In Oliver Stone’s film “Savages”, Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy Seal and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one of a kind love with the extraordinary Ophelia (Blake Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern Californian town until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them.
When the merciless head of the Baja Cartel, Elena (Salma Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta), wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel.
We caught up with Salma Hayek and Blake Lively at a recent press conference and spoke to them about working with Oliver Stone, prepping for their roles, if being a mom brought some tenderness to Salma’s role, and if it’s fun to play a ruthless character. Warning there are some film spoilers below.
Salma for your character did you pull from the book or did Oliver Stone infuse some of his influence?
Salma Hayek: My character is much smaller in the book, but it was Oliver who started the whole process. He was incredibly generous because we all work as a team and he really welcomes your input in the character.
Blake Lively: He wants you to fight with him.
Salma Hayek: Yeah but it originated from him, he made the character a little bit more interesting but I also think he did that with all of them.
Blake Lively: But he also gave that freedom to everybody. I remember when I was rehearsing with the boys he allowed Salma to experiment with her own look.
Salma Hayek: He questioned everything and said, why that and why this but he also gave me a lot of freedom to design the look too.
Blake this role was also different for you how did you prep for this role?
Blake Lively: I love that it was so different from everything that I’ve ever known or seen so I love that challenge. Oliver made it for a great experience because he gave us so many opportunities. He brought in D.E.A. agents and I meet a little girl who had been kidnapped by the Mexican drug cartel and meet people in the marijuana field.
Were you nervous to do the graphic scenes?
Blake Lively: This film was terrifying because it is so graphic and violent and she experiences such an arc that it’s challenging. I have a family and a young audience from my show so that plays in and you have a responsibility to your personal life too. It was a really strange situation to be in but the most important thing was telling the truth of the story. I also think she’s a modern girl who comes from an unconventional family. But it was definatly really challenging because you’re on a set with 40 people and the boys are standing there naked.
Salma did being a mom help bring some tenderness to your character especially at the end of the film?
Salma Hayek: In reality you would think it would make you find humanity but being a mother actually makes you tough. When you have children and you’re protecting them, you are capable of doing anything. You will do anything for your children, especially as a Mexican woman, they will do anything for their children. This is where this character in the film turns, if I don’t take over the situation then they would have given it to my other child and they would have killed him. I’m giving too much away but it does help you find the fearlessness.
So Salma did you take pieces from a fictional character?
Salma Hayek: I actually took a collection of characters that I have meet throughout my life and I wont say names. I took a collection of traits and knew that my character was going to be an icon so I would wear the same wig and the same earrings. These type of women design themselves, they don’t want to be versatile they want to be remembered.
What is the fascination of a woman that has so much power and is the head of something so ruthless?
Salma Hayek: In the research that I did I actually did talk to people involved in the cartels that describe women that have gotten quite high within the cartels. As a matter of fact they are incredibly efficient much more then men. One of them, the husband went to jail therefore she took over and things went really well. When the husband got out he went to take care of a debt and he was killed. So instead of getting mad and overreacting she remained calmed and focused on the business. They’re not about the vendetta, they’re not about who’s more macho, they’re about getting things done. That’s why they’re not so visible and most of them have managed to get away and stay clean.
Salma do you like playing characters that are this ruthless?
Salma Hayek: I don’t care if you hate me or like me I just want to play a character that’s really a character. That’s what’s fun to have a director, director you into the character. It’s more fun to play a good character, with a good director, with good actors. The more variety the better for me.
“Savages” is in theaters July 6th.