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Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek on ‘Eternals,’ their soulful superhero movie

Sunday with Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek

By C.L. Gaber

How does it feel to be a superhero at age 55? Just ask Salma Hayek.

“I’m in my 50s, I’m Mexican. I’m short with big boobs. It’s not the normal superhero. I don’t even have Botox,” Hayek said with a laugh, adding, “It’s a humbling experience.”

The woman sitting next to her nodded. She’s like Hayek — almost too beautiful, too funny and always goes deep.

Angelina Jolie, 46, says superherohood at this time gave her a new way to approach a different kind of gathering of like minds. “I wanted to be a part of this family before I even knew who was in it or the part I’d play in it. It’s diverse and inclusive, which is the only way forward.”

It was a Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles and the two forward-thinkers were here to talk about their new movie, “Eternals,” opening Friday.

Onscreen, Hayek and Jolie are part of an eclectic group of superheroes of mythic proportions, including Gemma Chan as Sersi, Hayek as Ajak, Richard Madden as Ikaris and Kit Harington as Dane. Directed by Oscar winner Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”), the latest Marvel film revolves around space immortals who are called upon to protect the people of Earth — who unfortunately face their impending demise. Jolie plays fearless warrior Thena, who has a soft spot for humans. She reports to matriarch Ajak (Hayek), a fierce, booty-kicking management type who reports directly to a celestial CEO.

Jolie, in a form-fitting white dress, and Hayek, in a navy-blue number, sat down to talk about the sisterhood behind superheroes.

Angelina, you’ve played so many incredible warriors, from Lara Croft to Jane Smith. What was the appeal of Thena from “Eternals”?

Jolie: I was attracted to the project for so many reasons. The first was, I’m a big fan of the MCU and an even bigger fan of director Chloe Zhao, who told me this film was a love letter to Earth focusing on this amazing family. She’s someone you can trust and who will live it and breathe it. And then there was the matter of this group of superheroes who form this makeshift family. It was a long time coming to have a film like this one. I wasn’t even sure of what part I would play in this family, but I wanted in.

Salma, was playing a superhero even on your radar?

Hayek: The truth is, when I dream, I dream big. So the answer is yes! I wanted to be a superhero in a big, blockbuster movie. But it had to be a movie made from a deep place. Over the years, the superhero thing just didn’t happen for me, though. I’m not considered for these kind of roles, which hurt, if you want to be honest.

Is there anything an actor can do about it?

Hayek: You fight for it in your twenties and thirties to do these big movies. In your forties, you finally go, “Screw them. If they don’t get it then they missed out.” I did finally say, “I would have been great as a superhero, but it didn’t happen, so I will go do something else because Hollywood is dumb and they just didn’t see it.” I finally gave up. Then came “Eternals,” and it’s very humbling in your fifties when a brilliant director gives you an opportunity do something you’ve wanted to do your entire life, and it comes from a deep place and also happens to be a superhero with a great message about saving the people of Earth.

Angelina, did you dream of putting on a cape as a kid?

Jolie: I don’t really know. I did want to be Indiana Jones. Later on I did “Tomb Raider,” which satisfied that one.

What was the message behind Thena? Any parallels with the real-life Angelina?

Jolie: Thena is known for bringing reality to one’s true self. She brings out that truth and lets it live and grow. The truth might be something the other person doesn’t know, but it’s there. I admire her for this honesty. As for parallels, a lot of us were cast to bring out something from our own lives and let it live and grow in the film. My kids said that Thena’s “almost like” me, which is really great.

What did you tap into on a personal level to find this cosmic character?

Jolie: I’d have to say it was her vulnerability. Also, she’s trying to find balance in life, which is amazing and quite universal as a quest. And then there is the topic of what it means to be strong. I think as women we have to present as strong and together. This character is both, but she’s not always so strong. It’s amazing to see her struggle, and hard to even talk about it, but her struggle is what makes her real to me.

How do your kids feel about the role?

Jolie (laughing): Would you want to see your mother in that costume? Your mom walks in wearing a full spandex outfit with gold hair and you think, “What does she do for a living?”

Salma, Hollywood is laser focused on diversity these days, but not necessarily in the superhero world. Does it feel like you’re breaking down walls here?

Hayek: I’m Mexican, Lebanese and female, which is not historically what superheroes look like in these movies. But, then, the impossible happened when Marvel called me to be the head of this group. I’m not the normal superhero, but maybe that’s changing, which is exciting to me.

Was it fun to do the bombastic fight scenes?

Hayek: It was a lot of fun. They let me do my punches and my action moments. They were not afraid of the insurance or that Salma Hayek would break.

What has been the best part of superherodom so far?

Hayek: I saw a Latino family including a mother and three girls. The girls were dressed like Ajak. I wanted to cry because it proved to me that anything is possible.

Jolie: I like the message here, which is that even superheroes are not perfect. No one is perfect. No one is always strong. It was important to say to people, we are all broken in some way, and many of us carry trauma. It’s the continuing to go on that makes people truly strong and heroic.

What has age taught you?

Hayek: I’m at a point in my life where I want real. I want experiences to be meaningful. I crave joy.

Jolie: I just want to be of use whether it’s to my children or refugees or whoever needs me. So many are suffering around the world, but they continue on. That’s what inspires me at this age. Beyond that, it’s nice to be at this time in your life where you can just be authentic.

What is a great way to spend a Sunday if you’re not working?

Hayek: Good friends, good food, the outdoors and always family.

Jolie: Family. Sunday is a good day to go on adventures. I can get too in my head and not relax. Sundays are for relaxing, which is what makes them special.

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