Over the course of making Frida, an important and beautiful film about one of the most talented, self-determined woman artists of the 20th century, Harvey Weinstein allegedly harassed, emotionally abused, and threatened to kill Salma Hayek, who portrayed the title character. In a devastating op-ed for the New York Times, Hayek details her harrowing experience with the alleged predator after she signed a deal with Miramax, including the way she says he tried to remove her from the film she’d worked for years to have made, and inserted a sex scene against her wishes.
Hayek’s story is particularly infuriating because of the way it seems Weinstein effectively tried to sully what Frida represents to Hayek, as a then-struggling Mexican actress, and to women across the world. She writes of her contract with Miramax to make Frida:
The deal we made initially was that Harvey would pay for the rights of work I had already developed. As an actress, I would be paid the minimum Screen Actors Guild scale plus 10 percent. As a producer, I would receive a credit that would not yet be defined, but no payment, which was not that rare for a female producer in the ’90s. He also demanded a signed deal for me to do several other films with Miramax, which I thought would cement my status as a leading lady.
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.
Little did I know it would become my turn to say no.
Hayek writes that she said “no” to multiple predatory transgressions that have now become familiar in recountings about Weinstein—the shower, the massage, the oral sex—and when she refused him, she says he became enraged. “The range of his persuasion tactics went from sweet-talking me,” she writes, “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.’”
Frida was almost not made, according to Hayek, because of their interactions, illuminating yet another facet of the way Weinstein allegedly used his power as a weapon against the women he employed.
Halfway through shooting, Harvey turned up on set and complained about Frida’s “unibrow.” 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.
The fact that Frida, one of the few American films from the early 21st century that portrays Mexican culture in a non-offensive (respectful, even!) light, was infected by Weinstein’s gruesomely pathological behavior is absolutely infuriating. Further, she writes that Weinstein demanded she include a nude love scene with Ashley Judd (who portrayed Frida Kahlo’s onetime lover Tina Modotti), and how the day she went to film it she had “a nervous breakdown” that required her to take “a tranquilizer.”
At the end of her harrowing piece, Hayek poses the question:
But why do so many of us, as female artists, have to go to war to tell our stories when we have so much to offer? Why do we have to fight tooth and nail to maintain our dignity?
I think it is because we, as women, have been devalued artistically to an indecent state, to the point where the film industry stopped making an effort to find out what female audiences wanted to see and what stories we wanted to tell.
And therein lies the crux of the issue. Please read the full piece here, and rage with me.