Salma Hayek: Latin Punch

Salma Hayek's transition from soap star in Mexico to movie star in America did not happen overnight, but she has sure been successful.

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Latin American audiences who hung on Salma Hayek's every tantrum in "Teresa," Mexico's most popular soap opera, were taken aback when the actress upped and bolted from the series four years ago. Guided by big-screen dreams and burning ambition, Hayek made tracks for LA without a job or any knowledge of the English language.

"Everybody thought it was crazy and stupid and ridiculous," she explains. "Nobody leaves when you're doing so good, but I believe in instinct."

Instinct's important, yes, and so is having director pals like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Taranttno. Three of her new films are directed by Rodriguez: Desperado, the El Mariachi sequel starring Antonio Banderas (she plays his love interest); Four Rooms, the movie that's directed by four different filmmakers (she's in Rodriguez's segment); and From Dusk 'Til Dawn, which is directed by Rodriguez but written by Tarantino. (She vehemently swears that there's no romantic link with either of the auteurs.) On top of that, Hayek is mixing big-studio puff (Cindy Crawford's Fair Game) with hyper-arty fare (Mexico's Callejon de Los Milagros). "It's fun to come to America and do action projects, but I always want to go back to Mexico and make art films," says Hayek. What does she get from Mexican indies that she doesn't get in the U.S.? "Mexican independent film-makers treat issues deeper, you have more time, it's a different process. But they don't give you a trailer."

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Jonathan Bernstein



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