When director Robert Rodriguez was shooting “Desperado”, his studio sequel to his low-budget indie debut “El Mariachi”, there was a disagreement over casting.
In the 1995 action flick, Antonio Banderas stars as a Mexican mariachi musician on a mission of vengeance to kill the drug lord who murdered his girlfriend. Salma Hayek co-stars as a bookstore owner who helps him.
However, Hayek — who was born in Mexico — wasn’t the studio’s first choice for what proved to be her breakout role.
“I remember Cameron Diaz was huge at the time and her last name was Diaz, so they said she can be Mexican,” Hayek recalls in an interview with Elle (Diaz is of Cuban descent, not Mexican; meanwhile, Banderos is also not Mexican, hailing from Spain).
With the studio pushing hard for Diaz, Hayek explains, she was forced to jump through hoops to win the role. “She was part of the list,” says Hayek of Diaz, “and I had to audition again.”
In fact, Hayek tells the magazine that even getting an audition for “Desperado” was a huge improvement over her previous experience as a Mexican actress in Hollywood when she was refused the opportunity to audition for 1993’s “House of Spirits”, based on the book by Chilean novelist Isabel Allende.
“I begged for an audition. They wouldn’t even give me an audition,” Hayek laments. “I was like, ‘Just hear me read.’ And this is for a Latino role. They were not hiring Latinos for Latino roles. They were not hiring Latinos period — unless it was the maid or the prostitute. And that part was not a maid or a prostitute.”