Penelope Cruz is the most internationally famous Spanish actress of all time. She is currently one of Hollywood's most successful actresses having starred in a number of critically acclaimed roles since her career took off in the early 90s. Her fine looks in addition to her acting talents have contributed to her success as she is often cast to play exotic roles due to her quintessential Hispanic beauty. The Spanish actress has also been voted as one of the most beautiful women in the world by countless polls.
Born in Madrid in 1974, Penelope Cruz developed into a promising dancer whilst growing up and studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain's national conservatory. Cruz did not become interested in cinema until her father bought a Betamax tape player, allowing her to watch Spanish films for the first time.
The young Penelope was particularly taken by the works of famous Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, which inspired her to begin doing casting calls at an agency whilst she was still a teenager. Although she was persistently rejected for being too young, the future actress got a breakthrough at the age of 15 when she got a starring role in a pop music video for Spanish group Mecano. This, in turn, landed her a job a year later presenting a Spanish television show for teenagers.
Penelope Cruz's film debut came in the comedy drama Jamón, jamón in 1992 when she was just 18 years old. The film, which also stars Spanish actor Javier Bardem, was a huge success in Spain and earned Cruz a coveted Goya, the main national film award, for Best Actress. Following the launch of her acting career, Cruz continued to star in both Spanish movies and Italian ones, taking advantage of her second language.
The budding Spanish actress then decided to move to New York for two years where she practised ballet and began to learn English. In 1997, Penelope Cruz played a small role in her first collaboration with Spansih director Pedro Almodovar in the film Carne Tremulá. She was also widely praised for her role in an Alejandro Amenabar, another famous Spanish director, film called Abre los Ojos. This was one of the most successful Spanish films of the decade and in 2001 an English remake was released called Vanilla Sky. Vanilla Sky starred Penelope Cruz alongside famous American actor Tom Cruise. This role firmly established her as a Hollywood actress.
Much of Cruz's international success has come from working with Pedro Almodovar. This was the case with his 1999 film Todo Sobre mi Madre which exposed Cruz's acting talents to the rest of the world for her role as the controversial character of a pregnant nun who contracts AIDS from a transvestite prostitute and then dies during childbirth. Further success from the pair's collaboration came in 2006 with the Spanish movie Volver. Penelope Cruz played the lead role which won her a host of awards for Best Actress as well as a nomination for an Oscar.
Oscar for Vicky Christina Barcelona
Penelope Cruz finally won a coveted Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 2008 Woody Allen film Vicky Christina Barcelona. This moment was especially important in Penelope's career as she was the first Spanish actress to ever to win the prestigious award.
In the film, Cruz plays Maria Elena, an emotionally unstable on-off lover of Juan Antonio, played by the Spanish actor Javier Bardem. After attempting to take her own life, Maria goes to stay with Juan Antonio and they begin to rekindle their romance with the help of an American tourist, played by Scarlett Johansson. The entirety of Vicky Christina Barcelona was set in Spain in the cities of Barcelona, Aviles and Oviedo. Critics hailed the film as a return to form for director Woody Allen. In addition to her Oscar, Penelope Cruz won some 10 other awards for her portrayal of Maria Elena and the film received the 2008 Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture in the musical and comedy category.
Penélope Cruz Personal Life
In the past Cruz had many high profile relationships with other Hollywood A-listers including Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey. However, whilst Cruz was working alongside Javier Bardem during the filming of Vicky Christina Barcelona the pair began dating. The pair already knew each other as they had previously worked together in the Spanish film Jamón, jamón. Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem went on to get married in July 2010 and the couple welcomed their first child the following January.
Penelope Cruz is the older of two siblings including her sister, Monica Cruz, who is also a successful Spanish actress. Penelope has houses near Madrid and in Los Angeles, but spends the majority of her time in Spain.