Hayek to play ‘Frida’ for Trimark

Mexican actress Salma Hayek has landed the eagerly sought title role in “Frida,” playing the Mexican-born artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo for Trimark Pictures. Mexican helmer Roberto Sneider (“Two Crimes”) is also on board.

“There’s magic in this project,” Hayek told Daily Variety, referring to the several unsuccessful attempts to launch a Kahlo biopic with non-Mexican casting, including Madonna and Laura San Giacomo.

Hayek, who is a presenter at tonight’s Academy Awards, is currently riding high from her recent role opposite Matthew Perry in “Fools Rush In.” Her credits include “Miracle Alley,” “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Desperado.” She toplines opposite Russell Crowe in the upcoming “Breaking Up,” a Robert Greenwald film from New Regency/Warner Bros.

Hayek’s Hollywood career comes on the heels of a successful TV career in Mexico, where she starred in the long-running series “Teresa.”

Based on Hayden Herrera’s tome “Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo,” Trimark’s “Frida” is being produced by Nancy Hardin and Lizz Speed in association with Hayek’s Los Angeles-based company, Ventana Rosa. Brian Gibson is exec producing the project, which began as an HBO movie and was placed in turnaround. Lensing is set to begin this fall in New York, Paris and Mexico City.

Hayek said the story of the painter — who, with her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, traveled in avant garde circles in New York, Paris and Mexico City in the 1930s — carries particular significance for contemporary Mexico. The actress, whose mother is Mexican and father is Lebanese, said that, “Frida represents a time in Mexico when art and politics were merged together and people were not afraid to express themselves. A lot of things are happening in Mexico today. I think we are getting our voice back. This story can be incredibly inspiring.”

Trimark exec VP of production Jay Polstein said, “There is a rising tide of Mexican film artists like Salma and Roberto, and we are lucky to catch that tide and tell a story of a time that mirrors the current cultural resurgence.”

He added that the project was “part of our effort to develop and distribute specialized pics,” such as the just-wrapped “Eve’s Bayou,” and current Trimark release “Kama Sutra.”

Protests by Hispanics against the casting of San Giacomo in “Frida and Diego” in 1992 caused helmer Luis Valdez to scuttle the Fine Line project, which was also to star the late Raul Julia. Madonna has since committed to a biopic about photographer Tina Modotti, a Kahlo contemporary who moved in similar circles. Sources close to Madonna said she no longer has plans for a Frida Kahlo project.

Trimark VP of business affairs Peter Block brokered the deal with agent John Fogelman at William Morris Agency and manager Robert Goodman at Hofflund and Polone.

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