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Frida is a 2002 biographical film which depicts the passionately professional and private life of the surrealist Mexicanmarker painter Frida Kahlo. It stars Salma Hayek in her Academy Award nominated portrayal as Kahlo and Alfred Molina as her husband, Diego Rivera.

The movie was adapted by Clancy Sigal, Diane Lake, Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas and Edward Norton (uncredited) from the book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera. It was directed by Julie Taymor. It won Oscars for Best Makeup and Best Original Music Score (recipient: Elliot Goldenthal).


"Frida" begins with the trauma accident Frida Kahlo suffered at the age of 18 when a car trolley collided with a bus she was riding. She is impaled by a metal pole and the injuries she sustained plague her for the rest of her life. To help her through convalescence, her father brings her a canvas upon which to start painting. Throughout the film a scene starts as a painting, then slowly dissolves into a live-action scene with actors.

Frida also details the artist's dysfunctional relationship with the muralist Diego Rivera. When Rivera proposes to Kahlo, she tells him she expects from him loyalty if not fidelity. Diego's appraisal of her painting ability is one of the reasons that she continues to paint. Throughout the marriage, Rivera cheats on her with a wide array of women, while the bisexual Kahlo takes on male and female lovers.

The two travel to New York Citymarker so that he may paint the mural Man at the Crossroads at the Rockefeller Centermarker. While in the United Statesmarker, Kahlo suffers a miscarriage and her mother dies in Mexicomarker. Rivera refuses to compromise his communist vision of the work to the needs of the patron, Nelson Rockefeller; as a result, the mural is destroyed. The pair return to Mexico, with Rivera the more reluctant of the two.

Kahlo's sister Cristina moves in with the two at their San Ángelmarker studio home to work as Rivera's assistant. Soon afterward, Kahlo discovers that Rivera is having an affair with her sister. She leaves him, and subsequently sinks into alcoholism. The couple reunite when he asks her to welcome and house Leon Trotsky, who has been granted political asylum in Mexico. She and Trotsky begin an affair which forces the married Trotsky to leave the safety of her Coyoacanmarker home.

Kahlo leaves for Parismarker after Diego realizes she was unfaithful to him with Trotsky. When she returns to Mexico, he asks for a divorce. Soon afterwards, Trotsky is murdered in Mexico Citymarker. Rivera is temporarily a suspect and Kahlo is incarcerated in his place when he is not found. Rivera helps get her released.

Kahlo has her toes removed when they become gangrenous. Rivera asks her to remarry him and she agrees. Her health worsens, including the amputation of a leg, and she ultimately dies after finally having a solo exhibition of her paintings in Mexico.


  • The passengers on the trolley Kahlo rides and that crashes with a bus are based on subjects in the painter's 1929 portrait, The Bus.
  • The Brothers Quay–created stop motion animation sequence depicting the initial stages of Kahlo's recovery at the hospital after the trolley accident are inspired by Day of the Dead.
  • The gown Valeria Golino wears at Kahlo's 1953 Mexican solo art exhibition is a replica of the dress her character Lupe Marín wore in Rivera's 1938 portrait of her.


  • In the film, the nude woman Rivera is painting in the mural Creation was actually posed for by his wife Lupe Marín and not the unknown auditorium model as depicted. In the film, when Marín confronts Rivera about his infidelities, said model is present.
  • As portrayed in the film Diego painted the mural An Abundant Earth after marrying Kahlo. Actually, he completed this while still married to his previous wife, Marín. The nude woman he used as a subject in one of the panels in the mural was Tina Modotti and not an unknown model he has an affair with, as also portrayed in the film.
  • In the film, Kahlo miscarries in New York City; in reality this took place in Detroitmarker.
  • As depicted in the film, Frida paints Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair immediately after discovering Diego's affair with her sister Cristina Kahlo. The affair ended in 1934 but the portrait wasn't actually painted until 1940. The recording of the song Paloma Negra, which plays in the sequence following Frida's discovery of the affair, is from 1958.




The film version of Frida Kahlo's life was initially championed by Nancy Hardin, a former book editor and Hollywood-based literary agent, turned early "female studio executive," who, in the mid-1980s wished to "make the transition to independent producing." Learning of Hayden Herrara's biography of Kahlo, Hardin saw Kahlo's life as very contemporary, her "story... an emblematic tale for women torn between marriage and career." Optioning the book in 1988, Hardin "tried to sell it as an epic love story in the tradition of Out of Africa, attracting tentative interest from actresses such as Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange, but rejection from the film studios. As Kahlo's art gained prominence, however ("[i]n May 1990 one of Kahlo's self-portraits sold at Sotheby's for $1.5 million, the highest price ever paid at auction for a Latin American painting"), Madonna "announced her plans to star in a film based on Frida's life," and Robert De Niro's Tribeca Productions reportedly "envisioned a joint biography of Rivera and Kahlo."

