Salma Hayek took to the New York Times op-ed pages today to reveal her secret ordeal behind the making of the 2002 Oscar-winning film Frida, one in which Harvey Weinstein made repeated sexual demands then, when spurned, attempted to sabotage the project that would drape Miramax in awards laurels.
In a devastating first-person account, Hayek described her initial admiration for Weinstein as “a passionate cinephile, a risk taker and a patron of talent in film.” He was willing to take a chance on a Mexican soap opera star and her passion project — a cinematic tribute to Frida Kahlo, a hero whose courage to express herself with disregard for skepticism spoke to the actress.
“I was so excited to work with him and that company. In my naïveté, I thought my dream had come true. He had validated the last 14 years of my life. He had taken a chance on me — a nobody. He had said yes. Little did I know it would become my turn to say no,” Hayek wrote. “No to opening the door to him at all hours of the night, hotel after hotel, location after location, where he would show up unexpectedly, including one location where I was doing a movie he wasn’t even involved with.”
Hayek described repeated sexual overtures — Weinstein’s request that she shower with him, watch him take a shower, give him a massage, allow him to perform oral sex on her or to watch as she got naked with another woman. He was, in her words, a “monster.”
After repeated refusals, Hayek described “Harvey’s Machiavellian rage.” How the powerful producer pulled her from the film’s opening gala at the Venice Film Festival to hang out at a private party with high-priced hookers, and how he set stratospheric demands before agreeing to make the film — including an extensive script rewrite, landing an A-list director and casting prominent actors in minor roles.
“Much to everyone’s amazement, not least my own, I delivered, thanks to a phalanx of angels who came to my rescue, including Edward Norton, who beautifully rewrote the script several times and appallingly never got credit, and my friend Margaret Perenchio, a first-time producer, who put up the money,” Hayek wrote. “The brilliant Julie Taymor agreed to direct, and from then on she became my rock. For the other roles, I recruited my friends Antonio Banderas, Edward Norton and my dear Ashley Judd. To this day, I don’t know how I convinced Geoffrey Rush, whom I barely knew at the time.”
Once shooting began, Weinstein showed up on set and berated Hayek’s performance as lacking sex appeal — and demanded, on film, a nude scene with another woman that he could not extort in private. Hayek wrote she felt she had to say yes — if only to preserve the production.
Hayek describes, in detail, the wracking physical toll of Weinstein’s demand:
I arrived on the set the day we were to shoot the scene that I believed would save the movie. And for the first and last time in my career, I had a nervous breakdown: My body began to shake uncontrollably, my breath was short and I began to cry and cry, unable to stop, as if I were throwing up tears.
Since those around me had no knowledge of my history of Harvey, they were very surprised by my struggle that morning. It was not because I would be naked with another woman. It was because I would be naked with her for Harvey Weinstein. But I could not tell them then.
My mind understood that I had to do it, but my body wouldn’t stop crying and convulsing. At that point, I started throwing up while a set frozen still waited to shoot. I had to take a tranquilizer, which eventually stopped the crying but made the vomiting worse. As you can imagine, this was not sexy, but it was the only way I could get through the scene.
The movie ultimately won wide release — despite more hurdles placed on the film by Weinstein, Hayek wrote, and went on to collect six Academy Award nominations, including one for best actress.
“Even though Frida eventually won him two Oscars, I still didn’t see any joy,” Hayek wrote. “He never offered me a starring role in a movie again. The films that I was obliged to do under my original deal with Miramax were all minor supporting roles.”