cannes film festival 2015

Salma Hayek: Yes, Eating That Sea Monster’s Heart Was Gross

85230681 Photo: George Pimentel/Getty Images

That Salma Hayek eats the heart of a sea monster in her new Cannes movie, Matteo Garrone’s The Tale of Tales, isn’t a secret. It’s in the trailer, and as Vulture Kyle has pointed out, it’s hardly the only insane thing that happens in the movie, which is based on a 17th-century collection of fairy tales by Giambattista Basile. (Hayek’s character eats the heart because she’s desperate for a child, becomes pregnant instantly, then gives birth to an albino.) But what everyone at yesterday’s press conference wanted to know was, what the hell did that heart taste like?

“Dis-guuusting!” said Hayek. “No, we have to talk about this,” she told the room. “Our director here wanted the heart to be inside a heart identical to the real heart. It’s not just the outside that was perfect. He needed inside all the exact parts. God forbid that I took a bite and a doctor would recognize there’s an artery missing!”  

Not that anyone knows what a sea monster’s heart looks like, but it sounds like she means she might have been gnawing on parts of actual hearts from actual animals. And within that casing, she said, “there was pasta, candy, all kinds of disgusting things. I thought I was gonna throw up! Thank God my daughter Valentina was there, and she saw the monitor and she came after the third time that I was gagging and told me, ‘But you have to be happy eating the thing.’” Hayek shook her head. “Oh my God! And she said, ‘If you bite from the front, you can go to the back and spit it out! No one will see it in the camera!’ And she saved my life.”

Even outside of her heart-eating duties, Hayek says the shoot, in Italy, was intense. She calls Garrone “a Method director.” What’s that? “They arrive, they go into their world, and they live there. And maybe there’s a fire and they don’t see it because they’re just focused. ‘There’s a fire? Okay. Is it extinguished? Okay. Can we please repeat this take?’ I feel he really goes there and he lives there until we go home, and if it doesn’t belong to that world, even if it’s good, you won’t go. You stay there until he gets it.” So, yeah, sounds like a lot of long days and a lot of takes.

Garrone was also a stickler for authentic period clothing, so all of Hayek’s dresses had severe corsets and none of them weighed less than 30 kilos, or 66 pounds. And Hayek spent a full day running in one of them, for a scene in which the queen chases her albino son around and around a labyrinth (also in the trailer). Garrone would constantly climb up the wall and shout to her, she said, “‘Okay, now come to this room. It’s right here!’ But I had to walk for 45 minutes in the big dress to get to where he wanted me!” And when she was at her most exhausted, he decided the light was wrong and they needed to reshoot her close ups. “And we’re all sweating. It’s after nine hours,” she said. “[He says,] ‘Come here, it’s just to this side.’ I said, ‘Matteo, it’s 45 minutes. I won’t make it there. The light will change.’ ‘Well, jump!’”

Well, she tried to jump, she said, “but the dress was so heavy I got stuck. They couldn’t bring the crane to pull me over. He is standing next to me where I am laying flat because the dress has wire. I don’t know what it had but you cannot bend, and he’s saying, ‘Somebody pick her up! Pick her up!’ Three guys, it was so humiliating.” The costume designer was screaming at her not to destroy the dress. “I’m dying and he’s screaming, ‘The dress! The dress!’” said Hayek. And her director was screaming at her to hurry up so they didn’t lose the light. And end of story, she made it, but it wasn’t easy. “So it was challenging every day, but exciting and fascinating.” Hayek is so good and funny at telling stories that when she concluded, the whole press room applauded. She finished off her duties by back-bending over the dais in a tight red-and-black minidress to take a selfie with all the reporters. A woman who can eat a heart AND make you eat your heart out, too? And remember, she’s married to a billionaire; she doesn’t need to be doing any of this! Salma Hayek, we’d slay a sea monster for you any day.

Hayek: Eating That Sea Monster’s Heart Was Gross