everything now. Directing is again a whole different ball game. I just have too much respect for that. I hope that there’ll’ be lots and lots more movies ahead of me. And if I’m very lucky, maybe there’ll be one amongst them that’s going to become a classic one day.

Lackner: Did you always rebel against the rules?

Hayek: No, but I am extremely headstrong. And in this business that’s very good. Actually I’m a person who lacks discipline. My father was very angry when I left college. He thought that was just a fixed idea. But when he realized how hard I was working at it, he supported me. It was only through acting that I achieved what I had always been lacking. Strong discipline, the will to hold out and structured work. And along with that an instinct, which is innate. That’s what helped me to survive in Hollywood.