Salma Hayek knew she had one major problem coming her way after taking on a role in Puss in Boots, given its appeal to children: explaining to her four-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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
While the distinct voices of Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek may pack entertainment value, Banderas also believes having the pair top-line a mainstream animated film is something of a milestone.
“When I first came to America 21 years ago, I did the Mambo Kings and somebody on the set said to me, ‘If you are going to stay here, basically you are going to play bad characters. You are going to be the bad guy in the movies,’” Banderas remembers.
“In the 21 years, things have changed very much. This movie is going to be seen by kids who actually don’t judge in those terms. They are going to see the movie and see that the heroes are strong accent and that is good.”