Salma Hayek is a very independent woman. She may be married to a billionaire (Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of PPR, the French luxury goods and clothing manufacturer), but she still pays her own bills and looks after her family on her own.
“It’s important to me that I keep working and earn my own money,” Hayek says. “I still like to feel independent, pay my own bills, and not turn into a society lady. I know how to behave if I’m invited to Buckingham Palace and observe the protocol, but then I’ll go back to my ranch and feed the chickens.”
This is the feisty mantra that Hayek brings to her world. Now 48, she enjoys a very full and happy life that revolves around her husband, his two older children, and their 7-year-old daughter Valentina. Though she took time a few years off from acting after giving birth, Salma has been seen of late in films like Oliver Stone’s and this year’s action film Everly.
She also developed and produced The Prophet, based on the eponymous book by Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese poet and philosopher that Hayek’s beloved Lebanese grandfather kept by his bedside, and from which he would read to her when she was a little girl.
This month she’s going to be strutting the fabled Croisette at Cannes where her new film Tale of Tales, directed by Italy’s Matteo Garrone, is entered in the official competition. Then, in September, Salma will play Pierce Brosnan’s love interest in How To Make Love Like an Englishman. She was recently named the new face of the Pomelatto jewelry line, replacing Tilda Swinton.
Hayek and her husband Pinault spend most of the year living in London after leaving France two years ago in the wake of harsh new tax laws imposed by France’s Socialist government. They still spend considerable time at Pinault’s massive estate in the French countryside, however, where Salma likes to cook for Pinault and his two children Francois, 18, and Mathilde, 15, from a previous marriage, and youngster Valentina.
Hayek still admits that she has a hard time not “being the kind of mother who is always fussing over my daughter, even though that’s my nature.”
Recently, when discussing her life with husband Pinault, Hayek offered this secret to the success of their marriage: “You’re going to laugh… (The key is to) find the right guy. It’s so hard because there are so few of them. It’s very important that they support you. They should never make you feel bad or insecure. What’s important in a marriage is generosity, thoughtfulness, thinking of the other person all of the time… Spend quality time together. And don’t forget (that) over the years.”
Q: Salma, you’ve always spoken about how you come from a long line of independent women. Is that how you’re raising Valentina?
HAYEK: I encourage her to be creative and adventurous. She’s surrounded by a lot of strong women in our family and I hope that she grows up to appreciate that and find her own way in life. Women still need to define and assert ourselves more in society, and it’s my dream that Valentina will be able to make her mark in the world in whatever way she chooses to do.
Q: You had to fight your way up the ladder in Hollywood. What challenges are women still facing when it comes to finding good roles?
HAYEK: There aren’t enough of them for women. Too many stories only give women secondary kinds of parts where we’re not involved in driving the story the way men are. It’s changing and we’re seeing more women doing comedies and playing in action films. That’s a good sign. But there’s still an age bias we have to face.
I was told when I came to Hollywood that by the time I hit 35 my career would be finished! But I’m still working and I’ve been getting some good roles. I would like to find some really great roles in the future. I still don’t think I’ve done my best work yet.
Q: Do you worry about turning 50 next year?
HAYEK: In the past, when I tried to imagine what I would look like and what my life would be like at this age, I was terrified. I imagined myself looking old, but instead I think I still look OK, and I’m fine with my appearance. For too many generations, women have suffered from this terrible lie that age 50 is kind of like falling off a cliff. Women have believed that for so long that we would act and feel as if we were finished, and that we surrendered to that myth. Fortunately, we’ve stopped believing that…50 is a great age where we can be very productive and happy and not feel limited by anything. I’ve realised that I can still be beautiful and attractive as I approach 50. I feel very good about my life.
Q: Let’s talk about some of your upcoming films. How proud are you of your work as producer of your animated film, The Prophet, based on the work of Kahlil Gibran, and coming to Beirut to present the film?
HAYEK: Visiting Beirut and coming to Lebanon has been an old dream of mine to visit Gibran’s birth place. I hope this film will show to the world that there is an Arabic writer, who wrote philosophy and poetry, who brought all religions and all the world together, and has sold more than 100 million copies around the world for many generations. We wanted to do (him) justice: we want the world to remember him.
Q: You’re also acting in a major new film, Il Racconto dei racconti (A Tale of Tales,) which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and is directed by Italy’s Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah.) How did you wind up working with him in Italy?
HAYEK: I knew all about Matteo because one of my best friends, Valeria Golino, whom I got to know in Los Angeles, is Italian. She’s a woman that I love and has been a real source of inspiration for my life. One day she called Matteo and the next thing was that Matteo called me on the phone and said: “I would like you to be in my film.” I almost fainted.
He explained to me that his film involving telling three stories from a female perspective. There are very few directors I know who are capable of doing this: Woody Allen, but not always, and Pedro Almodóvar …. Remember the scene in Jerry Maguire where Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise “You had me at hello.” Matthew didn’t even have to win me over with “female perspective”. I think I was probably already on board when he said, “Hi, this is Matteo Garrone.”
Q: You and your husband Francois-Henri Pinault were married in Italy, weren’t you?
HAYEK: Yes. I love Italy. I took my first trip there when I was two with my parents. I’ve visited there with Valeria (Golino), with my parents, and I’ve gone there on my own.
Q: You were married in Venice just like George Clooney?
HAYEK: Yes, but he copied me! (Laughs) I travel to Italy every year with my husband and I always love going to the Venice Film Festival. I once shot a movie with Mike Figgis in Venice….Italy is a very beautiful country and the people are so passionate. I’m very Latin in my thinking and that’s why I love Italians and their culture so much.
Q: You’ve also done another film, How to Make Love Like an Englishman?
HAYEK: It’s a sex comedy and it was great being able to work with Pierce. We had worked together before (After the Sunset) about ten years ago and it was so much fun getting to catch up again. This business can be strange when you form these friendships on a project and then such a long time to work with someone again or maybe you never see each other except at a film festival by chance.
Q: You live in London now but you also still spend a lot of the year in Paris. What’s your life like these days?
HAYEK: My daughter Valentina goes to school in London so this is where we spend most of the year now. For me it’s so important to be with her as much as possible. I waited a long time to have a child and now that I have Valentina in my life I feel so deeply responsible to her as a mother. I have to make sure that I don’t try to do everything for her, but it’s hard.
Q: Has being a mother made it more difficult for you to want to spend several months on a film set away from Valentina?
HAYEK: I’ve never been away from her for more than two weeks and if I have a chance to do a film where it would be too difficult for her to be on the set with me, then I won’t do it. And when I travel, Valentina will either spend time with my aunt or my mother, or with her father. But Valentina wants me to do more movies. She keeps telling me that she doesn’t want me to turn down jobs because of her. She says that whenever I get a good role offered to me, I have to take it! She’s turning into my manager! (Laughs)
Q: What do you think is the secret of your marriage?
HAYEK: My husband is a strong, confident man and he has always appreciated my independent character. He’s not afraid of a strong woman and that has been one of the great strengths of our marriage. He respects me and has always encouraged me to work and fulfill myself. I’m very lucky.
Q: Do you still have a lot of house pets?
HAYEK: Of course! (Laughs) I have nine dogs. I have a home for abandoned dogs. And then two horses. Without a tail. I have an alpaca, and parrots, rabbits, and chickens. They all live on my ranch (house) in Los Angeles. In London I have just a dog. I had a hamster, but he died. I wanted to have a miniature pig in the house, but I’m going to give it to my friend Valeria instead – my husband has had enough of my animals. (Laughs)