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Spanish actress Penelope Cruz is known for her roles in such films as Vanilla Sky, Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
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Born in Spain in 1974, actress Penelope Cruz studied classical ballet at a young age and later moved to Hollywood, California, to pursue acting. She soon landed roles opposite the likes of Matt Damon and Tom Cruise. She won an Academy Award—becoming the first Spanish actress to do so—for her performance in the film Vicky Christina Barcelona. Cruz married her Vicky Cristina Barcelona co-star,
"[Penelope Cruz] is a muse for me in the sense that a muse is someone who makes you better than you are. I think I am a better director with her, because she believes that I am better than I am, and that blind faith gives me a lot of strength."
Spanish actor Javier Bardem, in 2010.
Penelope Cruz Sanchez was born on April 28, 1974, in Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain. Cruz was born as the eldest of three and a natural performer; her father, Eduardo, worked as a car mechanic, and her mother, Encarna, was a hairdresser. As a child, Cruz amused her family by re-enacting television commercials. Though a natural actress, she took up dance for her choice of performance arts. She studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain's National Conservatory, and then moved to New York to dance under a series of prominent performers.
When she was 15 years old, Cruz found her true vocation after beating out 300 other girls at a talent agency competition. Following this early success, she landed several roles as a dancer for music videos, as well as a gig hosting Spanish TV's La Quinta Marcha. Additionally, Cruz explored her more sensual side in the French erotic TV series Serie Rose.
Penelope Cruz made her film debut in 1992, in the dark film Jamón Jamón. The film's director, who had been unable to cast Cruz as the lead in another film because of her young age, waited until she was old enough for his next film. Her performance earned her nominations for both the Spanish Actors Union Newcomer Award and the Goya Award (Spain's Academy Award) for best lead actress. A year later, Cruz played Luz in The Age of Beauty (1992). The film won an Oscar (best foreign language film), virtually swept the Goya Awards and earned Cruz the Spanish Actors Union Award for best supporting performance.
With an impressive apprenticeship to the craft, Cruz earned her place in Spanish cinema as a leading lady. Her resumé continued to grow over the following few years, clocking up three or four films each year. In 1997, Cruz took the role of Isabel Plaza Caballero in Carne Tremula—marking the first time that she worked with internationally renowned director Pedro Almodóvar, who, in turn, became a lifelong friend, as well as her vehicle for global fame. Cruz garnered further critical recognition for her performance in the film.
Two years later, in 1999, Cruz landed a role in another film directed by Almodóvar, Todo Sobre Mi Madre, which went on to win Oscar and a BAFTA (best foreign language film) awards. With a series of well-respected movies under her belt, by this time, Cruz was in demand on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
At the age of 25, Cruz made the bold decision to move to Hollywood, California.
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