When Salma Hayek Pinault began her career, she was told that it would be over by the age of 30. And yet, she points out, “I’ve been an actress 37 years. And I feel like my career is better than ever.”
It’s hard to argue with the star of “Eternals,” the No. 1 movie at the box office in the U.S. And on Nov. 24, Hayek Pinault will appear in another hotly anticipated film — Ridley Scott’s “The House of Gucci,” in which she plays Giuseppina “Pina” Auriemma, the friend and confidante of Lady Gaga’s Patrizia Reggiani. Together, they plotted the murder of Reggiani’s ex-husband, Maurizio Gucci (played in the film by Adam Driver), in 1995. But before that, she will receive one of the most notable honors in the industry when she’s feted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Nov. 19.
Hayek Pinault recognizes the moment is significant for many reasons.
“I represent a lot of minorities in a way,” she notes. “I’m Lebanese, Mexican, Spanish. I’m a woman. When I arrived here I was lucky to have a career because at the time, it was laughable to mention it. People told me there was no future for me here.”
It seems silly now, considering Hayek Pinault is one of the most successful actors and producers working today, both in front of and behind the camera. Her production company, Ventanarosa, has a first-look deal with HBO and more than a dozen projects in various stages of development. These include two limited series: “Valentine” for HBO Max, set in 1970s Texas and focusing on how the lives of several women are changed after a brutal crime, and “Santa Evita,” for Star Plus, based on the 1995 novel by Argentine writer Tomás Eloy Martínez about the surreal journey of Eva Peron’s corpse. Ventanarosa also partnered with ViacomCBS’ MTV Entertainment Group (MTVE) on an initiative to give women and people of color more opportunities directing films, primarily for streaming.
Hayek Pinault credits several factors with helping her prove the naysayers wrong. “It’s about patience and stamina, passion and the courage to not let go,” she says. It’s also about the amazing people in her life. “One of the best parts of doing this job for a very long time is that I have been able to make so many friends. And so many of these people helped me get where I am today with their support and inspiration. So I don’t feel like this is just my star; it’s their accomplishment, too.”
One such woman is Giannina Scott, the producer of “House of Gucci” and wife of director Ridley Scott. She spent 20 years trying to bring the story to the big screen.
“She’s one of my best friends and I’ve watched her persevere and not give up,” Hayek Pinault says. “I’ve been watching her fight for this movie and I’ve been by her side.”
Here, Hayek Pinault can’t help but laugh. “And then it just happens, I married the new owner of Gucci.” She’s referring to François-Henri Pinault, her husband since 2009, the chairman and CEO of Kering (formerly PPR), which includes all of Gucci’s luxury portfolio. “And obviously my husband and Giannina’s husband are friends, so it’s a very incestuous, strange, symbolic thing.”
Though Hayek Pinault insists her role is small, it’s a pivotal one — Pina starts off as a TV psychic that Patrizia takes a liking to and a friendship blossoms. She becomes one of the few people the socialite can confide in and it’s ultimately Pina who introduces her to the hired assassins who kill her ex-husband. In real life, Auriemma was sentenced to 26 years for her role in the murder.
Though Hayek Pinault has played real people before, most notably her Oscar-nominated turn in 2002’s “Frida,” she says her preparation here was much different. “Of course I did some research, but the fact is, the story is not about this character,” she says. “She is here at the service of the story. In ‘Frida’ it was obviously her own story so it was years and years of research. This was a very different approach.”
Hayek Pinault believes Pina had clairvoyant powers and genuinely cared for Patrizia.
“She knew her friend was deeply in pain and wanted to help,” she says. “I believe she had a gift and she loved her friend and was authentic.”
She adds she had no trouble faking that affection. “I am crazy about Gaga. She is absolutely incredible and I am proud to support her magnificent work.”
Hayek Pinault also loved being directed by her longtime friend Scott, though she admits she was initially concerned that it might be, for lack of a better word, weird. “It ended up being a beautiful experiment,” she says. “To not talk about kids or ourselves, but just talk about work.”
And of course there’s the Walk of Fame honor, which Hayek Pinault is grateful is coming now.
“After a certain age, a lot of professional women struggle,” she notes. “They don’t get as many roles or they don’t raise the salary. I just think it’s so good they didn’t give it to me earlier because this can remind women they can continue to accomplish great things at any point in their life.”
WHAT: Salma Hayek Pinault receives star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
WHEN: 6 p.m., Nov. 19
WHERE: 6901 Hollywood Blvd.