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Salma’s brow bother

Toronto, Sept. 8 (Reuters): Actress Salma Hayek said yesterday she misses the days when she had one eyebrow because it would have come in handy for the movie in which she plays the legendary Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, notorious for her thick, connecting eyebrow.

Hayek stars as the title character in Frida, which tells the story of Kahlo and her stormy love affair with renowned muralist Diego Rivera in the 1930s and 1940s.

“My interpretation of her obsession with her eyebrows is that for her it represented freedom,” said Hayek, in Toronto for the Toronto International Film Festival. “But if anything, it made me feel regretful because I used to have one eyebrow and I was stupid enough to go through the pain of plucking them. Of course, now I needed them.”

Instead, the 36-year-old Mexican actress wore fake eyebrows and shaved her upper lip so that stubble would show and make her look more like the bohemian Kahlo. Director Julie Taymor, best known for her innovative staging of The Lion King, said the word “monobrow” usually brought “ugly” to mind but that Kahlo embraced it. “She was seducing you with her femininity and her masculinity simultaneously,” said Taymor.

The film follows Kahlo’s life from a crippling bus accident that would inspire her artistic career to her turbulent relationship with Rivera. It also touches on her affairs with communist leader Leon Trotsky and women, her love of tequila, and some of her travels. Kahlo, once described as “hard as steel and soft as a butterfly’s wings,” poured her emotions onto canvas — the anger and hurt from her marriage, miscarriages and physical pain from the bus accident.

The film was Hayek’s dream for the past six years because she wanted to make a movie that showed the spirit of Mexico.

To get into character, Hayek said she read Kahlo’s diary and studied her paintings.

Jennifer Lopez and Madonna were among the actresses interested in portraying Kahlo on film, and while Hayek thanks Madonna for her interest in Kahlo, she said the race to make the film did not really exist.

“I’m really grateful to Madonna because she took interest in this Mexican artist very early on, before there was a lot of interest and people knew about Frida Kahlo,” said Hayek.

“And because everybody wants to know what Madonna is doing, I think it brought a lot of attention to this character that later on really helped us get this movie made.”

Hayek eventually won backing from Miramax, a unit of Walt Disney Co. The production also stars Alfred Molina as Rivera, Geoffrey Rush as Trotsky, Antonio Banderas as David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Ashley Judd as Tina Modotti.

The movie made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last month and is seen as a strong contender for that event’s coveted Golden Lion award.

Frida opens in North America on October 25 in select cities. The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5 to next Saturday.

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