Last updated

Promotional poster
Directed by Julie Taymor
Produced by Sarah Green
Salma Hayek
Jay Polstein
Lizz Speed
Nancy Hardin
Lindsay Flickinger
Roberto Sneider
Screenplay by Clancy Sigal
Diane Lake
Gregory Nava
Anna Thomas
Edward Norton (uncredited)
Based on Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo
by Hayden Herrera
StarringSalma Hayek
Alfred Molina
Valeria Golino
Ashley Judd
Mía Maestro
Roger Rees
Edward Norton
Geoffrey Rush
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Cinematography Rodrigo Prieto
Edited by Françoise Bonnot
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date
  • August 29, 2002 (2002-08-29)(Venice)
  • October 25, 2002 (2002-10-25)(United States)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States [1]
Budget$12 million
Box office$56.3 million [2]

Frida is a 2002 American biographical drama film directed by Julie Taymor. It depicts the professional and private life of the surrealist Mexican 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 unofficially by Edward Norton from the book Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera.

Biographical film Film genre

A biographical film, or biopic, is a film that dramatizes the life of a non-fictional or historically-based person or people. Such films show the life of a historical person and the central character's real name is used. They differ from films "based on a true story" or "historical drama films" in that they attempt to comprehensively tell a single person's life story or at least the most historically important years of their lives.

In film and television, drama is a genre of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular subgenre, such as "police crime drama", "political drama", "legal drama", "historical period drama", "domestic drama", "teen drama", or "comedy-drama". These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.

Julie Taymor American film and theatre director

Julie Taymor is an American director and writer of theater, opera and film. Since her adaptation of The Lion King debuted in 1997, 24 global productions have been seen by more than 90 million people in over 100 cities in 19 countries, earning it the highest worldwide gross of any entertainment title in box office history. Lion King also received 11 Tony Award nominations, earning Taymor Tony Awards for Best Director and Costume Designer, and was honored with more than 70 major arts awards worldwide.


Frida received generally positive reviews from critics, and won two Academy Awards for Best Makeup and Best Original Score among six nominations.

Academy Awards American awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements

The Academy Awards, also officially and popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The statuette depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style.

The Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling is the Academy Award given to the best achievement in makeup and hairstyling for film. Traditionally, three films have been nominated each year with exceptions in the early 1980s and 2002 when there were only two nominees; in 1999, when there were four nominees. Beginning with the 92nd Academy Awards, five films will be nominated.

The Academy Award for Best Original Score is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to the best substantial body of music in the form of dramatic underscoring written specifically for the film by the submitting composer.


Frida begins just before the traumatic accident Frida Kahlo (Salma Hayek) suffered at the age of 18 when the wooden-bodied bus she was riding in collided with a streetcar. 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.

Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one's ability to cope, or integrate the emotions involved with that experience. Trauma may result from a single distressing experience or recurring events of being overwhelmed that can be precipitated in weeks, years, or even decades as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances, eventually leading to serious, long-term negative consequences.

Frida Kahlo Mexican painter

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. Inspired by the country's popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society. Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy. In addition to belonging to the post-revolutionary Mexicayotl movement, which sought to define a Mexican identity, Kahlo has been described as a surrealist or magical realist.

Salma Hayek Mexican and American actress and producer

Salma Hayek Pinault is a Mexican and American film actress and producer. She began her career in Mexico starring in the telenovela Teresa and starred in the film El Callejón de los Milagros for which she was nominated for an Ariel Award. In 1991, Hayek moved to Hollywood and came to prominence with roles in films such as Desperado (1995), From Dusk till Dawn (1996), Wild Wild West, and Dogma.

Frida also details the artist's dysfunctional relationship with the muralist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). 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 has affairs with a wide array of women, while the bisexual Kahlo takes on male and female lovers, including in one case having an affair with the same woman as Rivera.

