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Puss in Boots – Salma Hayek interview

Puss in Boots

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SALMA Hayek talks about reuniting with Antonio Banderas for animated spin-off Puss in Boots and why she feels she shares some things in common with her character.

She also reveals the unflattering nickname she was given as a kid growing up and how working in the recording booth resulted in a near-death experience.

Q. Are there any similarities between you and your character?
Salma Hayek: Well, I am very independent, and I have a great sense of adventure. And I do feel that I have a lot of similarities with my character, but want to clarify that I am not a thief. In this manner we are not alike at all.

Q. What films inspired you when you were younger?
Salma Hayek: More than inspire me they sent me to the shrink. First it was Bambi, you know, which gave me a real depression at the age of six because the mother dies and that’s it, she doesn’t come back, she doesn’t revive. So it confronted me with death, and I’m still working on that one. Then there was, of course, all the princesses, those films messed me up because they made you think there’s going to be a prince that’s going to come and rescue you, and if you’re sort of cute you don’t have to do much in life, which is not true. So I had to deal with that one for a long time.

But then came Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. This was a redemption, because somehow something clicked in my brain and I understood that there was a place in the world where anything could happen, where there were no limitations and the river could be made out of chocolate and you could chew some gum that was going to make you fly, and then you could burp yourself back to Earth. This is what made me want to be an actress because I realised there was a place in the world called films, where you could go and you had no limitations.

Q. So is it fair to say that Gene Wilder changed your life?
Salma Hayek: Absolutely. Gene Wilder and Antonio Banderas, that’s it.

Q. Can you tell us about your near-injury in the recording booth – was this true or a fiction?
Salma Hayek: It’s true. I can’t really tell it exactly how it was, but we were recording in a studio and all of a sudden the wall came down. I barely moved out, and it crushed the chair! It was really scary. It sounds funny, but it really crushed the chair that I was in. Also, Chris [Miller, director] got away barely also. We were working in Boston I think. But what was really strange, and I think it is like peripheral vision or foresight, but I was talking in the mike when all of a sudden, my instincts just told me to ‘run’. I didn’t know why. Maybe part of my eye caught something. But I said my line and then I ran. And seconds later, ‘boom’! If I had not run and thought about what was going on, it would have been very bad.

Q. So, could we suggest that you may have used up one of your nine lives?
Salma Hayek: Yeah. Can I ask a question? I have a question for England. Is it nine lives here? Because it is seven in Mexico! Spanish and Mexican cats have only seven lives. I’m really pissed off about this! I think it is the English conquistadors – they stole the lives of the cats and gave them away [laughs].

Q. At the beginning of the movie, Puss recalls his aliases and nicknames. So, what were your nicknames when you were growing up?
Salma Hayek: Bitch! No, I’m just kidding [laughs]! Mine would not make sense in English. You guys are going to take the mickey out of me for the rest of my life! They still call me Salmita, my parents. I know that’s very boring. Actually, I was the youngest in my class and then when puberty hit and I was still looking like a little boy and all the girls were developing, and the boys used to call me ‘la nadadora’. But how do you translate that? It’s very difficult! Anyway, don’t worry because it doesn’t work anymore that joke! The nickname wouldn’t work today at all! It means ‘the swimmer’, but it also means ‘the girl who has nothing’. Nada means nothing and dora means door [gestures towards breasts and behind]. So, it wouldn’t work at all today [laughs].

Q. You’ve worked together with Antonio Banderas on-screen as actors, and now you’re in a recording studio, so how much more challenging is it to build a relationship in a recording studio?
Salma Hayek: After 18 years of knowing him, and working together on all these movies and being friends… we get together with the kids in between movies, so it was not challenging at all. As a matter of fact, I also knew his character so well because when you have a four-year-old you watch those films over and over and over and over! So, I felt like I had a ghost in the recording studio talking to me because I could almost hear him saying the lines… not to mention that [director] Chris Miller is such a good imitator of Antonio.

So, the relationship was very easy and it was so much fun to do it. I’ll tell you what was really great, though, every time I’ve had to work with Antonio [in the past] there were bruises, cuts and pain… herniated discs in my back and all kinds of things from all the crazy stunts that Robert Rodriguez gave us, which is another miracle that I’m not dead… that we survived! So, to be able to have that kind of jumping along the rooftops [in Puss in Boots] and to be able to be so athletic when you’re 45… to be able to have the animators do that so that you just have to put the voice to it, so there’s no pain and you don’t have to suffer was so cool.

Q. Puss likes to use his big eyes to get his own way. What techniques do you use to get your own way?
Salma Hayek: I think I’m very good at adjusting to anything and to any situation, and if you are good at being in the moment and adjusting, you can actually have a clear vision of what to do with things or how to do things. I think being able to be malleable is a great weapon and I’m a very, very good strategist. I create the most amazing strategies in my head and I have created the most extraordinary strategies in my head for my career… they haven’t offered me those parts that were in the plans of my strategy, so unfortunately I have not been able to make the most of my strategies.

However, I take it one day at a time, I see what comes in and where I am. Sometimes I decide not to make something because I am proud and think I am better than that – and then I realise I have to pay the rent and I have to take something which is even worse than all the other stuff they offer you because you were being so proud not to take it! But you adjust and sometimes for one reason or another there is no strategy at the end but there is the ability to do the best that you can with what you have. So, this is my weapon.

Q. What advice would you give to someone to get to where you are today?
Salma Hayek: This is not advice that anybody gave to me, but this is advice I would like to give to someone, and that is not to think about how to get to where someone else got but to figure out where it is that you have to get. And it’s strange, but I sort of gave that advice to myself. I did not have someone, and say: “I want that life, I want that career, I want to be like her…” There was not anyone I could do that with in my circumstances, because there were not Mexican actresses working in movies on the worldwide stage. So if I had followed someone else I would have never gotten here. Sometimes when we try to get outside of ourselves, to be like someone else, you miss out on so many beautiful things that you don’t know that you are because you’re looking at someone else. I think today that’s a very big problem because of the world we live in and the social media and everything… everybody is obsessed with their own identity, but seen through other people. And everybody lives very much outside of themselves, so this is my advice… try to figure out who you really are and not who you want other people to think you are.

Read our review of Puss in Boots

Read our interview with Antonio Banderas