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Salma Hayek first scorched stateside cineplexes as the fiery border town bookseller who romances Antonio Banderas' vengeful "mariachi" in "Desperado" (1995). A favorite of the film's renegade writer-director Robert Rodriguez, the former telenovela star from Mexico gained a foothold in the American movie business in independent film and as a favorite on men's magazines "Sexiest" lists. Spokesmodel work for cosmetics companies further banked on her hourglass figure and smoldering on-screen charisma, but Hayek proved to have far bigger ambitions than to be another piece of Hollywood eye candy. Among her biggest box office hits was a leading role in the Will Smith summer blockbuster "Wild Wild West" (1999), though her most acclaimed performance was her Academy Award-nominated starring role as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in "Frida" (2002), which Hayek, as producer, worked for years to bring to the big screen. She went on to earn significant respect for executive producing the ABC comedy "Ugly Betty" (2006- ), which she helped adapt from its original format as a daily Columbian soap, and earned a Daytime Emmy for directing the family film "The Maldonado Miracle" (2003) for Showtime. Hayek valiantly tried...
Salma Hayek first scorched stateside cineplexes as the fiery border town bookseller who romances Antonio Banderas' vengeful "mariachi" in "Desperado" (1995). A favorite of the film's renegade writer-director Robert Rodriguez, the former telenovela star from Mexico gained a foothold in the American movie business in independent film and as a favorite on men's magazines "Sexiest" lists. Spokesmodel work for cosmetics companies further banked on her hourglass figure and smoldering on-screen charisma, but Hayek proved to have far bigger ambitions than to be another piece of Hollywood eye candy. Among her biggest box office hits was a leading role in the Will Smith summer blockbuster "Wild Wild West" (1999), though her most acclaimed performance was her Academy Award-nominated starring role as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in "Frida" (2002), which Hayek, as producer, worked for years to bring to the big screen. She went on to earn significant respect for executive producing the ABC comedy "Ugly Betty" (2006- ), which she helped adapt from its original format as a daily Columbian soap, and earned a Daytime Emmy for directing the family film "The Maldonado Miracle" (2003) for Showtime. Hayek valiantly tried to translate both her looks and intelligence into worthy film roles with varying degrees of success. However, it was her instincts as producer and director which earned consistent accolades.
Born Salma Hayek Jimenez on Sept. 2, 1966, the actress was raised in the Mexican port city of Coatzacoalcos, Vera Cruz. Hayek's oil executive father was of Lebanese descent and her opera-singing mother of Spanish descent. With her exotic racial makeup, her distinctive looks were turning heads even when she was just, by her own words, a "flat girl." Hayek spent part of her childhood in the United States, including two years at a Catholic boarding school in Louisiana from which she was ejected and several teen years living with her aunt in Houston, TX. She returned to Mexico to attend Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, but eventually drifted away from her International Relations courses to pursue acting. In 1989, she won the hearts of her countrymen when she landed the title role of the comely bad girl protagonist on "Teresa," an extremely popular primetime telenovela. Fearing that Mexican audiences valued her looks more than her thespian skills, Hayek left Mexico at the height of her television fame in 1991 and headed for L.A. where she studied acting at the Stella Adler Studio and made a concerted effort to improve her English, which proved a challenge considering the actress' teen diagnosis of dyslexia. It was also upon her arrival that she famously cold-called the William Morris Agency for representation, asking to speak to the long-deceased William Morris, himself.
The newcomer began to make a dent in Hollywood in 1993, landing a recurring character role on "The Sinbad Show" (Fox, 1993-94), and a small supporting role in Allison Anders' well-regarded indie feature "Mi Vida Loca" (My Crazy Life) (1993) while eschewing stereotypical offers to play explosive mistresses and sexy maids. Up-and-coming writer-director Robert Rodriguez helped fuel her career when he cast her opposite Antonio Banderas in the stylish but violent cult favorite "Desperado" (1995), the sequel to Rodriquez' 1992 acclaimed low-budget marvel "El Mariachi." After the moderate box office hit and big Hollywood buzz, Hayek returned to Mexico to shoot the Spanish language art film "Midaq Alley/El Callejon de los Milagros" (1995). She had an unremarkable supporting role in Cindy Crawford's lambasted film debut "Fair Game" (1995), but Rodriguez continued to give Hayek her most interesting opportunities, with a cameo in his segment of the ill-conceived feature "Four Rooms" (1995) and a role as a blood-sucking snake-dancer in the Quentin Tarantino-scripted vampire outing, "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), directed by Rodriguez.
