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Saturday 26 July 2014

Mischievous mum and a movie mogul

Published 03/11/2012|05:00

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Salma Hayek has always had a playful streak. It stretches back to her childhood and her stint at a Catholic girls' boarding school in Louisiana. She was a decent student, despite struggling with dyslexia -- yet, she admits, "I had a moment or two, like every child does, when I told silly stories to my teachers".

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"But I didn't do anything really bad," continues the 46-year-old actress, who rose to stardom in the wake of her Oscar-nominated performance as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in the 2002 biopic 'Frida'.

"They were really benign little things that you might do at a private boarding school where you have to entertain yourself and your peers."

It comes as no surprise, perhaps, that her favourite film as a child was 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory'. "I look back fondly at that period of my life," she recalls, "sometimes waking up in the middle of the night and making all the alarm clocks go off. We just did little things like that."

Can she see that mischievous spark in her own child, I wonder? Hayek's daughter, Valentina, has just turned five. "Definitely I can see it," beams the 'Desperado' star. So how does she react?

"It's funny, I think I am a strict mum sometimes but also quite relaxed. I am fun and I do a lot of things with my daughter," she says.

"I talk to her and listen to her but I definitely set boundaries and I think my husband and I have a very good balance."

Hayek says she was delighted but also surprised when she conceived Valentina at the age of 40 without undergoing fertility treatment. Having a baby later in life, she says, has allowed her to raise her child in a more settled environment. "It has been a very happy time," she says, "and my husband is very sweet."

Her husband is also quite well off. In 2009, Hayek married French magnate François-Henri Pinault, whose father 'Forbes' ranks at No 59 on its list of billionaires, estimating the Pinault family fortune at $13bn (€10.1bn) as of March this year.

Hayek, too, has plenty of business acumen, co-producing 'Frida' before going on to produce her own directorial debut, TV movie 'The Maldonado Miracle', in 2003. Since 2006 she has been developing projects for ABC Studios that draw on Latin themes and talent, most notably serving as executive producer on the multi-award-winning series ' Ugly Betty'.

She also guest-starred in seven episodes of the show in 2006 and returned to prime-time viewing in 2009 with a six-episode turn on the hit TV comedy ' 30 Rock'. In addition, she recently lent her voice to the animated capers 'Puss In Boots' and 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits'.

Since the birth of her child, it seems, Hayek is embracing comedy like never before. "I do love comedy," she says, "and I particularly love improvising, but it is very hard to find the right people to spark with." She's found a comedy muse in actor and producer Kevin James, with whom she starred in Adam Sandler's 'Grown Ups' in 2010.

"Kevin was living right next door to us on 'Grown Ups'," she remembers. "The two families, my husband, his wife, and our kids are the same age. I really found him to be quite an amazing man and we were very funny together off screen.

"Later he said, 'You will be in my next movie', and he was true to his word. He called and said, 'I am doing this film and I am writing you a part. Are you still up for it?' and I said, 'Absolutely'."

In fact, Hayek was so up for it, she said yes before she had read the script.

As it transpired, she had signed up for 'Here Comes the Boom', which tells the tale of a biology teacher and former college wrestler (James) who bids to raise money for his failing high school by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Everyone thinks he is crazy, most of all the school nurse (Hayek), but as Scott endures his painful journey, the school rallies behind him.

"One thing that was important about 'Grown Ups' and 'Here Comes the Boom' is that they are good environments for my family," Hayek says, "where they are made to feel welcome. It doesn't matter for a guy -- they bring the wife, she stays with the kids -- but it is different when it is the mother bringing the kids."

This affects all Hayek's professional choices. She recently starred in Oliver Stone's violent crime thriller 'Savages', the set of which was no place for her daughter. "She couldn't have come but I filmed in Los Angeles and my mum was there, so it was okay."

What concerned Hayek most was the brutality that ripples through Stone's film. "Violence bothers me so much, but I think when you do a film that talks about violence and says, 'Come on, let's not pretend it is not happening, let's not look the other way', it is different, because it talks about a violence that is real."

Following 'Here Comes the Boom' are two more comedies. Next year, Hayek will team up with Kevin James once more to star in the sequel to 'Grown Ups', while she recently started work on the sports comedy 'Sweet Spot'.

"I'm enjoying these movies and learning so much and having a lot of fun," she says, which makes sense. After all, Hayek has always had a playful streak. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

'Here Comes the Boom' opens in cinemas on Friday.

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