Salma Hayek, Harvey Weinstein and Entrepreneurial Grit

Salma-Hayek

 

Yesterday, actress Salma Hayek added her name to the growing list of women allegedly sexually harassed by mega-producer Harvey Weinstein.

It was the *method* in which she did so, however, that caught my attention – a 2,700+ word essay in The New York Times.

Timing

First, Weinstein’s career as a Hollywood producer and kingmaker is likely already over.

Actresses including Rachel McAdams, Selma Blair, Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd and Angelina Jolie are all on record with remarkably consistent stories of Weinstein’s attempts to gain sexual favors from them in return for guidance and/or key roles.

He’s already been fired from The Weinstein Company, which he founded.

Thus, one more actress detailing her story serves little to encourage immediate justice.

Still, Salma Hayek, a groundbreaking Mexican actress whom I’ve long admired, chose to pen her long op-ed in the New York TimesHarvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too.

Put aside that the piece was exceedingly well-written – even if it may have been polished, if not entirely drafted, by a ghostwriter.

Put aside that 2017 is a year that has seen the pendulum finally shift as several high-profile male luminaries have had careers ended by now years-old allegations of sexual misconduct.

(A short list includes Sen. Al Franken, radio host Garrison Keillor, comedian Louis C.K., actor Kevin Spacey, broadcast news host Matt Lauer, rap mogul Russell Simmons, and more.)

What struck me about Hayek’s piece was the detail of her journey; as she puts it, of “14 years that I stumbled from schoolgirl to Mexican soap star to an extra in a few American films to catching a couple of lucky breaks in Desperado and Fools Rush In.”

Making Frida

To me a highlight of Hayek’s amazing piece had little to do with Weinstein’s harassment itself.

Rather, I was shocked by the honesty with which she described the struggle to bring Frida, her biopic of Frida Kahlo, to the screen.

Given Miramax’s track record at the time and Weinstein’s willingness to work with new talent, she actually fought to have Miramax make the film.

Lest we forget, Miramax – and Weinstein himself – arguably launched the careers of:

  • Director Kevin Smith
  • Director Quentin Tarantino
  • Director Peter Jackson
  • Director Rob Marshall
  • Director David O. Russell
  • Actor Matt Damon
  • Actor Ben Affleck
  • Actress Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Actor Billy Bob Thornton
  • Actor Peter Dinklage

During the 1990s alone Miramax managed to produce four movies that were nominated for Best Picture:

  • The Crying Game (1992)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • The English Patient (1996)
  • Shakespeare in Love (1998)

The latter two of those won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Ultimatum

According to Hayek, once it became clear to Weinstein that she would not sleep with him, he threatened to replace her in Frida as both actress and producer.

She could continue her involvement only if the following four conditions were met, on a tight deadline:

  1. Get a rewrite of the script, with no additional payment.
  2. Raise $10 million to finance the film.
  3. Attach an A-list director.
  4. Cast four of the smaller roles with prominent actors.

Miraculously, Hayek was able to meet these demands:

  • Her then-significant other Edward Norton rewrote the script.
  • A friend of a friend agreed to fund the film.
  • Julie Taymor stepped in to direct.
  • She recruited actors Edward Norton, Antonio Banderas, Ashley Judd, and Geoffrey Rush to join the film in small supporting roles.

Ultimately, Miramax (and Weinstein) made the film, which premiered in 2002 to critical and box office acclaim.

It was nominated for six Academy Awards (including one for Hayek for Best Actress) and won two (for Best Makeup and Best Original Score).

Persistence

The story of Salma Hayek’s triumph over adversity to make Frida a reality should serve as inspiration to entrepreneurs of all stripes.

Having worked in the corporate world for nearly 15 years now, I’ve seen companies issue lists of impossible demands and deadlines  — simply to lay the groundwork to fire a employee for cause when those demands aren’t met.

I’ve also seen employees – like Hayek – rise to the challenge and actually meet those demands, to the frustration of their bosses.

But the lesson from Hayek’s experience applies even more to entrepreneurs – those who take the risk to strike out on their own.

The key lesson?

Persist.

Identify and follow your passion.

Salma Hayek never gave up on her most personal film project – despite repeated harassment and humiliation from one of Hollywood’s most powerful men.

Given a list of “impossible” demands, she bucked the odds to fulfill them.

And today, more than 15 years later, Frida remains her crowning achievement and most notable work.

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