People told Salma Hayek her “career would die” when she hit her mid-thirties.
The 54-year-old actress – who was born in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico – confides she was also told it would be “impossible” for a Mexican to have a leading role in Hollywood.
And yet, here she is, announcing proudly on a Zoom call: “This is the best time in my career.”
“I was told so many times it couldn’t happen, and I almost believed them – but I fought it and I won,” the Academy Award nominated star says, with a loud, infectious laugh.
“And I want other women to realise that, because in your thirties you feel the pressure, in your forties you feel the pressure – and late blooming, it’s a beautiful thing.
“We’re not ‘over’ at this time, or at another time. If you’re creative and enthusiastic and curious about life, life can be exciting forever. The entire time.”
Charismatic Hayek – famous for roles in Frida, Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn – has more exciting upcoming film projects coming up, including The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (alongside Samuel L Jackson, Ryan Reynolds and Morgan Freeman) and Marvel’s saga of The Eternals.
But what we’re chatting about is Bliss, a mind-bending love story written and directed by Mike Cahill, which is available to watch now on Amazon Prime Video.
The sci-fi film follows recently divorced Greg (Owen Wilson) as he meets Isabel (Hayek), a mysterious woman living on the streets, who is convinced that the polluted, broken world around them is just a computer simulation.
Greg is doubtful at first, but eventually he discovers there may be some truth to Isabel’s wild conspiracy…
“The originality of the script was one of the things that really drew me to it, because there’s something very realistic in this sci-fi,” suggests mum-of-one Hayek (she shares Valentina, 13, with her husband, French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault).
“It’s not like other ones [sci-fi films]. Even though we have parallel universes [in Bliss], they look like this universe – there’s little things here and there. It’s not like we go to another planet.
“There was something quite grounded, and quite human, about it.”
In Bliss, we see how Isabel believes there are only about 16 ‘real people’ in the whole world; the rest are fake-generated people.
Her evidence is this: she demonstrates a technique for telekinetically manipulating reality, almost like a conductor in an orchestra.
Greg learns to harness this world-bending power too, leading him to become freed from the guilt he was carrying around in his previous life. In fact, he starts to embrace the fun, carefree thrill of the simulation.
But when Greg’s daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper) tracks him down and tells him to come back to reality, saying his head is not on straight, Greg has to decide whose reality is real: Isabel’s or Emily’s?
“It’s a love triangle, actually, in a strange way,” explains Connecticut native Cahill, 41. “It’s a man, his daughter and this woman, who he falls in love with.”
He elaborates: “A really powerful story is the kind of love story where the whole world around you disappears. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know exactly, because there are important things in the world that shouldn’t disappear.
“Using science fiction to tell this kind of love story, where two people are vying for the veracity of their world, seemed really compelling to me.”
It’s an ancient story, adds Cahill, which goes back to “Plato’s Cave, 2400 years ago – and it keeps getting retold and retold and retold through cinema”.
“The Matrix is a very famous version of it, but so’s The Wizard of Oz, and so’s Eternal Sunshine, so is Shutter Island and Clockwork Orange,” he follows.
“This idea of a world within a world also is really compelling to me, and I can’t escape that existential thought that there’s something more to life than just, you know, Zoom screens and tables and chairs.”
As Bliss so cleverly looks at the different ways people see the world, Hayek is captivating in the way she gives life to Isabel and her complex views.
As Cahill puts it, the way she “brings the humanity to this character is something that is enlightened and beautiful and powerful.
“She has this unique ability to add this sort of magnetism and excitement – and in the storm of it all, she gives it integrity and value and beauty that it deserves to have.”
Does Hayek think we are too quick to dismiss the opinions of people like Isabel sometimes?
“Lately, people are talking to me, that I knew before, and they bring me these theories that are so out-there, and I try not to be too quick to judge – even if to me it sounds completely delusional.
“There are so many conspiracy theories and, when you talk about what’s real or not, I think one of the things that are separating us is that everybody’s creating their own reality.”
She continues: “It’s interesting that this movie comes out as this time because I think, with all the confinement, we have created our own ‘Bliss’ world through technology, and in that cave, you can find so many different ways at looking at things.
“What’s real or not real, it’s not one thing anymore. And we just have to listen and be respectful of other people’s realities.
“It’s becoming like a religion. Before reality was like one [thing], and now it’s like everybody has their own reality – and you shouldn’t talk about politics or religion or what’s real anymore.”
Bliss is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video