AFTER THREE DECADES IN HOLLYWOOD, THE VETERAN ACTRESS IS BUSIER THAN EVER, WITH APPEARANCES IN ETERNALS AND HOUSE OF GUCCI, BUT SHE’S ALSO BEEN AT HER MOST HONEST, ESPECIALLY ON THE SUBJECT OF AGING IN SHOW BUSINESS
BY JOEL KELLER
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Salma Hayek can wax passionately and near-poetically about any topic. For instance, when she appeared on The Kelly Clarkson Show this past August, she talked about her role as Giuseppina (Pina) Auriemma in Ridley Scott’s new lm House Of Gucci and seemed elated that she didn’t need to be in top shape for the role.
“She’s not supposed to be super good looking, so it was good for me to gain some weight for it,” she told Clarkson. “And with all the pasta [in Rome, where the lm was shot], it was the perfect location to have a love affair with food and not feel guilty. It was like a dream come true!”
But then, in the next breath, Hayek shifted into another topic that she’s been passionate and honest about as of late: age. “Of course, now, when you’re 54 and you have to hit the reverse, it’s not as fast or as fun.”
The Coatzacoalcos, Mexico native, who has since turned 55, has always been open about how age has affected her, physically, emotionally, and in her career. This is despite the fact that Hayek doesn’t look that much different from when she first burst onto American screens in the 1990s.
For some women going through menopause, for instance.
“The boobs grow a lot,” she said on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook series Red Table Talk. “I happen to be one of those women. A lot of people said I had breast augmentation, and I don’t blame them. But my back has been suffering from all of it.” She also talked about mood swings and hot flashes, all of which she manages but hates, just like every other woman going through this inevitable change.
You almost never hear actors and other stars that are contemporaries of Hayek’s open up about the realities of aging. They’re usually talking about their fitness routines or their skin care regimens. But Hayek makes no bones about the pressure to stay a certain size being real.
“As you get older, you’re expected not to age,” she told InStyle in July. But she seems to be OK with the ups and downs, given “how much mileage I put on my body and how much pressure and judgment I put on it, my body has been incredibly generous. I don’t think I am some hot tamale, but I know that for my age, for the lifestyle that I live, I’m not doing too badly. And I attribute all of this to meditation.”
In House of Gucci, Hayek plays Auriemma, a close friend of Patrizia Reggiani, played by Lady Gaga. Reggiani has been nicknamed “Black Widow” since she was convicted for murder in the contract killing of her ex-husband Maurizio Gucci (played by Adam Driver) in 1995. The film, directed by Scott, depicts the time leading up to the murder and the events in its aftermath.
During interviews about the film, which was her first acting job since recovering from a serious case of COVID early in the pandemic, she had nothing but praise for Gaga. “Her level of commitment I’ve only seen maybe once or twice somebody commit to a character like she does,” she told Variety. “And she’s also a great team player.” She also praised the veteran director. “You feel a lot of freedom and you feel so safe [with Scott],” she said. “His attention to detail, nothing misses his eye nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.”
Before the pandemic started, Hayek filmed another high-profile film with an all-star cast: Eternals, the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the blockbuster, directed by Oscar winner Chloé Zhao, she plays Ajak, the spiritual leader of the Eternals, a group of super powered beings who have been fighting evil on earth for millennia.
Hayek was reluctant to meet with Marvel about the role, and her reasoning again has a lot to do with age. “I said, ‘God knows what kind of grandmother they want me to play,’” she joked to Entertainment Weekly. “I’m used to being [told] I’m going to be the extra or the old prostitute. And then they said the director was Chloé Zhao, and I said, ‘Okay! Let’s have the meeting!’”
She describes Ajak this way during an official press interview for Marvel: “We are not from planet earth. We have come here with a mission to evolve humankind and save them from the deviants. They’re under my command.” She continued: “It is the most diverse cast in the history of superheroes. There are many characters that you’ve never seen before in a superhero movie.”
As with everyone who gets a chance to star in a Marvel film, Hayek sees the benefits of lobbying Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige to have Ajak appear in other MCU films. “I’d love to have some philosophical conversations with Deadpool,” she joked in a junket interview with ScreenRant.
Because the pandemic wreaked havoc on movie release schedules, viewers saw a lot of Hayek in the last two years. She reprised her role of Sonia Kinkaid in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, the sequel to the 2017 film The Hitman’s Bodyguard. She also starred with Owen Wilson in the independent film Bliss, Javier Bardem in The Roads Not Taken, and Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne in the comedy Like A Boss
After a busy and eventful two years, what’s the next project Hayek wants to tackle? One that’s very personal to her, as she told InStyle, a film she has written and wants to direct. “I’m highly dyslexic,” she told the magazine. “English is my second language, and I’m not a good writer. But this was too personal and too complicated for me to find a writer to do it, so I had to write it myself. It’s a completely original script, and I emphasize ‘original.’ The problem is, it’s not a cheap movie.”