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HAYEK, SALMA: Fools Rush In

"Salma's no fool" says PAUL FISCHER in this exclusive interview with the sexy Mexican actress.

When Salma Hayek walks into a room, it's easy to be intoxicated. Sexy, beautiful and incredibly confident, the 28-year old Mexican-born actress is making a name for herself as a Hollywood hot property. Now she's the sultry object of Mathew Perry's affection in the new romantic comedy, Fools Rush In. Perry plays a straight-laced and ambitious nightclub designer working in Las Vegas, when he meets exotic photographer Hayek. Following a one-night stand, she returns to him several months later announcing that she's pregnant, and both worlds, cultural included, are turned upside down. "It was a lovely experience to do that film. Even though it's a comedy, my character goes on a journey, and there's a lot of darkness there. I have the more dramatic moments, and that was the challenge for me." Which made for an interesting on-screen relationship with the comedic Perry of the sitcom Friends. "He was a joy to work with, very professional and a lot of fun as well." She sees Fools Rush In "as an old-fashioned kind of Hollywood comedy."

"it was something socially unacceptable to aspire towards."

Hayek recalls that there was always an actress in her, right from her formative years, but she can't explain why. "It's as if it was something I was born to do, naturally." As a child, the young Mexican "played games that were all performance-related, whether it was acting or dance." She admits to having been "quite a bit of a show-off", especially since she was born in a small Mexican town in Vera Cruz where using one's imagination creatively, was the order of the day. Hollywood as such was not in her consciousness. "The town was so small that American movies were virtually non-existent as I was growing up." But there still remained a deep-rooted desire for her to perform, even though "it was something socially unacceptable to aspire towards." To appease her family, she went to college and studied International Relations, and left after 2 years. "It was so incredibly boring because it's not who I am. I decided I was going to do what I wanted to do."

It was a tough choice, but in her native Mexico, she persevered until the local work came flooding in. She became established on Mexican television and remained highly popular, having won several acting awards. Fearing that Mexican audiences valued her looks more than her Thespian skills, Hayek left Mexico at the height of her vogue and headed for L.A. She then took a year-and-a-half off from acting to learn English.

By 1992, Hayek was landing TV guest shots and appeared as a recurring character on a family sitcom, "The Sinbad Show" (1993-94), before winning a supporting role in Alison Anders' well-regarded feature "Mi Vida Loca/My Crazy Life" (1993). Hayek's English skills had blossomed but roles remained elusive.

Writer-director Rodriguez heard her lament on comic Paul Rodriguez's talk show and cast her as the female lead in his first 35mm project, "Roadracers" (Showtime, 1994), the hyper-stylised premiere instalment of the "Rebel Highway" TV-movie series for cable. His ultimate goal was to cast her as the female lead in his studio-produced sequel to 1992's low-budget marvel "El Mariachi;" the ploy worked, allowing Hayek to beat out all the standard Anglos that the studio attempted to impose upon the production. Indeed, It was Rodriguez who cast Hayek as the first Mexican star to play the female lead in an American movie since Dolores Del Rio, playing the fiery border town bookseller who romances Antonio Banderas' vengeful "mariachi" in "Desperado" (1995).

Additional Hollywood assignments followed including further collaborations with Rodriguez on two other projects-a cameo with Banderas in the ill-conceived feature "Four Rooms" (also 1995) and as a blood-sucking snake-dancer in the Quentin Tarantino-scripted vampire outing, "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996).

Hayek has stated her intention to alternate between working in Hollywood genre fare and Mexican art films (eg. 1995's "Midaq Alley/El Callejon de los Milagros"). She idled for awhile in Hollywood, though, with unremarkable supporting roles in Cindy Crawford's debut outing, "Fair Game" (1995), and the convicts on the run actioner "Fled" (1996).

"He's a consummate professional and a very giving actor. He's also so much focused on his life and career." on Australian actor Russell Crowe

Hayek then essayed her first romantic comedy lead opposite Matthew Perry in the "Fools Rush In". That was followed by the more intense "Breaking Up", which paired her with Aussie Russell Crowe as a couple who constantly separate and reconcile. On Crowe, she has nothing but respect and support. "He's a consummate professional and a very giving actor. He's also so much focused on his life and career." Hayek then starred as the fiery gipsy dance Esmeralda to Mandy Patinkin's "The Hunchback" in the 1997 TV-movie Hunchback of Notre Dame. Next up? "An independent film that is a complete departure. I'll be unrecognisable." Determined to find the meaty roles, Hayek is determined that audiences see past her looks and concentrate on her depth and intelligence as an actress.

"I'll get married when I find a man who has more COJONES [balls] than I do."

In a 1995 interview, Hayek said "I have gotten a lot more attention than some of the other women that I find incredibly beautiful. And this has happened to me ever since I was a girl, when I was flat, had no teeth, was skinny and small as I could be. I always got more attention than anyone else. If I hadn't, I would have made sure I did. But there is also a relationship some people can establish with the camera that others can't. It's got nothing to do with talent. It's nothing you've earned. I learned in Mexico that the lens likes me, but I kept thinking, 'I'm famous, but am I good?' It wasn't enough for me to be famous. Now, I'm trying more and more to be good at what I do " In the same interview, the actress retorted that "I'll get married when I find a man who has more COJONES [balls] than I do." For the record, Hayek told ME that she's finally found such a man." And I'm having a great time." Personally and professionally it would seem.

Fools Rush In opens nationally on July 24, 1997

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Salma Hakek

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With co-star Matthew Perry

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