Salma Hayek, a perfect Camilla

il Centro
Cultura & Società
2 marzo 2006

"Fante's wife was jealous of me"
"The widow hated me because I looked too much like her husband's great love"
"I read the novel only after shooting ended"
by Paolo Di Vincenzo

A splendid Maya princess. That's how John Fante described Camilla Lopez in his best known and beloved novel, "Ask the dust", and that's what Salma Hayek is - the actress of Mexican origin playing the role of Camilla, with Colin Farrell as Arturo Bandini, direction by Robert Towne - in the movie appearing from tomorrow in Italian cinemas.

Salma Hayek, a brunette, a miniature Venus, in a magnificent pink dress, was in Rome yesterday at the Casa del Cinema in Villa Borghese to meet the press after the premiere of the movie. The book and the movie tell the story of the love for the Mexican waitress Camilla Lopez of the would-be writer Arturo Bandini (John Fante's alter ego and the hero of three more novels: "Wait for Spring, Bandini", "The Road to Los Angeles" and possibly the best "Dreams of Bunker Hill", which the writer dictated to his wife Joyce Smart, when he had become blind, and his legs had been amputated because of diabetes)

"Colin Farrell looks very much like John Fante as a young man", the actress explained yesterday, "so much so that when we met the Fantes to talk about the movie, Fante's wife (John died in 1983 at 74, his wife Joyce passed away in June 2005 at 91) was amazed, she stared at him, she caressed him and Colin who's a great seducer started to flirt with the elderly lady. But when I tried to came near to her to say hello and talk to her she rejected me. She looked at me and said "I hate you!". I could not understand, and kept to myself all the time sitting aside, and she would never speak to me. Finally her daughter Vickie explained: "Mother had to live her whole life with the ghost of this Mexican girl, who was Father's true love. That's why she won't talk to you, because you are the embodiment of that ghost".

"I didn't know John Fante's works", the actress answered to il Centro, "therefore I cannot tell you whether I love one specific novel in the Bandini saga. Already 8 years ago I was shown the script, but at first I refused. Then after reading it more and more times, I was convinced. When we finally started filming and I met Colin Farrell, I discovered he had read "Ask the dust" thousands of times. That's why I also wanted to read the novel from which the film was taken, but Robert Towne told me not to: "I worked so much on the relationship between you too, on the story between you two", the director said to me, "so don't let yourself be influenced by the novel". And so we worked for a long, long time, it was the movie that has taken me the longest so far to film. It was an extremely long gestation, but Colin and me spent a great part of the time just staying together, to strengthen out relation.

The experience was very beautiful, since usually you are told what to interpret, what feelings to move. As an actor, you are in a way remotely controlled. But it was not like that this time. When filming finished, I felt sad, I missed Camilla so much, I missed Arturo-Colin, I missed "Ask the dust", I missed the crew. When we said good-bye, Colin Farrell gave me the novel's first edition, and on the plane for the first time I started to read it and I got very angry with John Fante, since in my opinion his character was very different from my rendering. I think more time is necessary before I can go back to reading Fante's books, but I'm sure I will".

At yesterday's briefing there were Guglielmo Marchetti, general manager of Moviemax, the company looking after the distribution of the film in Italy, Emanuele Trevi, who is editing the publication of Fante's novels in the collection Stile Libero of Einaudi, and the director of the collection, Paolo Repetti. And exactly Repetti wanted to contradict the actress, with a good-natured tone: "I do not agree with Salma, I feel she perfectly embodies Camilla Lopez even though from the novel you imagine a different woman type. But Salma Hayek is such a great interpreter that like a magnet she can concentrate attention on herself and draw the viewer into the movie".

The Mexican-born actress wanted to emphasize also that "the movie is like a triangle with the third lover being the city of Los Angeles, since both Camilla and Arturo want to raise their status in a city that is for both of them a faraway, unreachable dream. I play the part of a Mexican, he an Italian. My dream is to marry an American barman and he does not want to get entangled with me since he also, as an immigrant, dreams of the American stereotype".

Salma Hayek was finally asked about her direction of Prince's latest video ("I did not want to be paid, so he would do whatever I asked, and that's what actually happened") and about her prospective roles with Robert Altman: "I only know he wants me to play in two movies, but he has not yet told me anything. I only hope these projects will become reality".