She was the first Spanish actor to win an Academy Award, Penélope Cruz Sánchez began her career in the early nineties in Spain but soon exploded onto the Hollywood scene in the early 2000s. The famed Spanish beauty initially pursued a career in dance before moving into film at just fifteen years old. So what is she doing these days?
Penélope Cruz’ Early Life
Penélope Cruz was born on April 28th 1974 in Alcodendas Madrid. Her mother, Encarna, was a hairdresser and her father, Eduardo, was a retailer and car mechanic. She is a natural performer, as a child she would re-enact scenes from television and movies for friends and family. Despite this early display of talent for the craft, acting was not her first love. She decided to focus on dance and studied ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservatory.
She says that Ballet instilled a discipline in her that would serve her well for her future career. She became a fan of movies at around ten or eleven, so her father bought the families first home video player, a Betamax machine*. As a teen she saw the Pedro Almodóvar film “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”, released in 1990. The film inspired her to pursue acting as a career and she wasted no time in getting an agent.
She did casting calls from age fourteen, but was rejected often due to her young age. In 1989 she won an audition at a talent agency. Her agent Katrina Bayonas said in 1999 that her audition was magical and that Penélope Cruz had a presence that emanated from within. She made her acting début in a music video for Spanish pop group Mecano and hosted the teen talk show “La Quinta Marcha” between 1990 and 1997.
She made her feature film début opposite future husband Javier Bardem in 1992’s “Jamon! Jamon!”. The film centers on a young woman named Silvia, played by Penélope Cruz, expecting her first child. The film and her performance were lauded, she was nominated for multiple awards for her part in the film. That same year she appeared in the Oscar-winning “Belle Epoque”. Between 1992 and 1996 she appeared in ten Spanish and Italian films.
At 20 she moved to New York to study Ballet and English. She stayed for two years. In 1997 she landed the role of Isabel Plaza Cabellero in “Carne Tremula”. This would be the first time she worked with director Pedro Almodóvar, the same man whose film inspired her to act in the first place. They would have a lifelong friendship and it was through working with Almodóvar that Penélope Cruz would come to the for on the world stage.
Also in 1997 she starred in the psychological thriller “Abre Los Ojos”. The film has a science fiction angle, playing with dreams and reality in a way somewhat reminiscent of Philip K. Dick, though the 1635 Spanish play “La Vida es Sueño” is the most likely influence.
Penélope Cruz’ Hollywood Success
In 1999 she starred in Almodóvar’s “Todo Sobre Mi Madre” which would go on to win an Oscar and a Bafta, both for best foreign language film. The film increased the demand for Penélope Cruz on both sides of the Atlantic and it wasn’t long before she was Hollywood bound.
She took a role in the 2000 film “Woman on Top” as her first American film, followed that year with “All the Pretty Horses”, adapted from a novel. She starred alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Matt Damon. Both films were well received by critics. She really took off in 2001. Her 1997 effort, “Abre Los Ojos” caught the attention of Director Cameron Crowe and actor Tom Cruise.
They bought the rights to the film and released a remake in 2001 called “Vanilla Sky”, with Penélope Cruz reprising her role from the original. While not as critically successful as the original, the film did very well commercially. After filming had concluded Penélope Cruz began dating Tom Cruise. The relationship would last three years. She would star opposite Johnny Depp in “Blow” that same year.
She continued to star in high-profile Hollywood films throughout the early 2000s, including “Sahara” a comedic adventure flick where she met Matthew McConaughey. They would date for a year before splitting up, citing conflicting schedules. She returned to Spanish language cinema in 2006 where she appeared alongside Salma Hayek in “Bandidas”. She also received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Almodóvar’s “Volver”.
A year later she would actually win the Oscar for her performance in the Woody Allen film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”. She again worked with Javier Bardem on the set and began dating early on in production. She worked with Almodóvar again in 2009 on “Los Abrazos Rotos”. That same year she received another Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Carla in the musical “Nines”.
She made the transition to comedy with 2010’s “Sex and the City 2” and the family film “G-force” before returning to more dramatic roles. Working again with Almodóvar, Woody Allen and Johnny Depp.
What is Penélope Cruz Doing Now in 2018?
She married Javier Bardem in 2010, they have two children. She and her husband made headlines last October when they took to the stage with U2 in Barcelona. Bardem was wearing a blue feather boa and sparkly hat while Penélope Cruz wore a blond wig and bunny ears. If you ask me it seems they are having a good time.
Penélope Cruz continues to act, she is up for another award for 2015’s “Ma Ma”. This year we can expect to see her in “Escobar”, “The Queen of Spain”, “Zoolander 2” and “the Brothers Grimsby”. She is also appearing in adverts for the iPhone, where she uses Siri to cheat at a crossword.
2017 will be an interesting year for Penelope, appearing in no less than three films. She has been taking it easy in January, holidaying in Jamiaca with family, but before years end expect to catch her in Escobar, detailing a love affair between a reporter and notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, A Murder on The Orient Express remake and an as yet untitled Asghar Farhadi film.
*For those who don’t know, Betamax was the loser in the eighties format war between Sony, Betamax, and JVC, VHS. VHS ultimately won out due to its longer run time.