Salma Essay

Harvey Weinstein’s alleged history of sexual misconduct kicked off a tidal wave of similar accusations in every corner of the industry (and beyond), with men like Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer at the center of respective abuse scandals. As women (and some men) continue to come forward with harrowing stories about the abuses they’ve suffered at the hands of powerful men, it may seem as though the dust as settled on Weinstein. But as Salma Hayek illustrates in a heartbreaking and harrowing new essay, Weinstein still has victims with stories left to tell.

Writing for the New York Times, Hayek says that although she was contacted by reporters and urged by her friend (and fellow Weinstein victim) Ashley Judd to speak out, she’s remained silent until now because she convinced herself that “enough people were already involved in shining a light on my monster.” Feeling as though perhaps this part of her life still demanded closure, Hayek decided to speak out, revealing details that, she says, had not been previously disclosed to her loved ones.

Echoing the sentiments of many women in similar positions, Hayek felt that her story “was nothing but a drop in an ocean of sorrow and confusion.” After dozens of women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape committed by Weinstein, Hayek believed her own experiences were insignificant and inconsequential. In her own words, Hayek explains why she was moved to speak:

We are finally becoming conscious of a vice that has been socially accepted and has insulted and humiliated millions of girls like me, for in every woman there is a girl. I am inspired by those who had the courage to speak out, especially in a society that elected a president who has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women and whom we have all heard make a statement about how a man in power can do anything he wants to women.

Well, not anymore.

What follows is a devastating account of the alleged harassment and abuse she suffered at the hands of Weinstein throughout the making of Frida, Hayek’s biopic about the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. As a Mexican woman who went from native soap opera star to alluring American newcomer, the project was near and dear to her heart. Understanding that Miramax, the film company that was run by Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob, was “synonymous with quality, sophistication and risk taking — a haven for artists who were complex and defiant,” Hayek was determined to have the Weinsteins back her film.

Hayek cut a deal for her script, which included a producer credit (with no payment) and 10 percent over the Screen Actors Guild scale for her leading role. But shortly after moving Frida to Miramax, Hayek describes a series of disturbing encounters with Weinstein, similar to many other allegations shared in recent months:

Little did I know it would become my turn to say no.

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.

No to me taking a shower with him.

No to letting him watch me take a shower.

No to letting him give me a massage.

No to letting a naked friend of his give me a massage.

No to letting him give me oral sex.

No to my getting naked with another woman.

No, no, no, no, no …

Hayek believes that her friendships with Robert Rodriguez and his then-wife (and producer) Elizabeth Avellan, as well as Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney, potentially saved her from suffering worse.

But Weinstein’s reign of terror did not end with aggressive sexual requests. Hayek says the producer “physically” dragged her from the opening night gala of the Venice Film Festival, which was in honor of Frida, to attend a “private party with him and some women I thought were models but I was told later were high-priced prostitutes.”

After refusing his repeated sexual demands, Hayek says Weinstein became furious and took a more menacing approach. On one occasion, he threatened, “I will kill you, don’t think I won’t.” He also threatened to replace her with another actress. Hayek enlisted legal help, and Weinstein agreed to make Frida as long as she met four seemingly impossible demands:

1. Get a rewrite of the script, with no additional payment.

2. Raise $10 million to finance the film.

3. Attach an A-list director.

4. Cast four of the smaller roles with prominent actors.

“Much to everyone’s amazement, not least my own,” Hayek says, “I delivered.” Edward Norton rewrote the script several times (though he never received credit) and Julie Taymor agreed to direct. Margaret Perenchio, Hayek’s friend and a first-time producer, put up the $10 million. Norton joined the cast along with Antonio Banderas, Ashley Judd and Geoffrey Rush.

“Ironically, once we started filming, the sexual harassment stopped but the rage escalated,” says Hayek, who goes on to detail the most alarming part of her story. Weinstein showed up on set in Mexico and demanded that Hayek remove the unibrow and ditch the limp — two of Kahlo’s defining physical traits — because, he said, the “only thing” Hayek had going for her was “sex appeal.”

