Even Salma Hayek was caught in the predatory web of disgraced Miramax Executive, Harvey Weinstein.
It is incredibly difficult to read about immensely talented, gorgeous, and amazing women sharing the experiences where they found themselves weak and preyed upon but it is also the act of sharing these experiences that make them incredibly strong and unbelievably brave.
This year, the entertainment world was brought upside down (as it should, really) when one of its most powerful figures, producer Harvey Weinstein, was accused of so many sexual harassment cases that his own company took him out of its board, he checked himself into rehab to ‘work on his condition,’ and more and more men and women are coming out with their horror stories directly involving Weinstein or the culture he helped to perpetuate.
Salma Hayek, in a letter penned with the New York Times recounts her experience with the man she would call her monster, and how the courage of others who stepped forward allowed her to find her own voice.
“HARVEY WEINSTEIN WAS a passionate cinephile, a risk taker, a patron of talent in film, a loving father and a monster. For years, he was my monster,” she wrote. “This fall, I was approached by reporters, through different sources, including my dear friend Ashley Judd, to speak about an episode in my life that, although painful, I thought I had made peace with.”
Hayek said that for years, she had brainwashed herself into thinking her ordeal with Weinstein had died, so she didn’t need to speak out about it.
“In reality, I was trying to save myself the challenge of explaining several things to my loved ones: Why, when I had casually mentioned that I had been bullied like many others by Harvey, I had excluded a couple of details,” she said.
Hayek recounted that in the years she spent acting in Mexico and a few small parts in American films, she found herself in Weinstein’s company while aiming to tell the story of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
“One of the forces that gave me the determination to pursue my career was the story of Frida Kahlo, who in the golden age of the Mexican muralists would do small intimate paintings that everybody looked down on,” the actress recounted. “She had the courage to express herself while disregarding skepticism. My greatest ambition was to tell her story. It became my mission to portray the life of this extraordinary artist and to show my native Mexico in a way that combated stereotypes.”
She and Weinstein first agreed that he would pay for the rights of the work she had already developed with Frida, then she as an actress would be paid the minimum amount the Screen Actors Guild stipulated plus 10 percent, but as a producer, she would receive only credit for the film.
“I did not care about the money; I was so excited to work with him and that company. In my naïveté, I thought my dream had come true. He had validated the last 14 years of my life. He had taken a chance on me — a nobody. He had said yes.” Hayek added — “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,” she said. “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.”
Hayek said every refusal came with a “Machiavellian rage.”
“I don’t think he hated anything more than the word ‘no,'” she recounted. “The range of his persuasion tactics went from sweet-talking me to that one time when, in an attack of fury, he said the terrifying words, ‘I will kill you, don’t think I can’t.'”
She said she realized now that Weinstein never saw her as an artists, not even as a person. Weinstein saw her as a disposable thing whose hard work and dedication he could completely invalidate when Hayek would not “earn” the movie in the way that he wanted.
“At that point, I had to resort to using lawyers, not by pursuing a sexual harassment case, but by claiming “bad faith,” as I had worked so hard on a movie that he was not intending to make or sell back to me. I tried to get it out of his company.
He claimed that my name as an actress was not big enough and that I was incompetent as a producer, but to clear himself legally, as I understood it, he gave me a list of impossible tasks with a tight deadline:
Weinstein didn’t see her as actress, Hayel said, and she spent a long time trying to “impress” him.
“Halfway through shooting [Frida], Harvey turned up on set and complained about Frida’s unibrow,” she said. “He insisted that I eliminate the limp and berated my performance. Then he asked everyone in the room to step out except for me. He told me that the only thing I had going for me was my sex appeal and that there was none of that in this movie. So he told me he was going to shut down the film because no one would want to see me in that role.”
She added, “It was soul crushing because, I confess, lost in the fog of a sort of Stockholm syndrome, I wanted him to see me as an artist: not only as a capable actress but also as somebody who could identify a compelling story and had the vision to tell it in an original way. I was hoping he would acknowledge me as a producer, who on top of delivering his list of demands shepherded the script and obtained the permits to use the paintings.”
Weinstein’s constant trade off was that he wanted more nudity, more sex from Hayek and the actresses involved, even when it didn’t really fit the story.
Hayek’s film, her passion to tell the story of an under-appreciated female Mexican artist, and one that big-time producer Harvey Weinstein tried to derail, got his company six Academy Award nominations, including best actress, and later on, two Oscar awards.
Years, later, when the actress ran into Weinstein, the Hollywood giant told her he was a changed man and had fallen in love with Georgina Chapman, his wife.
“Finally, he said to me: ‘You did well with ‘Frida’; we did a beautiful movie,'” Hayek said.
“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,” she confessed.
Hayek ends her letter thanking the voices who had come before her in speaking out and against Weinstein, hoping hers would join the chorus to encourage more of the abused to come out and share their stories, and to bring an end to a predatory culture in Hollywood.