Salma Hayek is not going back. In a wide-ranging and extremely timely Women in Motion chat at the Cannes Film Festival, the actress and producer opened up about the current cultural climate, from Harvey Weinstein to #MeToo, plus her own slate filled with projects centered around women (last tally: four television shows and five films) and what she thinks are the next steps in a still-growing movement.
The day before chatting with Variety’s New York Bureau Chief Ramin Setoodeh as part of Kerig’s annual conversation series, Hayek and 81 other women from the film industry protested for equality on the red carpet of the Palais ahead of the premiere of Eva Husson’s “Girls of the Sun,” one of three films directed by women in this year’s festival Competition. Hayek was still buzzing from the experience on Sunday morning at the fest.
“It was very meaningful to me in many ways,” Hayek said of the march. “Personally, as a woman that’s been part of this community and has had to go through the struggles that all women have had to go through. It’s an important step to see this happen.”
Hayek added that the literal optics of the march were also important to her, because they helped lay bare just how wide the divide has been at Cannes between its female and male directors.
“I was really moved to see physically – which is the best way to do it, because cinema is about visual images – and I think that we talk a lot, but yesterday this image, yeah, it looked like we were a lot, but yet we were such a small number,” she said. “And you could see them there, we could fit on the steps with no problem…We could fit comfortably, it’s not like we were sardines!”
Asked about related hot button issues in the industry, particularly the gender pay gap and the disproportionate number of male versus female filmmakers currently working in the studio system (Hayek sagely noted that most film schools are now at gender parity, unlike the industry they feed into), and Hayek didn’t mince words, while also offering up her own hard-won advice.
Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock
“Be impatient,” she said. “Continue with the frustration, you have to be impatient and patient at the same time. You cannot tolerate, but you have to continue the pressure.”
She continued, “We should have been angrier sooner. More than angrier, because I think we were already angry. We should have come together, because that’s what’s made the difference, we should have come together sooner. But it’s okay, let’s not look back, we’re together now.”
Hayek was also asked about her experiences with alleged sexual predator and ousted TWC head Harvey Weinstein, which she wrote about in a stirring New York Times op-ed in December of last year, particularly if she was surprised that he was able to get away with his bad behavior for so many years – she wasn’t, but the sheer amount of accusers and alleged crimes shocked her.
“I didn’t know to what degree, I didn’t know he was doing it to so many other women,” Hayek said. “I was shocked afterwards, to realize the amount. But they were all covering each other, it was like an accepted thing. If somebody talked, they would cover it up somehow.”
Weinstein, who has been relatively quiet when it comes to responding to the dozens of claims made against him over the past few months, made the seemingly strange choice to respond directly to Hayek’s op-ed, and the actress thinks that was entirely by design.
“He only responded to two women [Hayek and actress Lupita Nyong’o], to women of color,” Hayek said. “It was a strategy by the lawyers, because we are the easiest to get discredited…It is a well-known fact that, if you are a woman of color, people believe in you less and believe what you say less. So, he went back, attacking the two women of color…If he could discredit us, [it would be] easier for the audience, the readers to not believe us, he could then maybe discredit the rest. He went to the weakest links.”
Seems like, once again, Weinstein made the wrong move.