Mural piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a large permanent surface

A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other permanent surfaces. A distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

Diego Rivera Mexican painter and muralist

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, known as Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter. His large frescoes helped establish the Mexican mural movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals in, among other places, Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City. In 1931, a retrospective exhibition of his works was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Rivera had a volatile marriage with fellow Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Alfred Molina British actor

Alfredo "Alfred" Molina is an English actor and voice artist. He is known for his roles in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Prick Up Your Ears (1987), Enchanted April (1992), Maverick (1994), Species (1995), Boogie Nights (1997), Chocolat (2000), Frida (2002), Luther (2003), Spider-Man 2 (2004), The Da Vinci Code (2006), An Education (2009), and Love Is Strange (2014). He has voiced characters in Rango (2011), Monsters University (2013) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

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

<i>Man at the Crossroads</i> mural by Diego Rivera

Man at the Crossroads (1934) was a fresco by Diego Rivera in New York City's Rockefeller Center. It was originally slated to be installed in the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the main building of the center. Man at the Crossroads showed the aspects of contemporary social and scientific culture. As originally installed, it was a three-paneled artwork. A central panel depicted a worker controlling machinery. The central panel was flanked by two other panels, The Frontier of Ethical Evolution and The Frontier of Material Development, which respectively represented socialism and capitalism.

Rockefeller Center Skyscraper complex in Manhattan, New York

Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th and 51st Streets, facing Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The 14 original Art Deco buildings, commissioned by the Rockefeller family, span the area between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, split by a large sunken square and a private street called Rockefeller Plaza. Five International Style buildings, built later, are located on the west side of Sixth Avenue and at the north end of Rockefeller Plaza.

Miscarriage natural death of an embryo or fetus before it is able to survive independently

Miscarriage, also known as spontaneous abortion and pregnancy loss, is the natural death of an embryo or fetus before it is able to survive independently. Some use the cutoff of 20 weeks of gestation, after which fetal death is known as a stillbirth. The most common symptom of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding with or without pain. Sadness, anxiety and guilt may occur afterwards. Tissue and clot-like material may leave the uterus and pass through and out of the vagina. When a woman keeps having miscarriages, infertility is present.

Kahlo's sister Cristina moves in with the two at their San Ángel 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 (Geoffrey Rush), who has been granted political asylum in Mexico. She and Trotsky begin an affair, which forces the married Trotsky to leave the safety of his Coyoacán home.

San Ángel Colonia in Mexico City, Mexico

San Ángel is a colonia or neighborhood of Mexico City, located in the southwest in Álvaro Obregón borough. Historically, it was a rural community, called Tenanitla in the pre-Hispanic period. Its current name is derived from the El Carmen monastery school called San Ángel Mártir. San Ángel remained a rural community, centered on the monastery until the 19th and 20th centuries, when the monastery was closed and when the area joined urban sprawl of Mexico City. However, the area still contains many of its former historic buildings and El Carmen is one of the most visited museums in the city. It is also home to an annual flower fair called the Feria de las Flores, held since 1856.

Alcoholism Broad term for problems with alcohol

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in mental or physical health problems. The disorder was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions are present: a person drinks large amounts of alcohol over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include drinking and driving or having unsafe sex, among other things. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body, but it particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, irregular heartbeat, an impaired immune response, liver cirrhosis and increased cancer risk, among other diseases. Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Women are generally more sensitive than men to the harmful physical and mental effects of alcohol.

Leon Trotsky Marxist revolutionary from Russia

Leon Trotsky was a Russian revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and Soviet politician whose particular strain of Marxist thought is known as Trotskyism.

Kahlo leaves for Paris after Diego realizes she was unfaithful to him with Trotsky; although Rivera had little problem with Kahlo's other affairs, Trotsky was too important to Rivera to be intimately involved with his wife. When she returns to Mexico, he asks for a divorce. Soon afterwards, Trotsky is murdered in Mexico City. 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 continues to worsen, including the amputation of a leg, and she ultimately dies after finally having a solo exhibition of her paintings in Mexico.


Allusions and paintings

The passengers in the bus Kahlo rides in that crashes with a streetcar are based on subjects in the painter's 1929 portrait, The Bus. Other Kahlo paintings either shown directly or depicted in the film by the characters include Frieda and Diego Rivera (1931), What the Water Gave Me (1938), The Two Fridas (1939), The Broken Column (1944), and The Wounded Deer (1946).

The Brothers Quay-created stop motion animation sequence depicting the initial stages of Kahlo's recovery at the hospital after the accident are inspired by the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead. The gown Valeria Golino wears at Kahlo's 1953 Mexican solo art exhibition is a replica of the dress that her character, Lupe Marín, wore in Rivera's 1938 portrait of her.


