Salma Hayek is making her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut this fall alongside Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, and more in Chloé Zhao’s “Eternals,” playing the leader of the superhero group. But when Marvel first called the Oscar-nominated actress to discuss the project, she assumed they wanted her to play some kind of grandmother supporting role and not Ajak, one of the most important members of the Eternals. Zhao personally selected Hayek for the role.
“I said, ‘Forget it,'” Hayek told Entertainment Weekly about hearing Marvel was interested in meeting with her. “I said, ‘God knows what kind of grandmother they want me to play.’ I’m used to being [told] I’m going to be the extra or the old prostitute. And then they said the director was Chloé Zhao, and I said, ‘Okay! Let’s have the meeting!'”
Hayek told Variety earlier this year “it was hard to believe” that Marvel was so keen on casting her, a Mexican woman, in the all-powerful role of Ajak. “I think that there are people in power who have wanted this change for a long time,” she said. “But it takes a lot of elements for it to happen. For example, [Marvel vice president of film production] Victoria Alonso, I cannot love this woman more. She is extraordinary. She was very supportive to all the cast. And when you talk to her, you can see that this was something meaningful to her for a long time. Even [Marvel chief] Kevin Feige was very proud of it. But I was terrified. They tell you you’re going to be in this movie, but they can’t give you a script, and you have to sign the contract. You have to negotiate and sign the contract, and you cannot tell anyone.”
When Hayek’s casting was officially announced by Marvel, the actress took to her Instagram page to tell her followers, “It used to be the father of all eternals, but girls, this is OUR time!” The actress said it was important to mark the moment for future generations of women.
“When it happens to you it’s important that you pass it on and say, ‘Yes, it’s happening. It’s really, really happening,'” Hayek said. “My husband is very feminist, and he does a lot of studies on this. I remember a long time ago that he told me that women have a harder time asking for a promotion or for a raise. They really try to justify it. Men normally ask for it prematurely. It has to do with self-esteem and with systematic and constant sexism. It takes women a lot of courage to ask. They’re afraid they’re going to get fired. So if it’s going well for you, if you see the change, it’s good to say that it is happening for us.”
Hayek continued, “When people see me, and not just girls, minorities or even short people — anybody — I want them to think even if things don’t look like they can happen, anything can happen. But I don’t want it to be based on you have to suffer a lot and then eventually it’s going to happen. I want it to be based on why not?”
“Eternals” is set to open in theaters November 5 from Disney.