Being cast in “sexy” parts as a young actress does not mean Hollywood was exploiting me, Salma Hayek has argued, as she reveals how she learned to treat men “like children” to get where she wanted.
Hayek, the actress and producer, said she and filmmakers had “used each other” in her rise to fame, after she took the conscious decision to take on roles and change things from the inside.
Wearing revealing or tight clothes did not make her “less of a feminist”, she added, revealing she had taken the approach that “all men are children” in finding a way to “lovingly” persuade them to help boost the profile of women in film.
Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival as part of a Kering Women in Motion panel, Hayek was asked whether she felt exploited by Hollywood after being offered roles which played on her looks as an up-and-coming actress.
Shaking her head, she said: “I think we used each other. They used me? No. They used me, but I said ‘ok ok let’s go’.”
In fact, she said, she deliberately chose to take the roles offered to her as a Mexican actress, before vowing to convince directors and producers she could do much more once she was on set.
“It was the maid or the sexy girl,” Hayek said. “That’s as much as I can say. It’s a process: you [filmmakers] are using me for that, but I’m going to use it to change your own way of thinking. And you won’t even notice.”
Hayek, who started her US film career in Dogma, Wild Wild West and Desperado, is now an Oscar nominee and award-winning television producer.
Of the criticism she has faced in the past, she said: “People say ‘you are a feminist, why is your dress tight, why is your skirt so short? You are doing the objectifying of women.
“It depends. Because if today I decide to wear the cleavage like this, you do it from a different place.
“It’s not because I want to let anybody touch me. But why not celebrate who we are as women and our sensuality?
“They [men] have to understand they cannot come near it, they have to deal with it.
“It’s beautiful. If men can’t interact with it, or other women can’t interact with it or they think it’s offensive…no, that is their problem.
“It’s how you do it. You have to have the joy to celebrate all the little parts that we have, and that doesn’t make me less of a feminist. It just doesn’t make me as angry and guarded and a victim.”
Speaking of persuading other people to help improve things for women, she said: “All men are children. You have to have the patience and the lovingness and sometimes the strength to together hold hands and think of a better world to live in.”
In a talk about women on film around the world, Hayek also spoke up for European approach, saying it was in many ways better than the American.
“In France it’s different,” she told an audience. “I think France is a little bit more intrigued and excited about women’s stories.
“Even though there’s still a big gap, there’s a lot of support for women to be able to go to directors.
“The actresses are not disposable at 30 or 28, they don’t have to start injecting the Botox at 14 so they don’t lose jobs. Europe in general, I think the stereotypes are not as strong.”
When asked how things would change in cinema, Hayek said the next task was for women to figure out “what they want to see”, before spending their money on just such films to encourage studios to make more.
“It’s all about money, let’s not forget this is a business,” she said. “We always have to deal with the fact this is an industry. Now, we have a different power of consumption.
“Women now have a strength and they decide which movies to go see. The problem is we need a chance to explore what women want. Because we don’t know what we want.
“Nobody has tried to figure it out. For the young girls, yes. But for our generation, we were abandoned.
“We need to find out what we want, who are we, what we want to see. And then we need to go to the movies.”