Salma Hayek was born on September 2, 1966 in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico. Her father is of Lebanese descent and her mother is of Mexican/Spanish ancestry. After having seen Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) in a local movie theater, she decided she wanted to become an actress. At age 12, she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, Louisiana. After attending Mexico City’s prestigious university Universidad Iberoamericana, she felt ready to pursue acting seriously.
She soon landed the title role in Teresa (1989), a hugely successful soap opera which earned her the star status in her native Mexico. However, anxious to make films and to explore her talent as well as passion, she left both Teresa (1989) and Mexico in 1991. Heartbroken fans spread rumors that she was having a secret affair with Mexico’s president and left to escape his wife’s wrath. She made her way to Los Angeles. She approached Hollywood with naive enthusiasm and quickly learned that Latina actresses were typecast as the mistress maid or local prostitute. By late 1992, she had landed only small roles. She appeared on Street Justice (1991), The Sinbad Show (1993), Nurses (1991), and as a sexy maid on Dream On (1990). She also had only one line in Mi vida loca (1993). Feeling under-appreciated by Anglo filmmakers, she vented her frustrations on Paul Rodriguez’s late-night Spanish-language talk show.
Robert Rodriguez and his wife Elizabeth Avellan happened to be watching and were immediately smitten with her. He soon gave her big break — to star opposite Antonio Banderas in the cult classic Desperado (1995), bringing her into Hollywood prominence. The moviegoers were as dazzled with her as he had been. Afterwards, she was cast again by Rodriguez to star in the cult classic From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Her first star billing came later that year with Fools Rush In (1997) opposite Matthew Perry. It was a modest hit and her star continued to rise in both commercial and films such as Breaking Up (1997) with an unknown Russell Crowe, 54 (1998), Dogma (1999) and In the Time of the Butterflies (2001), the small artistic film which won her an ALMA award as best actress and the summer blockbuster Wild Wild West (1999). Her production company Ventanarosa produced the Mexican feature film El coronel no tiene quien le escriba (1999), which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and selected as Mexico’s official Oscar entry for best foreign film.
The new millennium started out quietly as she prepared to produce and star in her dream role of Frida Kahlo, the legendary Mexican painter whom she had been admiring her entire life and whose story she wanted to bring to the big screen ever since she arrived in Hollywood. Frida (2002) was full of passion and enthusiasm, with performances from her and Alfred Molina as Kahlo’s cheating husband Diego Rivera. It also featured an entourage of stars such as Antonio Banderas, Ashley Judd, Geoffrey Rush, Edward Norton and Valeria Golino.
It was a box office hit and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best actress for Hayek. It won awards for make-up and score by Elliot Goldenthal. Later that year, she expanded her horizons, directing The Maldonado Miracle (2003), which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, she starred in the finale of Rodriguez’s Desperado trilogy Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), again opposite Banderas. She also starred in After the Sunset (2004) opposite Pierce Brosnan, and Ask the Dust (2006) opposite Colin Farrell. She then starred in Bandidas (2006), which also featured Penélope Cruz, and Lonely Hearts (2006) opposite Jared Leto.