In her own words, Hayek describes the soul-crushing abuse of power she experienced next:

He offered me one option to continue. He would let me finish the film if I agreed to do a sex scene with another woman. And he demanded full-frontal nudity.

He had been constantly asking for more skin, for more sex. Once before, Julie Taymor got him to settle for a tango ending in a kiss instead of the lovemaking scene he wanted us to shoot between the character Tina Modotti, played by Ashley Judd, and Frida.

But this time, it was clear to me he would never let me finish this movie without him having his fantasy one way or another. There was no room for negotiation.

Hayek then goes on to detail the day of filming the “senseless” sex scene; an experience so traumatic that it affected her physically:

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.

By the time the filming of the movie was over, I was so emotionally distraught that I had to distance myself during the postproduction.

Even after meeting Weinstein’s increasingly absurd demands, Hayek says he refused to release Frida in theaters unless it scored an 80 or higher in a test screening. When it scored 85, Weinstein spitefully agreed to release the film in just one theater in New York, though Hayek was able to convince him to release it in Los Angeles as well.

Frida went on to earn six Oscar nominations, with the Weinsteins taking home two statues, including one for Hayek for Best Actress. Despite fulfilling his demands and turning in a prestigious biopic, Weinstein remained unmoved. Hayek says she encountered him several years later at an event, where he revealed that he’d had a heart attack and was engaged to marry fashion designer Georgina Chapman. According to Hayek, Weinstein said the relationship had “changed him,” and he finally praised her for her “beautiful” work on Friday.

It was far from anything resembling an apology, and yet, in another heartbreaking turn, Hayek says she accepted it:

I believed him. Harvey would never know how much those words meant to me. He also would never know how much he hurt me. I never showed Harvey how terrified I was of him. When I saw him socially, I’d smile and try to remember the good things about him, telling myself that I went to war and I won.

Hayek’s essay is poignant and sorrowful, but also spiked with fierce optimism in the midst of so many women breaking their silence. It’s also a painfully relatable piece for victims of sexual harassment and assault, as it sheds a light on the way our insecurities are shaped by these traumas and the men who inflict them upon our bodies.

Salma Hayek became the latest high-profile actress to share her #MeToo story about Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday in an intense New York Times essay. Hayek opens the essay, in which she recounts her alleged experiences with the producer while filming Frida, by explaining that she was approached by reporters earlier in the fall but chose not to speak out about the producer at that time: “I didn’t consider my voice important, nor did I think it would make a difference.”

Now, though, Hayek is speaking up, and her accusations against Weinstein include not only sexual harassment but also fits of rage and manipulation. Hayek alleges, as other women have, that Weinstein asked her to shower with him or watch him shower, offered to give her a massage, suggested he give her oral sex, and showed up at her hotel room on multiple occasions in the middle of the night. “And with every refusal came Harvey’s Machiavellian rage,” she writes, recalling how Weinstein allegedly threatened to give the role of Frida Kahlo to another actress even though the project had been conceived by Hayek. She also says he forced her to meet strict, often unreasonable criteria in order to move forward, such as rewriting the script on a tight deadline, finding A-listers to act and direct, and raising $10 million to finance the film.

Things got worse, according to Hayek, once filming began, culminating in Weinstein allegedly insisting that the only way Hayek would be allowed to finish the film would be to shoot a sex scene with another woman, with full-frontal nudity:

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.

It was already known that Weinstein had clashed with Frida director Julie Taymor over a test audience’s reaction to the film. In a 2004 New York Magazine profile, Weinstein attributed his reaction at the time to his diet. In her essay, Hayek gets at part of why Weinstein’s alleged outrageous behavior went unchallenged for so long: “I have to say sometimes he was kind, fun and witty—and that was part of the problem: You just never knew which Harvey you were going to get.”

You can read Hayek’s full essay in the New York Times.

Update, Thurs., Dec. 14: Weinstein released a statement to USA Today via a spokesperson saying "all of the sexual allegations as portrayed by Salma are not accurate and others who witnessed the events have a different account of what transpired."

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