While now known on the indie film circuit, Hayek had yet to truly go wide in a mainstream picture and was struggling to find a niche in Hollywood. Under the assumption that her drop-dead gorgeous looks might make sense in romantic pairings, she was cast opposite Matthew Perry in the underperforming romantic comedy "Fools Rush In" (1997). Playing a Mexican woman who hastily marries an American and then proceeds to fall in love with him, Hayek made a valiant effort, but critics and audiences were not impressed. She was next paired with Russell Crowe in "Breaking Up" (1997), a film about a couple who constantly separate and reconcile, which was deemed lackluster enough to be released directly to home video. She fared somewhat better as the fiery gypsy dancer Esmeralda to Mandy Patinkin's "The Hunchback" (1997) in the TNT TV-movie. In 1998, Hayek seemed positioned to become a huge name with her starring role as a coat check girl and aspiring singer in "54," a chronicle of the notorious 1970s New York discotheque. Eleventh hour re-shoots and changes to the love-triangle storyline cut Hayek's screen time short, and the resulting film proved to be a homogenized disappointment to audiences and critics alike.
While Hayek sought to be known primarily for her acting, her exotic looks and curvy figure continued to earn the most renown, and in 1998 she made a rather historic mark as one of the first Latinas signed as a spokesmodel for Revlon cosmetics. Hot on the heels of that honor, she finally enjoyed a blockbuster breakout with a leading role in "Wild Wild West" (1999), the sci-fi Western anchored by Will Smith. Her indie film street cred was tapped by director Kevin Smith, who cast her as a muse in his controversial ensemble comedy "Dogma" (1999), and the same year Hayek produced her first theatrical feature, a Spanish language adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "El Coronel No Tiene Quien le Escriba" (1999) in which she also starred. Hayek played a Playboy model-turned-cop in the straight to video comic heist "Chain of Fools" (2000) but followed up with a commitment to more serious fare, taking a small role in Steven Soderbergh's acclaimed anti-drug drama "Traffic" (2000) and appearing as a sexually controlling actress in Mike Figgis' experimental multi-screen drama, "Timecode" (2000).
Hayek starred in and produced the Showtime feature "In the Time of Butterflies" (2001) and the following year, "Frida" (2002), her labor-of-love production about Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo, hit screens and cemented the producer and star's reputation as a serious talent. Reaction to the beautifully shot film - directed by avant garde auteur Julie Taymor and co-starring Alfred Molina as Kahlo's artist husband Diego Rivera - was mixed, but Hayek's passionate performance was roundly praised and she was finally able to transcend both her sex symbol status and the limits of her ethnicity to receive an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress. She reunited with director Rodriguez first in a humorous cameo in his family film hit "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" (2003) and then to reprise her role as Carolina in the successful third outing in his El Mariachi series, "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" (2003). The actress-turned-producer next turned director with "The Maldonado Miracle" (Showtime, 2003), earning a Daytime Emmy award for deftly handling the family film that addressed such delicate subjects as immigration and the existence of miracles. Returning to the big screen, Hayek demonstrated highly combustible chemistry with co-star Pierce Brosnan in the cliché caper comedy "After the Sunset" (2004).
