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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 09:40 GMT
Kahlo's art was movie inspiration
Julie Taymor and Salma Hayek
Taymor (l) has been Oscar-nominated for best song

Julie Taymor, director of the film Frida, tells the BBC how she brought the life of Mexican artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo to the silver screen.

Julie Taymor's film Frida - produced by its lead actress, Salma Hayek - has received six Oscar nominations.

Hayek had spent seven years attempting to get the film off the ground, and finally in Taymor seems to have found someone to tell Kahlo's story the way she wanted.

I've never seen a story that so delved into how to stay in love
Julie Taymor
Taymor told the BBC World Service's Meridian Screen programme how she based her scenes around Kahlo's own artwork, which, she says, tell the artist's life story.

"With these paintings, I tried to get into the mind of Frida," Taymor said.

"I took eight or nine paintings, and I placed them like chapter headings or chapter endings throughout the movie, and you're at an emotional and physical landscape with Frida.

Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo
Taymor wanted to show Kahlo's life through her paintings
"At that moment, the emotion comes through how she sees the event."

Art to life

And she added that it was this aspect that she felt brought the film to life.

"I show you Frida's imaginings, how Frida sees the scene, and that makes it not a dry biopic, but whimsical, shocking sometimes, and fun and entertaining.

"I tried to do honour to her paintings by doing them in her theatrical, almost naive style."

Taymor previously worked as a designer for the highly successful West End production of The Lion King, and said that had been important in enabling her to develop the look of the film.

"One of the things you do in theatre is abstract things, and Lion King is huge proof of that," she said.

"When you have white streamers of silk coming out of the eyes of a puppet head, people know it's silk, but they also know it's tears.

"Well I actually think this film has as much creative power to do that in a cinematic way."

Best Actress

But despite all the scope for the artistic production design, Taymor admitted that in the end, it was the love story she was interested in.

The Lion King
Taymor was art director for the Lion King musical
"It made a good movie, it made a drama," Taymor said.

"I've never seen a story that so delved into how to stay in love, what do you do with infidelity, how do you get by that.

"This woman had the most outrageous and personal ways of dealing with a husband who she knew - even before married him - wouldn't be faithful."

And she reserved special praise for her producer and leading lady, Hayek, who has been nominated for best actress for the first time in her career.

"Of course she is stunning, but that is only the tip of the iceberg with this woman," Taymor gushed.

"She is a force of nature."

Artist's impression
Front Row talks to Julie Taymor

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