In the spring of 1991 director Luis Valdez began production on a New Line feature about Frida Kahlo starring Laura San Giacomo in the lead. San Giacomo's casting was objected due to her non-Hispanic ethnicity, and New Line bowed to the protests, and left the then-titled Frida and Diego in August 1992 citing finances. Hardin's project found itself swamped by similar ones:
"When I first tried to sell the project... there was no interest because nobody had heard of Frida. A few years later, I heard the exact opposite--that there were too many Frida projects in development, and nobody wanted mine."

Valdez was contacted early on by the - then unknown in the US - Salma Hayek, who sent "her [promo] reel to the director and phoned his office," but was ultimately told she was then too young for the role. By 1993 Valdez had retitled the film The Two Fridas with San Giacomo and Ofelia Medina both playing the portraitist. Raul Julia was cast as Diego Rivera, but his death further delayed the movie. At the same time, Hardin approached HBO, and with "rising young development executive and producer" Lizz Speed (a former assistant to Sherry Lansing) intended to make a TVM, hopeful that Brian Gibson (director of "What's Love Got to Do With It, the story of Tina Turner" and The Josephine Baker Story) would direct. Casting difficulties proved insurmountable, but Speed joined Hardin in advocating the project, and after four years in development, the two took the project from HBO to Trimark and producer Jay Polstein (with assistant Darlene Caamaño). At Trimark, Salma Hayek became interested in the role, having "been fascinated by Kahlo's work from the time she was 13 or 14" - although not immediately a fan:

Hayek was so set on acting the role that she sought out Dolores Olmedo Patino, longtime-lover of Diego Rivera, and (after his death) administrator to the rights of Frida and Rivera's art, which Rivera had "willed... to the Mexican people," bequeath[ing] the trust to Olmedo. Salma Hayek personally secured access to Kahlo's paintings from her, and began to assemble a supporting cast, approaching Alfred Molina for the role of Rivera in 1998. According to Molina, "She turned up backstage [of the Broadwaymarker play Art] rather sheepishly and asked if I would like to play Diego". Molina went on to gain 35 pounds to play Rivera.

When producer Polstein left Trimark, however, the production faltered again, and Hayek approached Harvey Weinstein and Miramax, and the company purchased the film from Trimark. Meanwhile, in August 2000 it was announced that Jennifer Lopez would star in Valdez's take on the story, The Two Fridas, by then being produced by American Zoetrope. Nonetheless, it was Hayek and Miramax who began production in Spring, 2001 on what was to become simply titled Frida.


Filming took place from April 7 through June 2001 and was shot entirely in Mexico.

Among the on location places shot were three UNESCO world heritage sites: Teotihuacanmarker, Xochimilcomarker, and Pueblamarker's historic centre. Other on location sites include Rivera and Kahlo's Juan O'Gorman designed San Ángelmarker studio home and the San Idelfonso National Preparatory School. Replicas of Casa Azul (Kahlo's Coyacan home) and RCA Buildingmarker's lobby were built at Churubusco Studiosmarker in Mexico Citymarker and shot in Stage 4 of said studios.

For scenes depicting Diego completing a mural, crew members stretched a canvas across a scaffold placed in front of the painter's actual artwork. This "makeshift 'mural'" included sketched outlines and painted portions. The optical "illusion" of a work in progress was achieved through the canvas "flattened" by a camera shooting from a distance and therefore "blending" the edges into the fixed mural.

Salma Hayek wore over fifty costumes as Frida. Some pieces were purchased from street vendors in Mexico City.


On August 29, 2002 the film made its world premiere opening the Venice International Film Festival. Frida's Americanmarker premiere was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Artmarker in Los Angelesmarker on October 14 of that year. It had its Mexican premiere on November 8 2002 at Mexico Citymarker's Palace of Fine Artsmarker.


Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Salma Hayek Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Felipe Fernández del Paso, Hania Robledo Nominated
Best Costume Design Julie Weiss Nominated
Best Makeup John E. Jackson, Beatriz De Alba Won
Best Original Music Score Elliot Goldenthal Won
Best Original Song ("Burn It Blue") Julie Taymor, Elliot Goldenthal Nominated
Golden Globes Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Salma Hayek Nominated
Best Original Music Score - Motion Picture Elliot Goldenthal Won
BAFTA Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Salma Hayek Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Alfred Molina Nominated
Best Costume Design Julie Weiss Nominated
Best Make Up/Hair Judy Chin, Beatriz De Alba, John E. Jackson, Regina Reyes Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Salma Hayek Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Alfred Molina Nominated

American Film Institute

Movies of the Year 2002, Official Selection

FRIDA is a movie about art that is a work of art in itself.
The film's unique visual language takes us into an artist's head and reminds us that art is best enjoyed when it moves, breathes and is painted on a giant canvas, as only the movies can provide.

National Board of Review

Top Ten Films

See also


  1. The Book LA SUMMER 2000 Selma & Frida
  2. Kahlo biopic gets new wakeup call - Entertainment News, International News, Media - Variety
  3. That Frida feeling | Culture | The Guardian
  4. Fascinated by Frida| Film | This is London
  5. the writing studio: adaptation frida. Accessed April 10, 2008
  6. Page Title
  7. Page Title
  8. How Salma Hayek transformed into Frida Kahlo | Frida | Movie News | Movies | Entertainment Weekly

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