Breaking the mould
INTERVIEW: She’s a pint-sized firecracker, not afraid to let her hair down – take her earrings off – and have fun. DONALD CLARKEenjoys the company of Mexican actor and film producer Salma Hayek
LOOK AT ME now! I’m taking these off. So, look at me now.” After inclining either side of her head towards me, Salma Hayek wearily removes her earrings and emits a satisfied sigh. The relevant items of jewellery – she seems to want you to know – dangled green stones to a depth of about half an inch.
If we know two things about the Mexican actor, it is that she is very short and she is very good fun. Salma doesn’t stand up during our meeting, so I can’t tell if she’s as tiny as rumour suggests. But she’s certainly a proper riot.
Now 46, she recently married François-Henri Pinault, a staggeringly rich French businessman, and moved to a suave area of Paris. Knowing what French women are like, I imagine she feels obliged to dress this smartly at all times.
“That is an issue. That is an issue,” she says with a vigorous nod. “But, hey, it’s the least I can do. There are so many other wonderful things about Paris. It’s the least I can do. I love it in Paris.” But she’s so far from home. Daughter of an opera singer and an oil executive, Salma Hayek Jiménez was raised in Veracruz and attended university in Mexico City. It’s been 20 years since she left home for Hollywood. But nobody could ever mistake her for anything other than a Mexican.
“I miss so many things about Mexico,” she sighs. “There is that sense of relaxation within people. They are always ready to be your best friend. You don’t get this guardedness you find everywhere else. There is this sense of humour. There is an ability to laugh at everything. Things don’t work well. So we have to improvise.”
Hang on. This sounds familiar. “In many ways the Mexicans are not so far from the Irish. If I tried to find a nation to compare , it would be the Irish.”
Hayek is in London to promote her appearance in the latest festival of noise and bombast from Oliver Stone. In Savages, she excels as a savage drug magnate who will stop at nothing to achieve her megalomaniac ends. It’s a cracking turn: part Scarface, part Wicked Witch of the West.
“It’s difficult to get parts where you’re a woman with power. And Oliver Stone is not known for his female roles. Watching trailers for the action films this summer, it’s all bang, bang. There’s all this testosterone. But I think maybe Oliver has got in touch with his feminine side in this film.”