NEW YORK, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- In researching their new bio-pic, "Frida," Mexican actress Salma Hayek and Tony Award-winning director Julie Taymor delved into the journals and letters of their subject, artist Frida Kahlo, and examined at length Kahlo's work in an attempt to paint an accurate portrait of this extraordinary woman.
"Those voiceovers that Frida speaks are letters, literal letters, so we mined the material... I used it to get into the character. The letters, the paintings, and diary is what I based my interpretation of the character on because the books [about her] contradict each other," Hayek said at a recent press conference.
"Obviously, we used the Hayden Herrera book as a base, but I did use the diary a lot, to do the extra research, like talking to people and my questions were about some of the things I found in the diary. And the end of the movie is the end of the diary when she says, 'I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to come back,'" Hayek explained.
Taymor added: "This is our personal interpretation, it's not a documentary, so if we take something from the diary like, 'When the accident happened death danced around my bed,' she wouldn't say that when we could show it?' Or when we say that the description of the accident was almost soundless, you don't hear people screaming, it's a different kind of silence through...the music that we make."
"We did use the diaries quite a lot," continued the director of Broadway's "The Lion King." "You have a two-hour film, you have a lot of life to tell, not just Frida's, but Diego's, it's 30 years of an extraordinary relationship. And when you have a two-hour film you must be selective about what you can tell. Obviously you go into the politics, hopefully, we did expose the art that's what all the paintings coming to life correspond to events both emotional, historical, and biographical in her life.
"The scrabbling that we used here and there comes from the diary, 'Feet what do I need you for if I have wings to fly,' is a direct painting from the diary, but you understand that if you want to know more you go read a book," she said.
"Frida" chronicles the life Kahlo (Hayek) shared openly and unflinchingly with her mentor and husband Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina), as this young couple took the art world by storm during the first half of the 20th century. From her complex and enduring relationship with Rivera to her controversial affair with Leon Trotsky to her provocative romantic entanglements with women, Kahlo is viewed by many as a political, artistic and sexual revolutionary. Crippled by a childhood accident, Kahlo is often recognized by her trademark dark, heavy eyebrows.
Hayek says she dreamed for years about playing Kahlo, but American studios did not seem interested in making a film about her until pop star Madonna started talking about what a huge fan she was of her work.
"I had them working on this project six years before," Hayek recalled. "I'm not sure those projects were ever there. Publicly, they were saying they were making these films, but you never know. The truth is that Madonna was going to do it way before and then gave up on it. I'm really grateful to Madonna because she took interest in this Mexican artist very early on before people knew about Frida. And because everyone wants to know what Madonna is doing, it brought a lot of attention to this character that later on helped us get this movie made, so if anything, I am grateful for her appreciating her art and her culture."
Taymor and Hayek said they had no problem dealing with Kahlo's bi-sexuality in making the film.
"I think one of the most amazing things about her story, we never used the word lesbian, we don't use the word bi-sexual -- you did," Taymor noted. "The fact is that Frida was a fully sexual being who did what she felt like doing, so we never would hide that because that was a fascinating side of her life. She was a woman way ahead of her life, or in fact, our time."
Asked if she thought this liberation is indicative of Latin culture, Hayek, who is currently dating actor/writer Edward Norton, hedged.
"I'm not an expert on that, how the development of bisexuality quality is going in Mexico," Hayek said. "I don't feel comfortable addressing the subject, if anything I can tell you that the biggest challenge with that is that we didn't have a lot of time enough to explore every single aspect, so we had to combine many different characters in one or two to play that color in the movie. We wish we could have explored it more, but you can't manage to tell everything in two hours. And what makes a good biography is to pick one subject and pretty much still to it, otherwise it becomes epizootic and have all this pressure to make sure you touch everything."