Hollywood stars often wax lyrical about how much they love their co-stars and gush about what great pals they are, but in the case of Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas, who are both in the forthcoming Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, their friendship goes back more than 20 years.
In fact, when we meet Salma to chat about their latest venture together, which hits cinemas on 3 February, the stunning star tells us it was actually Malaga-born Antonio who got Salma her big break.
Talking about their special bond, Salma – who’s reprising her role as Kitty Softpaws 11 years after they made the first Puss In Boots film – tells us, “It just means so much to me.
"I’m very proud of him. He’s like my good luck charm. He gave me my start, my very first screen test.
"We have been friends for more than 20 years now and, with this business, you have to go through living all over the place because Antonio has never stopped working.
"To stay friends like that for so long is great. He is like family to me.”
Recalling their first meeting, the 56-year-old actress, who was born in Mexico, tells us, “I was new in Hollywood and I had no idea that there was going to be a problem with my accent until I arrived.
"It was not an easy road. But I was very lucky that my first screen test that I ever did was with Antonio who, at the time, was at a completely different place to me.
"He was already very famous, loved and accepted all over the world.
He was very supportive and very confident and that gave me hope.
“People would still say things about our accents, but he didn’t care. It didn’t stop him and so it was really healthy for me to be around him. He gave me a lot of strength.”
In terms of her personal life, Salma has been married to French billionaire François-Henri Pinault since 2009 and lives with him in their 17-bedroom London home (which is thought to have been formerly owned by Justin Bieber) with their 15-year-old daughter Valentina.
In the past, Salma has spoken out about the fact she was much more appreciative of being a parent because she didn’t have her daughter until she was 41.
She said, “You appreciate it so much more because, by the time you get there, you’ve been through the fear of maybe it might never happen.”
Talking about her marriage to businessman François-Henri, who is the
CEO of luxury goods group Kering, House Of Gucci star Salma says she fell for the 60-year-old because he is so different to men she had dated before.
She said, “He’s like no one I ever met before. He’s a fascinating man and I’m still fascinated by him. I’d met amazing men, but I don’t know if anybody saw me as clearly as him.
"And I know who he is. Something about his soul, I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s pure.”
Despite being married to a mogul, Salma shows no signs of slowing down.
The star is clearly still ambitious and can’t hide how thrilled she is to have been invited to work with her old pal Antonio again.
She says, “Oh my God, I love it. We waited 10 or 11 years to do another one of these movies so it’s fantastic that it finally happened.
"We are very good friends and I see him in between working with him of course, but it’s good to know that we are both healthy and still working after all these years [laughs].”
Salma continues, “The first Puss In Boots was a big deal because it was probably the first big film with two Latino-Hispanic actors as the female
and the male lead.
"Now it is more common, but at the time it wasn’t.”
So what can we expect from the much-anticipated sequel? “A wonderful family movie with lots of adventure, that is very funny, beautiful to look at with incredible, cutting-edge animation,” Salma explains.
“It also has something nostalgic about it. Most importantly, it has a lot of heart and it talks about interesting things, like making sure you appreciate life.”
Apart from the opportunity to act with Antonio again, what made Salma want to return to the role of Kitty Softpaws once more?
“I just love her as a character so I was excited to have the possibility
to be her again,” the star explains. “What’s not to love? She’s funny, sassy
and she’s a cat. I love cats. I just wish I could have her moves!”
The actress continues, “I was a little nervous about it because I had such a good experience the first time, the movie did really well so I had high expectations.
"But it was fantastic this time too – in fact, I think it’s so much better because Kitty is sassier, bossier and her stunts are greater.”
Given it’s been over a decade since she last played Kitty, we’re curious to know how Salma thinks she has changed since then.
“It’s funny – I worry less about some things now but then I find myself more anxious about little things,” she tells us.
“As you get older, you get more anxious. I’m more wise now, but little things that didn’t bother me before bug me.
“If I get a window seat on the plane, I am not as claustrophobic now because I just want to get there, maybe because I’m anxious that there’s less time ahead. I meditate and that helps me a lot.”
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