Tortilla Soup : Interview With Raquel Welch

Raquel WelchIt's hard to believe that sex bomb Raquel Welch is now pushing 61. It's even harder to believe when you see her in person. Sure, there are a few lines around her eyes now and her famous figure isn't quite as firm and trim as it was when she first burst on the scene in 1966's one million Years B.C. (1966)

But the actress, who shares a beautiful home in Beverly Hills with husband No. 4, Richard Palmer, must be doing something right because she looks pretty amazing - even for a woman ten years younger.

Maybe it's all the hard work - both on recent movie sets and at the gym. After all, it's been a busy summer for Raquel. First, she will be appearing in the hit Legally Blonde (2001), and next she's about to star in Tortilla Soup (2001), a comedy about food, family, romance and love in which she plays Hortensia, a flamboyant and flirtatious grandmother who puts the moves on a widower, Martin (Hector Elizondo).

Here, the star talks about her new film, her beauty and fitness regime, her new line of skin care products, and the price of being a sex symbol.

You haven't made a movie for a while, and suddenly you're everywhere this year.

My career's going better than ever, and I'm also having more fun now than I ever did. I've got to the point now where I can poke some fun at my old image and really enjoy letting go when a juicy role comes along, which is exactly what happened with Tortilla Soup (2001). I had a blast doing it. It's a very sensual film, and the food of course is just a metaphor for all the different characters in the story. We're all very different, and each character is quite unpredictable in their own way.

Tell us about Hortensia.

Raquel WelchPlaying Hortensia was even more fun than it looked, and I loved her because obviously the rest of the piece was being done in an almost understated way, while she's this larger-than-life character. Even though it's a romantic comedy, this woman has enough fun moments with her audacious behaviour and the way she doesn't relate to other people, even though she appears to be talking to them. I always thought of her as being completely delusional, but with a good heart.

She comes across as this awful woman, a complete gold digger, who's also great in a way, because she's so much fun.

It's funny, because in rehearsals people kept referring to her as 'the mother from hell,' and then the director kept saying to me, 'Please don't, I don't want any hell mother,' and I just told her, 'don't worry, I don't want to play her that way because she's already written very broad. '

So I just had to figure out, how does she spend her mornings? And how does she get to this state of manic behaviour where it seems that she's just fantasized exactly what will cure all the ills in her life, and what will make her daughter and granddaughter's lives secure? And there's absolutely nothing that will deter her from what she believes will be this wonderful solution - marriage to Martin.

What about playing a Latina?

Raquel WelchAlthough I'm half Latin, I never learned how to speak Spanish. I can speak a little bit, and my accent's not bad, but it's only stuff I picked up along the way. My father never spoke Spanish at home, because it was the era when people tried to hide their ethnic roots rather than celebrate them.

Everyone had to be part of the mainstream American pop culture. So I never got the sense from him that my Latin heritage was anything to be proud of. It was only much later that I realized what I was missing out on and this role is one of the few times I've had the opportunity to embrace my Latin heritage.

This film is also very sensual, with all the great food.

Well, you know that Latins tend to be very sensual. We're famous for it.

I hope the catering on the set was great?

I married a guy with a pizza chain, but I'm one of the people who'll hardly ever eat. Nobody will be surprised, believe me. I know that everyone working with me just loved the food, and I just had to salivate in the wings all the time. The only problem was, all the incredible food we shot started off as very succulent, but after all the hours under the hot lights it was just petrified. But we did do all these great close ups of the food while it was being prepared, so you could almost taste and smell it off the screen.

How do you keep in shape?

Raquel WelchFor a start I do yoga every day, 6 days a week. If I'm not shooting and have to get up at some ungodly hour, I usually get up at 6am and do my yoga stretches first and my breathing, then I'm ready for the rest of the action which is about 45 minutes of cardio and weight training.

So I put in almost two hours every day, 6 days a week, and I love it. It makes me feel great, I'm very energized, and I swear by it. I think if you don't use it, you lose it, and if you make an investment in yourself that way, you just get more energy back. I learned that through yoga. It's just the same as a love relationship. You put your time and effort and soul towards that, and then you get someone loving you back - hopefully! (laughs)

You sound so disciplined. Don't you have any vices?

