CANNES, France Salma Hayek sat down with Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts to discuss the issue of equality in cinema at a talk organized by luxury and sports and lifestyle group Kering as part of its inaugural Women in Motion program during the Cannes Film Festival. Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Salma Hayek on how to convince studio bosses to change:

“The only thing that really can work is to show them that we are an economical force, and I don’t think they’ve really taken the time to discover this, because they are very busy doing their macho things, and because they are so overwhelmed desperately trying to think how they’re going to make money in the way they’ve been making money. And the truth is that nothing else will move them. It’s a big industry and it’s a business.”

“We look at the statistics as victims. This is not what we [should be] doing. We have to come in a position of power. It’s not like, ‘Oh, you haven’t noticed us.’ No, it’s like, ‘You don’t know what you’re missing.’ And when they know that what they’re missing is money, they’ll jump in that boat at light speed.”

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Salma Hayek on the status of women in cinema:

“The sad thing is that the only two industries where women make more money than men are in fashion and in pornography. For this kind of filmmaking, we are the big stars, because the way they think — and it’s really sad and really retro — is that our worth is as sexual objects. This is a very ignorant way to look at who we are.”

Salma Hayek on the rise of television:

“We don’t really care about things that are out there that portray us as the sexual object. That doesn’t sell to us. We don’t care. But smart television really caught our attention, and now the movie industry is in trouble because we don’t care about their movies.”

“They are destroying themselves because they are working in old models, the same boxes, and we’ve evolved.”

Salma Hayek on the problem with leading men:

“One of the problems, and nobody talks about this, is that the leading men are really at the heart of this problem, too. Most of the big stars, in their contract, they have approval of the leading lady. Already the part is small, OK, already it’s usually dumb, but the guy that is going to be the god of the movie, he gets to decide who.”

“It should be the director’s choice, not the actor’s choice. The actor is there to do a job that is the acting. The fact that he has a say in who he gets to kiss or not, I find that very sexist in its own right.”

Salma Hayek on making it on her own terms:

“I am Mexican, I am a woman and I am Lebanese — I’m Arab-Mexican — and I am 48. I’m at the bottom, like, you couldn’t get any lower. And you know what? I’m working more than ever. And I have always operated outside of the system. I have never been embraced by the studios.”

“I don’t believe that I have a right to complain about anything unless I make an effort to make a difference, so that’s why I became a producer.”

“I will not surrender and take no for an answer, and I refuse to be a victim and sit down and cry. And if I die on my way there, I die with pride. And if it doesn’t happen and I go down, I don’t go down — I go up in my own little world, because I did something with conviction, and again, I proved them wrong.”

Matthias Schoenaerts on the power of femininity:

“There’s an enormous beauty and depth to what the female represents and what she embodies in all her dimensions, and I think there’s an enormous potential for beautiful stories that eventually might make money. And it’s a sad thing that in the end, it always comes back to that very dynamic of making money.”

Matthias Schoenaerts on fighting discrimination:

“To me, it’s really insane that this industry is completely dominated by this masculine testosterone hormone.”

“Yes, males and females, they might have different sensibilities, but before they’re male or female, they’re individuals and I think that is a much more interesting conversation.”

“I try to focus on the good things and work from the heart and see things from a human perspective, and not in a polarized perspective, not in a gender perspective or cultural perspective, but just in terms of individuals.”

Matthias Schoenaerts on working with a female director:

“For me, it’s like working with a person. I like the person, I like her imagination, I like her sensibility, and I work with her, and once I’m working with her, I’m not looking at her as a female director. I’m looking at her as a friend, and we’re working. And you know, we might collide, but that’s part of the creative process. Once I’m there, I’m not considering her as a female. That’s not the way I think. And it’s funny that in interviews, people really refer to it, like, permanently.”

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