Salma Hayek knew she had one major problem coming her way after taking on a role “Puss in Boots,” given its appeal to children: explaining to her 4-year-old daughter, Valentina, that cartoon characters are actually voiced by human actors. “I was worried about that because it’s like the Santa thing in a way. Because she really thinks there are cats there,” Hayek explains.
“I thought I had some time, but I took her to see a movie and in the previews I see ‘Puss in Boots,’” the actress remembers. “I had two seconds to break it to her. Before I could saying anything, my character came on screen and she said, ‘Oh my gosh Mommy, that cat sounds just like you.’ I said, ‘It is me.’ I had to explain to her that it’s not real. It’s drawings. I think she was a little upset, maybe a little confused. Now, she loves it. She’s so proud of me.”
In the film, Hayek voices Kitty Softpaws, both a romantic interest and professional rival for Antonio Banderas’ titular feline. But Hayek didn’t have a lot of time to get into character as Kitty, even if she was expecting some. “I didn’t prepare. I never got to see the script. Chris never showed me the script,” she says of director Chris Miller. “I just showed up blind.” Instead of presenting concept drawings or script pages, Miller would explain the scenes and stories to Hayek, helping her conceptualize the feline-fueled adventure. “It reminded me of my grandmother, who would tell me the most amazing tales and you had to imagine everything. It was like that,” she says.
And while working in a recording studio would usually cut down on the kinds of thrills an actress would find on a live-action set, the “Puss in Boots” recording sessions weren’t without their perils, it turns out. “One day in recording in who knows what scene in the studio and a wall came down on us,” she remembers, describing a session with Miller. “We are alive by a miracle. How it missed both of us, we still don’t understand. I was very physical that day — I ran fast.”
Life-threatening mishaps or not, Hayek is happy to have taken the leap into animation, particularly because it brings her all new fans — or at least that’s the aim. “I sure hope so because I’m too old,” she says with a laugh. “The ones who have followed me are getting older with me and they don’t want to go to the movies anymore. So, I need a new generation or else I die.”
This film in particular provides a different type of victory, as Salma Hayek is quick to point out: In the original version of the children’s story, the titular cat is French, but the 21st century finds him with a strong Spanish streak. “First the World Cup, and now Puss in Boots!” Hayek says, booming with pride.