The entertaining period adventure "Bandidas" (2006), co-starring Hayek and Penelope Cruz as gun-wielding turn-of-the-century Robin Hoodettes, never made it to theaters. The disappointing screen adaptation of John Fante's classic "Ask the Dust" (2007), where Hayek co-starred opposite Colin Farrell as the forbidden immigrant love of a Depression-era Los Angeles novelist, should have been shelved but hit a limited release long enough to rack up negative reviews. However Hayek's big screen missteps were overshadowed by enormous prime time success with "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006- ), an American adaptation of the popular Colombian telenovela "Betty La Fea" (RCN, 1999-2001) which was executive-produced and adapted for American audiences by Hayek. The hour-long comedy about a working class young woman (America Ferrara) navigating the sophisticated and catty world of a New York fashion magazine instantly captured the public's attention. Hayek's guest-starring appearances as the magazine's editor helped boost its first season ratings and earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.
Hayek's film acting career remained hit-or-miss, with a co-starring role as a real-life 1940s career criminal in "Lonely Hearts" (2007), barely hitting theaters despite generally positive reviews. The same year she was tapped by "Frida" director Julie Taymor to showcase her singing in the popular Beatles-based musical "Across the Sea" (2007), Hayek gave birth to a daughter in the fall, though by the following spring her engagement to French executive Francois-Henri Pinualt was called off. "Ugly Betty" was renewed again in 2008 with Hayek making a guest appearance on another popular female-helmed comedy, "30 Rock" (NBC, 2006-) and in 2009 she returned to film in an adaptation of a popular children's book series, "Cirque du Freak" (2009), in which she played a bearded woman in a traveling freak show.
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"I aim for a lifetime full of movies. I want to work for a long, long time and keep growing in my work, and if I am very lucky and very blessed, maybe somewhere along the line there will be one movie in there that becomes a classic."---Salma Hayek in Interview, February 1997.
"I'm going to do the kinds of roles I want to be doing and give up the sexier parts. People may not want me as much in those kinds of roles. I may not be as popular, but that's the price you pay, and, right now, I'm willing to pay the price. Of course, I'm still young, and I could find what I really want is to be popular and to just keep wearing dresses slit up to there, you know?"---Hayek quoted in Movieline, January 1997.
"I have gotten a lot more attention than some of the other women that I find incredibly beautiful. And this has happened to me ever since I was a girl, when I was flat, had no teeth, was skinny and small as I could be. I always got more attention than anyone else. If I hadn't, I would have made sure I did. But there is also a relationship some people can establish with the camera that others can't. It's got nothing to do with talent. It's nothing you've earned. I learned in Mexico that the lens likes me, but I kept thinking, 'I'm famous, but am I good?' It wasn't enough for me to be famous. Now, I'm trying more and more to be good at what I do."---Hayek in Movieline, January 1997.
" ... why, asks her mom, is she still single? 'I'll get married when I find a man who has more COJONES [balls] than I do.'"---Hayek to Paul Young in Buzz, August 1995.
"When I got here I was told I needed an agent, so I got the number for William Morris..." [She picks up an invisible phone and pretends to be dailing. Then, in mock receptionist-ese] William Morris agency. 'I'd like to speak to Mr. Morris. Hello? Can I please speak to Mr. Morris?' He's dead. 'I hang up. I call again... Hello can I speak to Mr. Morris's son?' Because in Mexico, when someone dies their son always takes over. They hang up on me. I call again and say, 'Who's in charge?' And she's about to hang up, I yell, 'Bitch!' And ultimately, I ended up at William Morris. But that was much later."---Hayek quoted to Premiere, Septeber 2002.
"It's gotten better because I generate my own parts. I do get more things offered. But it's not like Hollywood is thinking more broadly about casting Latins. It's because of the money you [Latins] represent internationally. It's not out of any respect for your [Latin] culture."---Hayek quoted to Premiere
"To dream big doesn't necessarily mean to imagine becoming the biggest movie star in the world. Dreaming big is about taking the simplest thing in life and enjoying it, and seeing it as the biggest thing that can possibly exist."---Hayek quoted to O Magazine, September 2003.
"Men who are too vain turn me off. They're posing and trying so hard to impress you that you don't feel like you are ever with them. I can't speak for all women, but what I want from a man is honesty and partnership."---Hayek to InStyle, September 2003.
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