When Oscar-nominated actress Salma Hayek was shooting the existential sci-fi drama Bliss in the summer of 2019, she never could have predicted the thematic parallels that would occur a few months later when the pandemic hit the United States.
Written and directed by Mike Cahill (Another Earth), Bliss features Hayek as Isabel Clemens, a homeless woman who must explain to her new friend Greg (Owen Wilson) that the decrepit world they are living in is a computer simulation. She takes him on a journey between virtual realms where Greg experiences what it means to exist in a world of “bliss.”
For Hayek, Bliss is “ahead of its time” and could be a metaphor for two separate worlds—one pre-pandemic and one post—that touches on the importance of not taking things for granted.
“Maybe [before the pandemic] we were living in a kind of bliss that we criticized all the time,” Hayek tells Remezcla during a recent interview. “The minute they locked us down, you start appreciating the simple things like hugging a friend or going to the movies or out to dinner with the family.” She also recognizes that in today’s society, people consume news a lot differently than they did in the past.
“We’ve never been in a time where we’ve questioned what’s real and what’s not real and what’s the truth more than now,” Hayek said. “You choose your own bliss.”
During our interview, Hayek, 54, talked about what attracted her to an intimate sci-fi movie like Bliss, what she’s looking for in projects after 30 years in the industry and more.
Bliss is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
What attracted you to the role of Isabella? It’s been a while since you’ve done a sci-fi movie (the last one was probably Spy Kids 3D).
It was super interesting. It’s a character where I get to play two characters in one—with a lot of complications. Not only is it two characters in one, but the director also wanted to give audiences two choices to interpret the film. So, it’s like four characters in one, and they all have to work simultaneously.
Had you seen director Mike Cahill’s past films, Another Earth and I Origins, before joining this project?
I was a huge fan already. I really had him on my radar. I could not believe it when I got the call. What I love about his films is that they’re sci-fi, but they’re really grounded. It’s the same with Bliss. These are conflicts that are really human that we can identify with and that are not huge “saving-the-world” [movies]. It’s really intimate stuff that is seen from an evolved perspective.
Had sci-fi projects ever been offered to you in the past and you just never really entertained the idea of doing them? Or are the good ones just hard to come by?
I think a little bit of both. Maybe I didn’t get offered that many, and the ones that I did get offered were not that cool. But at the end of this year, I have Eternals. I play a superhero for the first time. There was one [sci-fi movie] where the director really wanted me, and the studio didn’t want me because I was Mexican.
We’re living in a different era.
I guess they didn’t see us in space at that time. I was a scientist in space and they just could not get it around their heads. No matter how hard the director fought for me, they just wouldn’t have it. That was in the old days. We’re living in a different era.
Tell me about your look in this film when you were in the “ugly” world. Did you pull inspiration for it from anywhere?
I mean, the clothes—a little bit Helena Bonham Carter. For the hair, the director wanted something we hadn’t seen before. That’s really hard to find. In both worlds, the thing that is consistent about her as a character is that she’s an outcast. [Mike] wanted [my hair] as something really bold for the ‘ugly’ world. I have to say, it took me much longer to get that [‘ugly’] look going than the other one.
You’ve been working in this industry for 30 years and have played everything from a vampire to an icon like Frida Kahlo. What do you look for when a script comes across your desk these days? Is there something specific that you want?
I want good directors. I want good characters that are well written. I’m very open and very free to try everything and go in different directions. That’s part of what the fun is of being an actress—not always doing the same thing. I’m obviously attracted to strong women, but I don’t say, ‘If it’s not strong I’m not going to play it.’ That’s not the case.
My favorite character you’ve ever played is actually a strong Latina. It’s Beatriz in Beatriz at Dinner. She’s a working-class Latina and there is nothing stereotypical about her. She has so much depth. Were you conscious of how important a character like that was going to be in your career?
I really trusted [screenwriter] Mike White as an artist and as a conscientious human being. I think that Beatriz breaks every cliché even if we use some of the same elements. That’s a sign of brilliance. It’s because of that depth. Beatriz is an incredibly strong character but is strong in a way that is unexpected. She’s also incredibly fragile in a way that is also unexpected.
You’ve been making a lot of tacos on your Instagram. Has the Food Network contacted you to do your own show yet?
It actually has in the past, kind of. We’re producing a lot of things right now. We’re looking into maybe producing something about our food.
Speaking of food, out of curiosity, what is the filling inside your character, Teresa Del Taco, in Sausage Party? I don’t think we ever find out, do we?
Teresa! Oh, my God. I love that. That’s another character that I love. Um…(suggestively) ‘Meat.’