Well there are those times when I'm not filming and then I love to pig out! That's when Richie orders a pizza sent out from his place, and instead of having just one slice I eat the whole damn thing. Then that's not enough for me, as I'd also like to eat half of one of those big pans of eggplant parmesan, and maybe some spaghetti and meatballs.

So do you ever diet?

Of course, darling! Do I have a diet? I have a lifestyle that'd kill a horse (laughs). I don't smoke and I don't drink much apart from the occasional margarita. I was raised that way in a sense. My mother's family and my father were very conservative and traditional in my upbringing and very work-orientated, and sort of old-fashioned.

My father was a very good athlete and always played tennis and sailed and all those things, and I was always taught that you had to stay active and fit and to watch your diet so you didn't get fat and sloppy. So it was a good background for the kind of work I do, because it's a very disciplined profession.

True, but it also seems that a lot of people in showbiz go to extremes and right over the edge.

Raquel WelchYes, they do, but it seems that it's mostly the men who do that. I guess some girls do too, but mostly the girls drop when they work themselves to death. It's a business where when you finally end up on a beach somewhere finally getting some rest you just feel completely numbed, because you get so emotionally involved in it all, from the performing end to the fact that your ass is on the line all the time.

People are scrutinizing you constantly, sometimes kindly and with admiration, but sometimes not so kindly, and it's just exhausting. I mean, most of the people who really love what they do have had to clean up their acts sooner or later, or they can't carry on.

Tell us about your new skin care line you're launching.

It's coming out in September and it's called 'Raquel Timeless Beauty Skin Care. ' It all happened when I was invited to do my own line of skin care products. This company wanted to develop a product based on my health regime and what I believe in and what works for me, so I presented my ideas, and now it's a reality.

There are four first parts of the line - Cleanser, Powder, Daytime Protective Cream with sun block, and Nightime Rejuvenating Cream. Then we'll add other products along the way.

So you're very involved in it?

Raquel WelchVery. I'm not a bio-chemist (laughs) but I certainly know over the course of all these years what works and what doesn't work for me, and I've learned a lot because I've had to. Here I am, after all this time, still a survivor from the dinosaur era!

So what are your beauty secrets?

I take good care of my skin and luckily I have good skin from my mother, and she always took good care of hers, so as a little girl I'd see that and it impressed me a lot. Then I began doing some modelling as a teenager, and ended up in movies, so I worked with all the top experts everywhere in the world telling what I could do and how and the best way to treat my skin.

So I was always very aware of all the little problem areas under the eyes and around the mouth and so on as you age, and with this new line I've taken a very practical approach and said, 'OK, this works for me,' or 'this doesn't absorb well enough. ' I've spent the whole past year working with chemists and dermatologists and refining the products.

Will this be a worldwide blitz?

It'll definitely be international distribution, but I think we'll start off with a mail-order, catalogue type of presentation to see what response we'll get in the first season. Then eventually we'll probably go retail.

Raquel WelchDon't you also have the Raquel Welch Celebrity Signature Wig Collection?

Yes, and it also has hair extensions, and it's already in its fourth season now, so it's doing very well. We're just doing our new Spring catalogue for it. And I learned from the wig collection how you build a product line, try stuff out, see what works and doesn't, and then gradually refine it and improve it. You do it step by step. It's not like opening a movie where the first weekend is make or break.

What about a Raquel Welch perfume?

Eventually, I'll do it. It's been discussed but it hasn't quite gelled yet. But I'm sure that'll happen. The funny thing is, I've never been that ambitious to do all this health and beauty stuff, it's just sort of taken off on its own, and as long as I can do it tastefully and with commitment, I'll keep doing it.

You've been a sex symbol for so long now. How come you never did any nudity?

Raquel Welch(Laughs) I'm basically an old-fashioned gal, that's why, and I come from a very proper family. Instead, you just saw me in a bikini for ten years or so. Part of being a sex symbol is very flattering and it does help you get success in the business - but only to a point. You're stuck with that moniker forever, and it does cloud people's imagination. They just can't see you being able to do anything else.

You once said that 'being a sex symbol is rather like being a convict. ' Do you still feel that way?

I do. (Laughs) They let me out on parole but they keep pullin' me back in.

Author : FeatsPress