Salma Hayek says she struggled in Hollywood because of her accent — until it got her hired on 'Puss in Boots'

There’s no doubt Salma Hayek’s career was thriving by the time Puss in Boots rolled around. She had earned an Oscar nomination for her soulful portrayal of Frida Kahlo in the 2002 biopic Frida and racked up dozens of other credits, including in Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico trilogy and Spy Kids series and recurring roles in the hit sitcoms 30 Rock and Ugly Betty, the latter of which landed her an Emmy nomination.

But the Mexico native says the 2011 Shrek spinoff, released in theaters a decade ago, on Oct. 28, 2011, was a game changer for her and her Spanish co-star Antonio Banderas.

“The whole thing was so bizarre, because Antonio and I really struggle because of our accents,” Hayek told Yahoo Entertainment during a 2017 Role Recall interview (watch above, with Puss in Boots starting at 6:39). “Nobody wanted to hire us because of our accents. And in this case they hired us because of our voices, [because of] our accents.”

The actors Antonio Banderas (José Antonio Domínguez Bandera) and Salma Hayek participate in the photocall of the animated film The Puss in Boots at the Hassler Hotel. Rome (Italy), November 25th, 2011 (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek celebrate launch of "Puss in Boots" in Rome on Nov. 25th, 2011 (Photo: Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

After Banderas’s adorable but lethal sword-wielding feline became an instant fan favorite in 2004’s Shrek 2 (later appearing in 2007’s Shrek the Third and 2010’s Shrek Forever After), DreamWorks wasted little time green-lighting his own standalone adventure.

The Chris Miller-directed film marked the seventh collaboration between longtime friends Banderas and Hayek (who voiced Puss’s love interest, the sleek and thieving tuxedo cat Kitty Softpaws) after Desperado (1995), Four Rooms (1995) Spy Kids (2001), Frida (2002), Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003), Spy Kids 3-D (2003).

“He was just so amazing, this cat, and he was so Antonio,” Hayek says of Banderas’ performance in the films.

Like the Shrek movies before it, Puss in Boots’ box-office numbers were right out of a fairy tale. It became the 15th highest-grossing movie of 2011, earning $145 million in the U.S. and $554 million worldwide. It was also nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, but ultimately lost to Rango.

“He was just so lovable, the eyes,” Hayek swooned. “So I thought it was going to do well.”

Hayek can next be seen in Marvel’s Eternals, opening Nov. 5.