LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Salma Hayek never told Antonio Banderas about the abuse to which she says Harvey Weinstein subjected her, according to the Spanish actor, who classes her a close friend.
When he learned about it years after the pair had filmed the Weinstein-produced movie Frida, Banderas picked up the phone and called to ask her why she had never said anything.
She said she was "trying to protect us."
Hayek was one of the many alleged victims of the disgraced film producer, who had the power to make - or break - a career. She said he had harassed her for sexual favours and forced her to do a lesbian sex scene in Frida.
"I've worked with Harvey Weinstein, he has produced films I have been in, but I was not aware" of the allegations, Banderas told AFP in a telephone interview.
"When the issue of Salma came up, the first thing I did was call her to ask, 'Why didn't you tell me anything?'"
She told Banderas she was trying to protect herself and her friends, because she "knew he was a very powerful character and that if she said something to us and we confronted him, we would pay a very high price".
Mexican-born Hayek, writing in The New York Times last December, described Weinstein as a "monster" and detailed the tortuous filming of a movie that won her a best-actress Oscar.
They would go on to work together in other films, including Once Upon A Time In Mexico and Puss In Boots.
The Weinstein scandal first erupted last October, drawing in other big names in the entertainment industry and leading to movements like #MeToo and Time's Up.
"I think it was bound to explode," said the 57-year-old Banderas. "It's unacceptable... These people should be brought before a jury."
In fact, Weinstein has been charged in another case in New York with rape and assault. He has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail of US$1 million (S$1.3 million).
PICASSO WAS 'NOT ABUSIVE'
In his long career, Banderas has worn many faces. He voiced the adorable cat in Shrek, played Che Guevara in Evita and now, in the National Geographic series Genius, plays Pablo Picasso, a man he defends in the current debate over abuse.
"He was very controversial in his private life, I understand that," Banderas says.
"He committed serious human errors with women, but they did not go beyond infidelity - and did not include abuse.
"I believe that he used women but did not abuse them. He used a woman as a muse... I do not see Picasso as an abusive man."
He added: "I had the opportunity to speak with his daughter, who is 82 years old. She told me, 'My father was a good man... (and) a good father.'"
Picasso had "dark, black places, like all humans," Banderas said.
"Genius," he said, makes no attempt to idealise the Spanish artist.
"We tried to be fair - given what we know."