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." [3] Learning of Hayden Herrera's biography of Kahlo, Hardin saw Kahlo's life as very contemporary, her "story ... an emblematic tale for women torn between marriage and career." [3] 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 receiving rejection from the film studios. As Kahlo's art gained prominence, however "in 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." [3] 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." [3] 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 received objections due to her non-Hispanic ethnicity, and New Line complied with the protesters' demands, and left the then-titled Frida and Diego in August 1992 citing finances. [3] 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. [3]

Valdez was contacted early on by the then unknown in the U.S. 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. [4] By 1993, Valdez had retitled the film The Two Fridas with San Giacomo and Ofelia Medina both playing the portraitist. [5] Raúl Juliá 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 television movie, 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. [3] 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:

At that age I did not like her work ... I found it ugly and grotesque. But something intrigued me, and the more I learned, the more I started to appreciate her work. There was a lot of passion and depth. Some people see only pain, but I also see irony and humor. I think what draws me to her is what Diego saw in her. She was a fighter. Many things could have diminished her spirit, like the accident or Diego's infidelities. But she wasn't crushed by anything. [3]

Hayek was so determined to play 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. [4] 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 Broadway play 'Art' ] rather sheepishly, and asked if I would like to play Diego". Molina went on to gain 35 pounds to play Rivera. [6] 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; Julie Taymor came onto the project as director. 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. [7] Nonetheless, it was Hayek and Miramax who began production in Spring, 2001 on what was to become simply titled Frida. [4] Edward Norton rewrote the script at least once but was not credited as a writer. [8] [9]

In a December 2017 op-ed for The New York Times , Hayek stated that Weinstein attempted to thwart the making of the film because Hayek had refused to grant him sexual favors and also threatened to shut down the film unless Hayek agreed to include a full frontal nude sex scene with herself and another woman. [9] In response, Weinstein claimed that none of the sexual allegations made by Hayek were accurate and that he did not recall pressuring Hayek "to do a gratuitous sex scene." [10]


On August 29, 2002, the film made its world premiere opening the Venice International Film Festival. [11] Frida's American premiere was at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles on October 14 of that year. It had its Mexican premiere on November 8, 2002 at Mexico City's Palace of Fine Arts. [12] [13]


Box office

Frida was initially shown in five theaters and earned $205,996 upon its opening weekend in the United States. [14] The following week the film expanded to forty-seven theaters, earning $1,323,935. [15] By late December 2002, Frida was playing in 283 theaters and had earned over $20 million. [16] The film earned $56,298,474 in its worldwide total gross. [2]

Critical response

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 75% of 153 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.9/10. [17] According to the site's summary of the critical consensus, "Frida is a passionate, visually striking biopic about the larger-than-life artist." [17] Metacritic, which assigns a score of 1–100 to individual film reviews, gives the film an average rating of 61 based on 38 reviews. [18] Stella Papamichael from the BBC gave the film three out of five stars and stated "Julie Taymor's biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo connects the dots between art and anguish. The disparity lies in the fact that Frida settles for tickling a fancy where it should be packing a punch. Although involving and sprightly, it offers the kind of guilty pleasure a Fine Arts student might derive from a glossy cartoon strip." [19] Film critic Roger Ebert awarded Frida three and a half stars and commented "Sometimes we feel as if the film careens from one colorful event to another without respite, but sometimes it must have seemed to Frida Kahlo as if her life did, too." [20] Ebert thought Taymor and the writers had "obviously struggled with the material", though he called the closing scenes "extraordinary." [20] The New York Post's Jonathan Foreman praised the score and Taymor's direction, saying that she "captures both the glamorous, deeply cosmopolitan milieu Kahlo and Rivera inhabited, and the importance Mexico had in the '30s for the international left." [21] He added that the odd accents adopted by the likes of Judd and Rush let the authenticity down. [21] Andrew Pulver from The Guardian gave the film three stars and proclaimed that it is "a substantial film, its story told with economy and clarity." [22]


The American Film Institute included Frida in their Movies of the Year 2002, [23] Official Selection. Their rationale was:

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.


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