By NANCY MILLS
Salma Hayek is ready for many more closeups. Sure, she
was handpicked by Will Smith to play the mysterious woman who tantalizes Smith, Kevin
Kline and villain Kenneth Branagh in "Wild Wild West," opening Wednesday. But
the camera jumps so fast in this action-adventure that she's off-screen more often than
she'd like. And she wants to change all that.
"The studios are always surprised and shocked to hear people say they'd like to
see more of me," says Hayek, who does manage to display considerable backside
cleavage in "West" in a comic pajama scene.
"The studios say, Gosh, when your name comes on the screen, everyone
screams.' They've been telling me this for five years, but they still don't get it. I
think it's the accent," which is softly South of the Border.
Hayek, who likes to refer to herself irreverently as "a Mexican jumping
bean," is gradually wearing them down. Filmmaker Kevin Smith asked her to play a muse
in his controversial new movie "Dogma," opening later this year with Ben Affleck
and Matt Damon. And last month, Warner Bros. hired her to play a detective in "Shiny
New Enemies," now shooting with Jeff Goldblum.
Leaving nothing to chance, Hayek hired herself as the star and co-producer of "The
Velocity of Gary," an independent film about a bisexual love triangle, opening July
16. Her co-stars are Vincent D'Onofrio and Thomas Jane.
"Nobody's going to go see Gary,'" Hayek worries. "I did it for the
pleasure of doing a part I wanted to get my teeth into."
Hayek is just 30, but she looks more like a little girl playing dress-up than sexpot
Rita Escobar in "Wild Wild West."
"What I responded to in Rita is that she likes adventure," says Hayek, who
conducts her onscreen adventures in a variety of chest-displaying outfits. "I liked
that she's very naive and, at the same time, clever and manipulative. People really want
to see me as a sexy woman, [but] there's more to me than that."
In other words, don't hark back too much to the famous nude love scene she had with
Antonio Banderas in his hit 1995 cult film "Desperado." She says she has no
intention of capitalizing on her curvy figure.
"I'm against the concept of working out," she says. "I refuse to become
part of this perfect-body syndrome. I work so hard that if I have one hour, I want to
read, play in the garden, cook or watch a movie. I don't want to go to the gym and smell
everyone's sweat and be in pain so I can be accepted by society.
"Everybody tries to make me feel bad about myself. One guy I dated said,
You're beautiful, but you're soft.' I said, Very nice to have met you.
Hayek finally found someone who appreciated her English actor Edward Atterton,
her co-star in TNT's 1997 "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." They have been together
for more than two years.
Her commitment to Atterton, however, doesn't mean that she is now any less committed to
"I have this overdrive," she says. "From the very beginning, I said,
I want to do this.' But the important thing is not that I do it, but that I died
knowing that I tried to do it and that I did the best I could. I didn't want to die famous
in Mexico knowing that I settled for something I didn't want. How unhappy I'd have been
doing one Mexican soap after another. I'd have gone crazy."
Now, eight years later, she's crazy with work. Her production company, Ventanarosa, is
developing both Spanish and English projects for her.
"When I'm doing a movie, that's when I relax," Hayek says. "As stressful
as it can be, as much pressure as it should be, making movies is still the place where I
feel the most at ease and I truly enjoy it. That's why I make so many."
Born: Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, Sept. 2, 1968
Parents: Sami, in the oil business, and Diana, former opera singer
Sibling: Sami Jr., 27
First Big Break: "Teresa," a Mexican soap opera, in 1991
Movies: "Mi Vida Loca," "Desperado," "From Dusk to Dawn,"
"Fair Game," "Fools Rush In," "Fled," "54,"
"The Faculty," "No One Writes to the Colonel"
Turning Point: "I borrowed money from a friend, Elizabeth Avellan, [director]
Robert Rodriguez' wife. I didn't even ask for it. She said: I'm not letting you go
back to Mexico. It's not just because I'm your friend, but I want to go pay $7.50 to see
you in movies because that's how talented you are.' Thanks to her, I stayed."