Ice Crusade

Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal with two Inuit women at the Earth Day event. (Eric Garcetti - Eric Garcetti)

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By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2005

IQALUIT, Nunavut

Here at the Frobisher Inn's Baffin Room, all eyes were on the woman with the dark hair, her black beret askew as she swayed before the crowd of Inuit dignitaries, pounding on a traditional drum that looks like an enormous Ping-Pong paddle.

At this point you might be asking yourself: What is Salma Hayek, the Hollywood star whose name is usually found next to words like "hot" and "sizzling" rather than "frozen" and "tundra," well, doing?

For that matter what was Jake Gyllenhaal (you know, actress Maggie's brother and the star of "Donnie Darko") doing? Minutes before, the actor performed the Inuit traditional feat of abdominal strength called "the airplane," as three locals lifted the actor, spread-eagled and facing down, into the air by his arms and legs.

And what was the Hollywood A-list duo (note: duo, not couple) doing here, spending a weekend watching a sealskin fashion show and a throat-singing performance on the edge of the Arctic Circle, far away from Fred Segal boutiques and Us Weekly photographers?

Hayek and Gyllenhaal had trekked thousands of miles with a couple of California politicians in tow to visit a community where rising temperatures threaten to destroy an ancient northern culture.

For weeks, rumors had swept through this town of 6,800 in Canada's only Inuit-controlled territory. Some said megastar Will Smith was paying a visit; others were convinced Oscar winner Adrien Brody would come (and, rumor had it, bring his mom -- how sweet). Nearly everyone believed Brad Pitt, the no-longer-with-Jen single Brad, would arrive.

So when the yellow all-terrain vehicle carrying Hollywood celebrities lumbered down the snowy hill onto Frobisher Bay's sea ice (you can't really do a red carpet here) Friday, the crowd of several hundred well-bundled Inuit were eager to see who was inside. "Is Brad Pitt there?" one shouted.

But Hayek and Gyllenhaal (say: JILL-in-hall) emerged from the truck to riotous applause, apparently ready to brave sub-zero temperatures to make an artistic statement about how global warming is harming a traditional hunting and fishing culture that has thrived here for centuries.

The 38-year-old Hayek is neither a scientist nor a global warming expert, she's the first to admit. She's a native of Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, where "a lot of Santa Clauses would pass out in their suits," the star of "Frida" told Iqaluit residents. "I came here to learn from the ice and the Inuit people, more than to come to preach."

Well, maybe a little preaching.

At a news conference before heading for the ice, the Oscar nominee delivered a scathing critique of how the Western world's addiction to burning fossil fuels -- which release heat-trapping greenhouse gases linked to climate change -- endangers human survival. A recent four-year study by an international coalition encompassing the United States as well as Russia, Iceland and several other countries concluded the Arctic is heating up two to three times faster than the rest of the globe, a harbinger of things to come farther south.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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