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Deauville Film Festival: Salma Hayek Reflects on Her Long Career

Salma Hayek
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

The Oscar-nominated actress is honored for a career that has spanned over two decades and led the way for Mexican actresses.

Though Salma Hayek may be a bit young for the Deauville American Film Festival to honor her career— "for those who are wondering: 46, and no Botox!" she beamed— at her press conference, she was ready to look back on a career that first began in the 1980s in Mexican soap operas, and transitioned to Hollywood in 1991.

With her husband, PPR capo François-Henri Pinault and four-year-old daughter Valentina in the front row, Hayek teared up recalling the serendipitous funding of her “passion project since I was 14,” Frida, when a private funder wrote a check at the 11th hour, just as executive producer Harvey Weinstein had threatened to take the project over himself.

"I’m going to scare my daughter," Hayek sniffled. "She’s never seen me cry!" (Valentina didn’t look too worried, snapping iPhone pictures of her mother throughout.)

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Looking all the way back to her childhood in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, she credited the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for inspiring her love of movies and acting in the first place.

"I realized in cinema you could have a river made out of chocolate, chew gum and then burp yourself back down to earth, take flowers made out of candy and eat them," she explained. "I was always a bit sad, being raised Catholic, at the idea that we only got to live one life, so acting was my way of cheating this concept. As an actress, I can live many lives and I’ve been many different people.” Though she added, “Now I believe in reincarnation so I’m not as anxious."

Writer-director Robert Rodriguez and his ex-wife and former producing partner Elizabeth Avillar will always hold a special place in herheart, too. "Elizabeth is the first one who called me, after Robert saw me complaining on Mexican TV that there were no parts for Mexicans in Mexico. If it weren’t for those two, I wouldn’t be here today."

She continued, "I’m grateful to everyone who gave me an opportunity but strangely there hasn’t been that many. I’ve had to fight very, very hard for every silly small role.”

Of course with Rodriguez’ 1995 film Desperado, those bit parts playing nurses and maids were a thing of the past, and two years later, with Fools Rush In, opposite

Deauville marks the French premiere of Oliver Stone’s Savages, in which Hayek plays a pot-dealing kingpin, and though Hayek loved working with Stone, who she said let her give a lot of character input, the process frustrated her.

"(Stone) wouldn’t let me do more than one take!" she exclaimed. "The other actors got more than one and with me no. I wanted to spend more time in the character, but Oliver liked what he saw. He didn’t want to play with me anymore!"

Still, the truncated experience is a gauge for Hayek to measure how far she, and other Latinos and women in Hollywood, have come.

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"When I started, everyone said there was no chance for a Mexican actress with an accent to have a career. Maybe a maid in a small part, because if it’s a maid with a big part, the maid is blonde! Maybe the wife of a drug dealer with one line or just crying. Today you can be the queen of the drug cartel!"

Though she admitted to having considered quitting acting after the birth of her daughter, Hayek is now happy to extend what she sees as "my maybe 15 minutes left as an actress." After that, she will take a seat in the director’s chair again, which has been empty for her since the 2003 TV drama The Maldonado Miracle.

Though Hayek doesn’t have any projects lined up at the moment, "it’s what I like to do the most the most the most. But please don’t write about it because nobody wants to hire an actress who wants to be a director. Forget about it, it’s death.”

Something tells us that in her case, they’ll make an exception.