"We were both passionate. And she was like, 'No, but that's not how I designed it.' The people outside my house were calling it a fight, because we were kind of screaming," she continued. "We continued to talk and talk, and it went on for a long time. The people outside were so nervous that I was going to get fired."
But instead of her marching orders, the 55-year-old left instead with even more excitement for the project than she went in with.
"I came out and I said, 'Wow, I’m in love with her brain!' That was the best creative conversation I've ever had with a director in my life, and she felt the same. She told me, 'Wow! That was amazing,'" Salma recalled.
"It was just complete freedom. We found our middle ground. While finding it, we came up with other ideas. It was super exciting."
Co-star and fellow Eternal Angelina Jolie, who also sat for the interview, corroborated everything.
"It's true what she's saying," Jolie said. "There was no ego. There was no time for it, no room for it with everyone. That's part of who Chloé is."
"I was very drawn to the idea of her taking on Marvel because it didn't seem obvious. Then you meet her and you understand her personal connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and her love for these types of films—how she grew up, what they mean to her, then it makes a lot of sense. I knew whatever it was going to be, she was going to bring something unique."
Hayek added: "What happened there is that I realized, she's super strong. She knows what she wants. She had a clear vision of the field. She's open to hearing, but you have to really make a smart point."
Mexican-born Hayek described her shock at getting the call up — and her shock that she wasn't just going to be playing "the grandmother".
"I never thought I was going to be one of the Eternals. It doesn't happen. It's never happened to me like that before without a fight and like, 'I can do this, please hire me!'" she said. "When she told me I was one of them, I was like, 'Me, Mexican, Middle Eastern? Me, in my fifties? I'm going to be a superhero in a Marvel movie?'"
"Sometimes as a woman, as a woman of color and with the age, you feel so overlooked. It was one of those moments where you think, okay, I held on in this industry, survived for this long. I just felt acknowledged by somebody I admire and didn't know she was watching me. I kept feeling like, S---, this one is cool. She's got balls, she's interesting."
In the Phase 4 MCU film, the Eternals, an immortal race of cosmic beings who have been secretly living on Earth of 7,000 years, are called into action by the threat of their nemesis, the Deviants
Hayek plays the spiritual leader of the the group, the healer Ajak (originally a man in the comics), while Jolie plays the warrior Thena.
Another thing that made Salma angry on set was all the infamous Marvel secrecy.
"It freaked me out and I hated it and I was angry about it. They didn't want me to keep the script," she said. "I'd make my notes and they’d take it away. They give you another one, but they take the [old] one."
"I like to keep my stuff. You say, 'Oh my God, what if I go to jail?' I couldn't write my notes there. That's my whole process. They would take away the script, and I was offended."
Lauren Ridloff, who plays the super-speedy Eternal Makkari, backed up her story this time:
"They had a man in a trench coat — I'm not making this up, I'm not kidding—a man in a trench coat who’d come over to my house at 11 at night with new script pages, in a manila envelope," she said. "You had to trade them off with the old script pages. Then he'd just walk off into the night. It was very undercover, covert."
Jolie chimed in: "I think, in part, there were things we still didn't understand, so that helped."
Indeed, Salma even hilariously admitted trying to tell husband François-Henri Pinault about one of the sets — but couldn't think of the words.
"There were [plot details] that even if you tried to tell, nobody would understand," she said. "One time when we walked into one part of the ship, I was blown away by the set design, the world, how they did it. I came home and tried to describe it to my husband. I said, 'It was like everything in the ocean—like inside the ocean, the plants.'"
"He's like, 'What? This spaceship comes from underneath the ocean?' I go, 'No, the decoration.' 'You mean there are fish?' But there are no fish."
"See, I can't even explain it to you. He kept asking me for days and I kept telling him the best that I could, but it's impossible."
Jolie had lots of praise for her male co-stars — which includes Kumail Nanjiani, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan and both Game of Thrones alumni Richard Madden and Kit Harington — whom she described as "so supportive"... something that, evidently, isn't always the case.
"They were encouraging of our strength and partners to us. And we were able to just be ourselves," she said. "Normally you come with all you are as a woman and then the environment you walk into kind of shuts you down. And we just didn’t get shut down on this one."
As for the argument MCU films "aren't real cinema" — none of the women agreed.
"The MCU has such a huge impact on our culture. It instills a sense of hope in us," Ridloff said. "The value of humanity is one consistent theme we see in all the films. That's something that we need to be reminded of, from time to time."
Hayek added: "I mean, how many movies really bring a contribution to humanity? To what degree? [People] go and watch them and like them. It's doing something for them, otherwise they wouldn't go."
"What is interesting for me is there are so many of them and people cannot get enough. That says something. The way they reinvent each of them, how do they make it so that people are still interested? I had a different image at the beginning. I really loved working with them. They’re brilliant in the way they keep it going."
"The choice of Chloé, even the choice of making this movie. I think this is a different sensation," she added. "Even though it’s a superhero movie, there's a lot of humanity in it."