Why Salma Hayek cried while filming the sex scene in her breakout film, ‘Desperado’

Salma Hayek, seated, wearing a white suit.
Salma Hayek was catapulted to stardom in Mexico after starring in the telenovela “Teresa.” In the U.S., she had to start anew.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Though the movie “Desperado” was released more than two decades ago, actress and producer Salma Hayek still cringes at the sex scene in the 1995 film.

In it, she plays Carolina, a young woman who runs a bookstore cafe in a town where no one reads. Her costar, Antonio Banderas, plays El Mariachi, a revenge-seeking musician who stores guns in his guitar case.

In conversation with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman for the “Armchair Expert” podcast, Hayek recalled that the sex scene in the film — her breakthrough in the English-speaking world — was not originally in the script.


“It was demanded by the studio when they saw the chemistry,” she said during the podcast episode released Monday, “and I had a really hard time with it.”

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The decision to move up north for a career in Hollywood, she said, made her the laughing stock of the media in her native country. Hayek, who played the lead in the soap opera “Teresa,” was already a star in Mexico. In the U.S., she was an extra.

And so, when “Desperado” writer-producer-director Robert Rodriguez reached out, she was ecstatic.

“I was so excited to get a job,” Hayek said. “I remember this is a time when it was almost seen as illegal to hire a Mexican in a leading role.”

Even so, Hayek was nervous about the sex scene.

To help put her at ease, Rodriguez and his then-wife, Elizabeth Avellán, who coproduced the film, closed the set. Only she, Banderas and the two producers were present for filming, which had to be done in fits and starts because Hayek cried throughout the process.

Banderas “was super nice and an absolute gentleman,” Hayek said. Avellán had become her best friend, and Rodriguez coached her through the scene.

“But I kept thinking of my father and my brother,” Hayek said. “Are they going to see it? Are they going to get teased?”


During the film screening, the actress escorted them out of the theater for the duration of the scene.

“It’s not that my father is a tyrant,” she added, “but you want him to be nothing but proud of you.”

“When you see that scene, though, can you enjoy it?” Shepard asked Hayek.

“No,” she said.

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Hayek went on to earn an Academy Award nomination for her performance in “Frida” (2002), a film she produced.

In a 2017 op-ed for the New York Times, the actress said that former film producer and convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein attempted to shut down “Frida” unless Hayek agreed to include a full-frontal nude scene. In a statement at the time, he said, “All of the sexual allegations as portrayed by Salma are not accurate.”

When asked about the role sex appeal has played in her career, Hayek told the podcast hosts: “At the beginning of my career, I had to embrace it as a tool, in a protective way.

“I can be myself now,” she added, “but at the beginning you’re disappointed that that’s all they can see.”


Most recently, she stars opposite Owen Wilson in the sci-fi drama “Bliss.”