As the #MeToo movement keeps making its way through the internet it’d be easy to believe much of the hype surrounding disgraced studio head Harvey Weinstein had died down. In an op-ed piece just published in the New York Times Oscar-nominated Mexican actress Salma Hayek lays out her own abuse at the hands of Weinstein, charting a sequence of harassment – both sexual and verbal – during her making of the Oscar-winning biopic Frida.
Though Hayek was initially resistant to discussing her interactions with Weinstein, fearing her voice wasn’t “important, nor did I think it would make a difference,” her experience shows the continued fear and marginalization of women of color during this whole ordeal. She details a series of horrific overtures from the studio executive ranging from showing up at her hotel and sets, demanding to see her shower, and demanding sexual favors. Hayek maintains that it was only through her friendships with powerful men like Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney that “saved me from being raped.”
His harassment only continued once Hayek brought Frida under the arm of Weinstein’s Miramax studio. His abuse intensified. Hayek recounts being deceived and dragged out of the “opening gala of the of the Venice Film Festival” where Frida was being honored to “hang out” at a private party with Weinstein and “some women I thought were models but I was later told were high-priced prostitutes.” At one point, Hayek alleges Weinstein overtly told her, “I will kill you, don’t think I can’t.”
“In his eyes, I was not an artist. I wasn’t even a person. I was a thing: not a nobody, but a body,” she says. This demoralizing treatment continued throughout production on the Hayek-produced film. After refusing Weinstein’s advances Hayek claims he sent the script out to other actresses. If Hayek wanted to keep the movie, and continue on as its lead, she would need to jump through a litany of hoops including “raise $10 million to finance the film” and “cast four of the smaller roles with prominent actors.” Hayek succeeded.
Once on set, Weinstein threatened to shut down the entire production because Hayek’s depiction of Frida Kahlo wasn’t sexy enough. He took advantage of Kahlo’s fluid sexuality and crammed in a sex scene that hadn’t been planned for. “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,” she explains. Hayek felt such anguish on caving to his demands that she spent the day of the shoot vomiting and sobbing. She had to take a tranquilizer to soothe her emotional breakdown, but was able to complete the scene.
Weinstein then wanted to dump the movie into one theater in New York, later acquiescing to Hayek and director Julie Taymor’s request to open the film in Los Angeles as well. Frida went on to win two Academy awards yet Hayek still wanted validation from Weinstein in some way, regardless of his treatment. “I confess, lost in the fog of a sort of Stockholm syndrome, I wanted him to see me as an artist.”
Hayek’s feels that her blind perseverance stems from feeling like a foreigner in Hollywood. For her, “…it was unimaginable for a Mexican actress to aspire to a place in Hollywood. And even though I had proven them wrong, I was still a nobody.” Despite being one of the most recognizable Mexican actresses of all time, Hayek continued to see herself as beneath more successful (and white) actresses, a mentality Weinstein played on. “He had taken a chance on me — a nobody.”
For Hayek this is a time of revolution for women. She says, “Men sexually harassed because they could. Women are talking today because, in this new era, we finally can.”
You can read Salma Hayek’s editorial in full on the New York Times website.
UPDATE 12/14/2017: Harvey Weinstein released a statement refuting Salma Hayek’s allegations. Read his response here.