Salma Hayek is the latest actress to add her voice to the rising chorus of performers hoping to draw attention to and create change in sexist Hollywood. An event hosted by Variety at the Cannes Film Festival gave Ms. Hayek an opportunity to voice her opinion on the gender gap issues facing Hollywood, and Salma was eager to express her opinion in the public forum. Ms. Hayek feels as though Hollywood has given up on women in all aspects of filmmaking.
In addition to Ms. Hayek, the conversation about gender inequality in Hollywood also drew participation from actresses Parker Posey (Irrational Man) and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Jazbaa), and producers Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen. Both Ms. Vachon and Ms. Karlsen worked on Carol. The U.N. Women's HeForShe campaign co-hosted the event, which was moderated by Variety co-editor-in-chief Claudia Eller and Elizabeth Nyamayaro, head of the U.N. campaign.
"For a long time they thought the only thing we were interested in seeing were romantic comedies," said Hayek, who's latest drama, Tale of Tales, is currently showing at the Cannes festival. "They don't see us as a powerful economic force, which is an incredible ignorance."
While acknowledging films like The Hunger Games, Frozen, and The Fault in Our Stars, Salma pointed out that the majority of leading actresses are paid much less than their male counterparts. Additionally, of the 250 top-grossing films produced in 2014, only 17 of those films were directed by women.
"The only kind of movie where women make more than men is the porno industry," Salma added. "It's simple ignorance."
Salma spoke about her own experiences in Hollywood, relating tales wherein she has lost out on leading roles in films, because the male leads objected to Ms. Hayek's casting. Conversely, female leads don't hold the same decision-making power in approving fellow cast members, Hayek added.
"They don't know what we want to see," Hayek said, pointing out that Hollywood executives are equally ignorant of their female consumers. "When women don't direct and women don't write and tell our own stories, we stopped going to the movies and started watching them on television."
Salma Hayek urges women to stand together on these issues and show Hollywood that the female gender holds immense spending power.
"Look, we cannot stand as victims and say they are not looking at us," Ms. Hayek said. "What gives me hopes is that we are in a position of power. And I am so grateful to gay men. If it wasn't for Tennessee Williams and Pedro Almodovar, it would be even worse."
[Featured image: Salma Hayek courtesy of Clemens Bilan/Getty Images for Frederique Constant]