Feature by: Jack Foley
SALMA Hayek was just 14-years-old when she first became fascinated
by the artist, Frida Kahlo, one of the worlds most coveted
female painters, who, since her death, has consistently smashed
international auction records, and who achieved all that she did
despite a lifetime of personal suffering and physical pain.
Speaking at a press conference in London, held to mark the UK
release of Frida, she explained that Frida's 'courage' was one
of the things that she found most inspiring, particularly when
approaching the making of the movie.
"Of all the things she was brave about, I admired
the most her courage to be unique," she explained.
"Her paintings were not liked by many, but she never
got influenced by people, and she never changed her style, whether
people liked it or not.
"She had quite an unconventional relationship with
Diego [Rivera], and I'm sure people felt he was not the best thing,
but she did everything in life her own way - in the way she dressed,
in the way she coped, in her house, everything about her was definitely
unique, without caring at all about what anybody thought and without
"On the contrary, she celebrated some of the things
that made her different; for example, her moustache, which she
exaggerated in her paintings."
Frida Kahlo's life was changed irreversibly at the age of 18,
when she was involved in a debilitating bus accident. She was
found, half naked, among the wreckage, bathed in blood and gold
dust, and impaled on a metal rod. Her spinal column, ribs, pelvis
and collarbone were shattered, her right foot was crushed and
her right leg, crippled years earlier by polio, was broken in
a dozen places.
The metal rod which impaled her also caused a deep abdominal
wound, leaving her unable to have children, and throughout her
life, the injuries she suffered as a result of the accident constantly
troubled her, meaning that she was forced to endure long periods
in immobilizing plaster casts and corsets, traction and, at times,
barbaric experimental operations.
Yet her spirit remained strong and, so long as she could continue
her painting, Frida frequently rose above her predicament to triumph
against adversity - living as colourful a life as many of her
And it was a story that Hayek wanted to honour, both as the actress
portraying the artist, and as one of the producers of the film,
which has subsequently been Oscar-nominated.
The film itself took many years to make, and was put together
on a modest budget, but thanks to the tenacity and passion shown
by both Hayek and director, Julie Taymor, as well as the connections
they were able to call upon, the story of Frida is a fitting tribute
to a remarkable woman.
But were there times when the actress felt that the film might
never get made, and what kept her going throughout the production
"Conviction, you know? I think that when you truly
believe in something, I'm willing to give my best fight,"
she explained. "If we had gone to these people and said,
'here's the best script that is out there, do you want to do it?',
I wouldn't have learned all the things I've learned; I wouldn't
have grown like I've grown.
"I know how to tell a story, I know how to put a movie
together, I know where to find the money. I had to force myself
to find the right director for the movie, because we went through
many directors, and many possibilities.
"We could have done this movie way before. But I didn't
want to settle for what was there, so it was my fault that it
didn't get going before, also. I was my biggest obstacle.
"But I learnt so many things that I could not begin
to tell you. So I feel very fortunate. Sometimes, it's very exhausing
with people trying to be kind to me, saying 'you've suffered so
much to get where you are; in a way, that's a position of 'oh
you should like me now, I've earned it'. But I don't want to take
that position; it's been a privilege to have the road that I've
Hayek went on to dismiss a suggestion, from one journalist, that
one of the most fascinating things about the project was that
she had beaten so many high-profile names (such as Madonna and
Jennifer Lopez) to completing it.
She explained: "It's interesting for me that you find
it fascinating that I beat other people. It was absolutely not
a part of the actual amazing journey that I took to make it.
"What's amazing to me is that it got going at all.
It's amazing to me that I was able to convince a studio to make
it, that I was able to convince Julie Taymor, and all these big
superstars to play small parts with no money and no perks.
"That we actually managed to put that script into
the form that it ended up, because there were so many possibilities
for this story, that was fascinating to me. As for other people
wanting to play this part, I find it absolutely logical, because
it is an amazing part, so why wouldn't other people make it?"
With that in mind, therefore, it is little wonder that Hayek
is so pleased with the three Oscar nominations the film has received,
particularly as the burden of expectation within Mexico, and among
fans of Frida, had been mounting in the days prior to the nominees
Asked whether she was excited about the prospect of the ceremony,
she took a deep breath, sighed, and delivered one of her trademark
smouldering smiles, before revealing: "Very, very,
very excited, especially since we have three...
"I'm also very excited that other friends of mine
are also nominated, friends like Renee Zellweger. And on this
movie, for instance, Felipe Fernandez, who's the production designer
on the movie, he's a very old friend, who I've known for 20 years.
"I thought a lot of people in the movie deserved a
nomination; certainly, everyone that's nominated and, certainly,
other people that didn't get nominated. But, it was such a tough
year, that I was very scared, because there was so much buzz,
and so much anticipation in Mexico, that I was really nervous.
So actually, with the first nomination, my feeling was of relief,
and all the others came, so..."
So, what next? Now that Hayek's dream project has
been realised and applauded, what could replace this passion in
the future (aside from the fact she has just finished directing
her debut movie, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival
She merely laughs and says: "Watch it, for I can be
very passionate about things that might not be as meaningful.
I would not try to replace it. I had a dream about it, I thought
about it, and now it's done, I will put it aside and have the
courage to dream a new one.
"But I'm not going to compare anything else to what
I set out to do with this one, I'll just enjoy whatever it is
- which is one lesson I've learned from Senora Frida Kahlo...."