With an infectious smile and crafty giggle that lights up any room, Penelope Cruz has captured the essence of many different character sketches throughout her film and television career. Her bubbly and sometimes sassy personality attracts wide-eyed curiosity, as her name appears in headlines regarding current films, celebrity rumours, or her latest love. The depth of her personality and career roles is rather undeniable, as her filmography is just as colourful as her life.
The Early Years
Born April 28th, 1974 in San Sebastian de los Reyes, Madrid, Spain – Penelope Cruz Sanchez blossomed into a natural performer, re-enacting television commercials for her father Eduardo Cruz (a retailer) and mother Encarna Sanchez (a hairdresser). Later, younger sister Monica Cruz would find amusement in her older sister’s antics. Luckily, her unchanneled energy would find a place in dance, as Cruz completed nine years of classical ballet study at the National Conservatory in Spain. She also has three years of Spanish Ballet training (with Angela Garrido), as well as jazz dance training with Raul Caballero under her belt.
At the age of 15, her attention swayed to a talent agency audition, where out of more than 300 other girls – she topped them all. A contract was then offered that allowed her to land a handful of roles on Spanish television and music videos. This big break certainly cultivated the seeds for a successful career on the silver screen. In the end, the “Spanish enchantress,” (as those outside of her birthplace call her) learned how to dance like an angel and fluently speak Spanish, English, Italian, and French.
The Start of a Career
It wasn’t until the early 1990’s when television and film first got a taste of Cruz’s talent when she momentarily made her mark as part of the French erotic television show titled “Serie rose” in 1991, playing a blind prostitute. Outside of the television and movie industry, Cruz first gained a following when she appeared in a video clip titled “La fuerza del destino” for a Spanish synthpop band called Mecano. A relationship between Nacho Cano (group member) and herself led to a brief co-habitation.
A wave of television show appearances and movie roles soon followed, where Cruz was seen in “Jamon jamon” (1992), “Framed” (1992), and “Belle époque” (1992), which won an Academy Award for Foreign Language Film. In 1997, Cruz starred as Sofia in “Abre los ojos” (“Open Your Eyes”) – a character she would later reconstruct with Tom Cruise in “Vanilla Sky” (2001). It was at this time that Cruz began to date Cruise until 2004, where paparazzi and journalists had a field day with the similarity in their last names.
Cruz also appeared in another Academy Award-winning foreign film (“Todo sobre mi madre”) (“All About My Mother”) in 1999, as Sister Rosa – a young, pregnant nun. In 2000, she appeared alongside Matt Damon in “All the Pretty Horses,” which influenced her to forego meat and embrace the vegetarian lifestyle. In the 2000s, Cruz found a place next to plenty of leading men in “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” (Nicolas Cage); “Blow” (Johnny Depp); and “Sahara” (Matthew McConaughey). She was also able to co-star with best friend, Salma Hayek in the 2006 film, “Banditas,” which displayed the comedic side of both actresses.
Finally, in 2006 – Cruz would enjoy a noticeable string of highly favorable reviews concerning her performance in “Volver.” She received a multitude of award nominations, taking home a couple of wins to decorate the fireplace mantle. The coveted Academy Awards nominated her in 2007 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for “Volver,” but eventually passed her over for the chance to possess an Oscar. This made her the first Spanish actress to gain such a nomination.
Nevertheless, at the Cannes Film Festival, she shared the Best Actress award with the rest of her female ensemble cast in “Volver.” Additional recognition Cruz has accumulated over the years for “Volver” and other performances include wins from the European Film Awards; the Goya Awards; David di Donatello Awards; and the Peñíscola Comedy Film Festival.
Outside of movie and television, Cruz has carved a solid niche within the American and international public – earning various recognition and respect. In 2007, she ranked well on the Maxim magazine Hot 100 list and was chosen as one of the 100 Sexiest Movie Stars in the world by Empire Magazine. As the face of L’Oreal cosmetics, she earned $2 million per year in 2006. Currently, she is branching out into the fashion industry with her sister – designing a 25-piece collection for a Barcelona-based clothing line called Mango. Cruz is also known in the charity circles with previous experience volunteering in Uganda for two months.
Of recent, Cruz has entered a relationship with Javier Bardem (a Spanish actor) co-starring with her in the upcoming Woody Allen flick titled “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” You may also catch her making the rounds in music television with a seductive appearance in her brother’s video for his first single, “Cosas que contra” alongside her sister, Monica.