The velocity of Salma
BY Anne Stockwell
November 26 2002 12:00 AM ET
Jeanne Tripplehorn, who played your jealous lover, came
into this at the last moment, didn’t she?
Yeah. I was supposed to do it with a guy, and then the
guy had some problems, and we didn’t have a
guy, and the day we were going to start
shooting—that day—I was like, “I have
no guy.” And then Mike says, “No, I have
your guy. It’s Jeanne.” I go, “Oh, OK,
So no hesitations.
No hesitations. I have no hangovers over that.
No hangovers? I like that.
No, no, no. I have a lot of gay friends. One of my
mentors was a gay woman.
Is this someone whose name you care to tell me, or not?
I don’t know how she feels about that.
She’s in Mexico. I learned a lot from her and
Your mentor as an actor?
Yes, she discovered me, pretty much. And she was a
producer, and she let me participate and taught me.
She would then consult me, and I would become a part
of it, not just as an actress but behind the cameras too.
And we have a very strong friendship ever since. It’s
a long, long time ago.
That explains some of the respect that I see in your work.
For the gay community. Oh, yes. I’m a big
advocate for the gay community.
My sense is that Mexico—perhaps because of Catholicism—
Well, this is one of the reasons I left
Catholicism. I think they are not fair to women in
general. How come a woman cannot be a priest? And
because I disapprove of their lack of acceptance of gay
people as equals.
In the larger Mexican society, is dislike of gay people a
Yes, it’s a big problem.
More than here?
I would say so, yes.
Is it harder on men than it is on women in Mexico?
I think that most gay women won’t even ever, you
know, come out, because it is difficult on them.
It’s very, very bad.
Do you think that Frida would have been interested in the
civil rights struggle of gay people today? In America?
Oh, yes. In America—in Mexico too. Most
definitely. [Pauses, draws on her cigarette,
surveys me] You’re talking to the right
I am very angry about the way gay people are treated
around the world.
Why do you think it is? Why do people dislike and fear
I think religion has had a lot to do with it. I think
that the gay people have a lot of fault for it.
How is that?
Because they are afraid to be who they are and be judged
for it. And there are a lot of gay people who
don’t come out. So you lose your strength
because you’re seen as a smaller minority than you
actually are. And because it’s small, people
feel threatened as if it was an abnormality. It is
judged as an abnormality when it has existed from the
beginning of time.
As you say, religion has a lot to do with it.
I think that God doesn’t make any differences,
you know, I think we are all loved by God the same.
And he has accepted gay people; otherwise he
wouldn’t have created gay people. It’s a part
of creation. I think the biggest problem besides those
two—and it is bigger than those two—is the
ignorance. It’s a tremendous ignorance. It is a lot
easier to judge than to learn. And so people take the
position of adopting somebody else’s judgment
on something that is completely unknown to them.
People love to quote bogus scientific statistics about homosexuality.
They think it’s like a choice of a perverse
preference. They don’t understand that
scientifically there is an explanation for it, that
it’s absolutely normal. So they are threatened
by the difference, that they find it different than
them. And probably because they also question, some of
them, “What if?”
Well, almost everybody has a little “What if?”
I think the people that are afraid of it are the ones
that have the “What if?” Like, I am not
afraid of it.
So for you, no “What if?”
No. I know I’m not gay. It’s clear to me.
If I was, I wouldn’t hide it, because I find
nothing, absolutely nothing wrong or abnormal about
it. I have a lot of gay friends. Because in a way this works
What do you mean? Homophobia works for us?
Yes, this works for gay people. Because these people
that are not so accepted are people who really make an
effort to develop themselves. To be smarter. To do
great things. So they’re always very smart
[corrects herself, smiles]. Not always. I
have found a lot of extremely smart and interesting
people that I have learned a lot from because they push
themselves to be the best they can be. Probably because they
have this other thing. And you know, it happened to me
in a different way, here.
Here in America?
Because since I don’t get the parts that
everybody can get, it’s been such a wonderful
blessing because it has made me push myself to learn how
to produce, to learn how to find interesting stories, to
learn how to direct. Had I not had that, I would have
been comfortable just playing—being the
Do you ever feel frustrated working in English?
Ah, no, I feel frustrated at people that focus on my
accent. And I don’t get parts sometimes because
I imagine you sometimes get passed over for challenging
parts because you’re beautiful.
Yeah [laughs], but I’m not going
to complain about being beautiful.
In Frida you have a sexy scene with Saffron
Burrows. I want to know if it was fun to be 5 foot
2 and seduce a six-foot-tall woman.
Oh, you know, Saffron is a very close friend of mine.
She is an activist. [Laughs] She’s
always yelling about something.
OK, who’s the best kisser? Jeanne Tripplehorn,
Ashley Judd, or Saffron Burrows?
I didn’t kiss Saffron in the movie.
Then I guess it’s got to be down to Jeanne and Ashley.
Oh! My God! They’re both great kissers. They both
have great mouths. [Pauses] Jeanne said
something to me that is very funny. We did this movie
many times. Like, 15 times. The whole movie. We kissed every
day. And after the second time we kissed—the first
time, it was a little shy, you know, and then, you
know, it got—every day was a very passionate
kiss. And she looked at me and she said, “You know
what, Salma? This has helped me realize, now I know
I’m not gay. Because I kiss you, and I can
appreciate the kiss and your mouth, and I don’t get
butterflies in my stomach.”
It’s all about the butterflies, isn’t it?
That doesn’t take away from appreciating someone
else’s style of kissing. But it does something
different to you. When your organism responds to the
smell of one kind of sex or the other [gives me a
richly dirty look]—you know.
In real life, when Frida was cremated, her body actually
sat up on the way to the flames. This happened for
explainable medical reasons, but it became part of
her legend. But you didn’t shoot that.
Yeah [exhaling smoke]. Julie wanted to shoot it.
But I think the image that is there is a lot more
interesting. It’s more poetic without trying to
be shocking. We’re trying to make it more profound
and more artistic instead of creating a spectacle out
of her death. ’Cause I think it’s more
Having made the movie you worked so hard to make, are you
sad to say goodbye to Frida now?
I will never say goodbye to Frida. She was living with
me long before I decided to be an actress. She will
stay in my heart until the day I die. And probably
we’ll have tea after I die.