Salma Hayek Had To Overcome A Major Phobia For Her From Dusk Till Dawn Role

Salma Hayek has made a living portraying virtually-fearless women, so it doesn't seem like she could be afraid of anything herself. Then again, we all have our phobias — and the Academy Award-nominated actress had to face her biggest one on the set of Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn." The 1996 film written by Quentin Tarantino follows two brothers (played by Tarantino and George Clooney, respectively) who cross the border into Mexico after a bank robbery gone wrong. They manage to evade the cops by laying low in a topless bar, but soon come to realize that it's actually a front for a cult of satanic vampires.

Hayek had previously worked with Rodriguez on two projects — as Carolina in "Desperado" the year before, and in the 1994 anthology film "Four Rooms" — so landing the part of Santanico Pandemonium, a vampire-stripper at the bar, wasn't difficult. The actress told Yahoo! News that Tarantino even wrote the part for her after seeing her performance in "Four Rooms."

Once cast, everything seemed poised to go smoothly. But when Hayek learned that she'd be dancing with a Burmese python draped around her neck, her fear of snakes nearly cost her the role.

Why did it have to be snakes?

According to Hayek, there was absolutely no mention of a snake in the script. The actress told E! News that it was a decision made on the day of shooting. "Quentin told me, 'Oh, by the way, you're dancing with a snake,'" Hayek recalled. "I said, 'I can't do that, I can't do that. It's my greatest fear.'"

Hayek was firm on her stance — until she realized another actress could easily replace her. Tarantino claimed that Madonna herself was interested in playing Santanico, and she had no qualms whatsoever about dancing with a snake. Whether it was true or not, Hayek says his tactic worked. She had to buckle down and face her fear, saying: "Frankly, I really needed to pay the rent."

The process of overcoming her phobia took some serious mental willpower. Hayek remembered having to "brainwash" herself before shooting. "I started doing research," she said. "In some culture, the snake represented ... your inner power. And my whole thing that I brainwashed myself into doing this was about dancing with my own inner power."

That technique clearly worked, as Hayek's dance is one of the most recognizable moments of her filmography — but ironically, Hayek hardly remembers shooting the scene at all. "I had to go on trance to do the dance," she told Yahoo. "And there was no choreography. It was improvised. Because you can't choreograph a snake, we don't know what she's going to do!"