NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to actress Salma Hayek about her new, realistic film Bliss.
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
If there is no sweetness without sour, no joy without sadness, then what about in a world where climate change is not a concern and abundant universal income has eradicated poverty? Well, in the new film “Bliss”, star scientist Isabel Clemens, played by Salma Hayek, creates a simulation of the not-so-great times to give people a perspective on their daily lives. But the lines between simulation and the real world are blurring. And Hayek and her co-star Owen Wilson have to separate the two. I am very happy that Salma Hayek is coming to me now. Welcome to the program.
SALMA HAYEK: Hello, Lulu. I am so happy to be here and talk to you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It’s a pleasure to have you. Tell us about your character in “Bliss”.
HAYEK: So there is Isabel, the scientist in the world of bliss. And then there’s the simulation Isabel, who isn’t afraid of anything but one thing – that she’s afraid in both worlds – of losing her soulmate.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And of course – this soulmate is played by Owen Wilson. Tell me when you first read this script because it’s a little nerve wracking. It’s one of those films that kind of bends reality and plays with people’s perceptions, you know what could be around them.
HAYEK: Yeah. Before I read the script, I spoke a lot with the director. And one thing that really intrigued me was that all of this science fiction stuff can be replaced by the viewer into an addiction story.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK, now I’m curious to see how that’s true.
HAYEK: It could only be two people using substances to escape reality – which is not a good thing in either case – and to create their own little world in which they depend not only on the substances but on everyone other.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The underlying theme, however, is to get the most out of what you have, be it a lot or a little. Why did you think this was an important story?
HAYEK: It’s extremely important, especially – it’s funny because I did it before the coronavirus. And after we finished we went into lockdown. And you begin to realize that the world you lived in, which you thought was an ugly world – in some ways, bliss. And you start to appreciate all the things that were so simple – and that we have become so used to – that you no longer have. Hugging a friend, going to the movies – we’ve started to appreciate a lot of things – even for kids – because I have some and they hated school. They hated school. They hated school until they couldn’t go to school. Now they just want to go to school.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: My daughter is the same.
HAYEK: So I think this is one of the many and important topics in the film. And another one that I found very interesting and that I appreciated more with the lockdown is that in this movie one of the characters, Greg, and the audience keep asking themselves what is real and what is not. And we live in a time in which we have probably never asked this question – what is the truth? – as often as lately.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And fear, which I think is part of this film. I mean there is a lot of fear of what this reality is. As you mentioned earlier, this is a very difficult time. People go through things that the world hasn’t seen in over a hundred years. And so people look for answers in different places.
HAYEK: I hope that deep down – whatever you think – maybe there is an instinct that it is time to reinvent us. And whenever the conscience changes a lot – it is chaotic at the beginning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But that’s why I wonder where your optimism comes from, because when you see what happened to the virus and how divisive it was – people who don’t even want to wear masks – then how do you feel at the beginning of one greater awareness and that you are optimistic about where things are going?
HAYEK: I’m optimistic because it would be a stupid decision not to be. That doesn’t mean that I’m not realistic.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Fair enough.
HAYEK: What’s the wise choice – to be completely pessimistic? No. The wise choice is to be hopeful and look for ways to survive. Why am i hopeful? I am a survivor by nature. I have to be realistic, sharp, present and react in the moment and see what I can do. So, even if it’s not true, just by the way, just in case, wear the mask – just in case.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That feels like a good public message from Salma Hayek.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You also play in “Eternals” with an exclamation mark, which I only inadequately express. It’s a Marvel superhero movie, of course. And I’m just going to make it clear here that you are a 54 year old woman in Hollywood today and you ended up in this movie. And what does that mean for other actresses?
HAYEK: Oh, power for middle-aged women. I am a 54 year old woman who is Mexican and Arab. I mean, I never got that opportunity when I was young. I think it’s awesome. When I tried on the superhero – silly to me – I’m not used to it. It wasn’t even my dream to be a superhero. But when I put it on …
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The superhero outfit?
HAYEK: Yeah. It really moved me. I felt something not because I was playing a superhero, but because I realized what it means for every minority, for every ethnicity, for every woman my age. And I felt this warm feeling. And in my head I was kind of like, yeah girl – we do it, you know? It’s happening right now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You quote that you are of course Latina and also of Arab origin. However, this is also a time when women may be better represented, but Latinos are not yet. I mean, there weren’t that many Latinos nominated for awards in the Golden Globes nominations. What has to happen, you think, so that Latinos are not only better represented in the cinema – I think not only in the cinema but also in the media in general?
HAYEK: Lulu, we couldn’t be represented the way we want. But I came to the US 30 years ago, and compared to the perception there was when I first arrived – where I’ve been told over and over again, this is a crazy thing you want to do. It will never happen. No one is going to put you in an important or a leading role – no matter how good you are. It doesn’t matter if you are the best actress in the world – I was told – or the most beautiful. As soon as you open your mouth, you will remind her of her maid.
And now you might see that there are only a few Latinos nominated in the Golden Globes – that’s true. But we have to be patient – why? Because there has been a void for so long that we are not developed. We don’t have enough writers. You are not experienced enough. This will take time because of the behind the cameras. People didn’t have these jobs, so they did something else. You did not pursue them. So you didn’t practice the craft enough to have the experience of being a showrunner. But the new generations – many new ones – will really see you in two years, three years, four years. Then you will see – it takes time. Rome wasn’t done in a day.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Salma Hayek’s new film is “Bliss”. It’s available on Amazon this week. Many Thanks. Muchisima gracias.
HAYEK: Thank you, Lulu.
(SOUNDBITE BY ELLIOT GOLDENTHALS “THE DEPARTURE”)
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