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, 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.
“I’m strong and opinionated. Those qualities brought me a lot of problems since I was a little girl in school, saying ‘I don’t agree’ and fighting with the children. It’s part of my curiosity for life."
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. Fully in command and on top of her career, she took on the role of a control freak and successful chef in Woman on Top (2000). That same year, she played the romantic lead in Billy Bob Thornton's Western All the Pretty Horses. Both films garnered critical success.
Cruz's next film, Abre Los Ojos, caught the attention of director Cameron Crowe and film icon Tom Cruise. Impressed by the script and the actress, the duo created an American remake of the film: Vanilla Sky (2001). The movie helped make Cruz a crossover success, and her ensuing relationship with co-star Tom Cruise put her firmly in American headlines.
Cruz went on to further prove she could hold her own among heavy-hitting actors in 2001, when she starred opposite Johnny Depp in the film Blow. That same year, she appeared in Captain Corelli's Mandolin; her performance earned her a European Film Award nomination for best actress. Cruz's next film, Waking Up in Reno (2002), featured her alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Patrick Swayze. The romantic comedy about two couples headed to a Monster Truck show received little box office attention.
In 2005, Cruz appeared in Sahara, a comedic adventure film. Not long into filming, the actress began a year-long relationship with her Sahara co-star, Matthew McConaughey. The couple later split, reportedly citing conflicting film schedules.
Returning to Spanish-language filmes, Cruz appeared in Bandidas (2006) with friend and co-star Salma Hayek. That same year, she starred in Volver, another Almodóvar film; the director had held the role specifically for Cruz, and her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress. A year later, Cruz won her first Academy Award (best actress in a supporting role) for the Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).
"[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." - Pedro Almodóvar
Cruz reunited with Almodóvar a year later for the film Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces), released in 2009. That same year, she had a supporting role in the musical Nine, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a famous Italian director. Cruz played Carla, the director's mistress and only one of the many women in his life. The film, adapted from the Broadway show, was directed by Rob Marshall and also featured Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren. For her portrayal of Carla in the film, Cruz received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.
Turning to comedy, Cruz had a role in 2010's Sex in the City 2, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon. In 2011, she reunited with Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. She reunited with Woody Allen in 2012's To Rome with Love. In 2013, Cruz worked with Pedro Almodóvar again in the film I'm So Excited (Los amantes pasajeros). During this time, she also starred in more serious roles. In the film Twice Born (2012), she starred as Gemma, a mother who returns to the city of Sarajevo years after escaping the war with her only child. In 2013, she starred opposite Michael Fassbender in the Ridley Scott thriller, The Counselor.
In 2015, she starred in the Spanish film Ma Ma, which she also co-produced. The following year she appeared as a secret agent in the comedy Zoolander 2 and in the British spy comedy Grimsby.
In 2017, it was announced that Cruz will play fashion icon Donatella Versace in the third installment of Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story, which will focus on the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace and is scheduled to premiere in 2018.
In July 2010, Cruz married her Vicky Cristina Barcelona co-star, Spanish actor Javier Bardem. The couple had begun dating early into filming, in 2007. Cruz and Bardem welcomed their first child, son Leo Encinas Cruz, in January 2011. Two years later, on July 22, 2013, a 39-year-old Cruz gave birth to her second child with Bardem, a daughter named Luna Encinas Cruz, in Madrid, Spain.
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