Penelope Cruz, Queen of Spain

Penelope Cruz at the Chanel Métiers d’art show in Florence (courtesy Chanel)

To be Penelope Cruz it means, above all, being a good mother. It might seem like a diva joke but the truth is that what has always made the difference for the Spanish actress has to do with her family. Whether it’s by blood or acquired on the set, it doesn’t matter and it is demonstrated by the deep affection with which she has carved out a space in the hearts of the people who have had the opportunity to work with her. «The only thing I want to continue doing is to take care of my loved ones and never stop studying to always offer the best version of myself in the characters I play». Which, in fact, remain on the big screen. Because the secret, for Penelope Cruz, is to separate work from private life, which remains a priority for those who, like her, fleeing the glamor of Hollywood red carpets, live all year round in Madrid with her husband Javier Bardem and two children, dodging the tantrums of celebrities, turning off social networks, aiming to cultivate those healthy, human, real relationships which, today as yesterday, make her beloved all over the world.

In short, the Queen of Spain remains with her feet on the ground. At home in the States, where she freed herself from Latin clichés to give ease to a thousand different interpretations all capable of emphasizing her spectacular versatility, she was the first Spanish actress to boast a Oscars and a star on Hollywood boulevard. Pupil of Pedro Almodóvar, whose twenty-year partnership was one of the most celebrated in the history of cinema, Penelope Cruz nurtures a deep love for the Iberian director cemented by successful films that need no introduction, but only to be watched several times to enjoy their beauty. Beautiful muse and favorite égérie of Chanelthe actress has reserved for the adored Karl Lagerfeld the last, touching tribute by walking the catwalk of the maison’s fashion show following his death with a white rose (see MFF of 6 March 2019). After all, Penelope Cruz knows she is a role model for thousands of girls who dream of being like her and to whom she has only one piece of advice to give. “Love and commit yourself to doing what you like most”. That’s it all.

Just as Penelope Cruz Sanchez has always done, born in Alcobendas, near Madrid, in 1974, the eldest of three children from a modest family, who from an early age chose to study ballet at the National Conservatory of Spain to fulfill her dream of being independent. The coveted stage parquet, however, was replaced by a film set when his father, a great lover of the seventh art, bought a player Betamax to be able to enjoy at will those films that Penelope herself was beginning to fall in love with. Instead of going to the park to play with her friends, the thirteen-year-old let herself be enchanted by the exploits on the small screen of Billy WilderOf Sophia Loren and of Anna Magnani until the meeting, only cinematic, with Pedro Almodóvar and his Tie me up! it gave her a new illumination. Sitting alone in the darkness of a cinema in Madrid, the young Penelope decided that she would be an actress and did not hesitate to entrust herself to a manager by lying about her chronological age, 17 instead of 15, in order to start as soon as possible the path of her. She that she went on to drama school Cristina Rotawhich he made his entrance in 1990, and went on to make his big screen debut in the controversial Ham ham Of Bigas Moon (1992), with which Penelope not only obtained the first nomination for the Goya Prize as best leading actress, but she met Javier Bardem, a young and charismatic Spanish actor who, 16 years later, would become her husband. Her second role in French Belle Epoquewhich in 1993 won the Oscar for best foreign film, and participation in the Italian film The rebel (1993), in which she played the role of a Sicilian teenager, anticipated only a few years the meeting, this time real, with Pedro Almodóvar. Needless to mention how the young woman loved the Spanish director and that she would have made false papers to work with him who, after having rejected her during an audition for his Kika in 1993, he had assured her that he would create a role just for her. And so she did, sewing a part of her into her first Flickering flesh (1997) and then the role of the positive and pregnant nun of All about my mother (1999), his award-winning masterpiece on both sides of the ocean.

Penelope Cruz at the premiere of L’immensità in Paris (courtesy Chanel)

The film was a perfect visiting card for Penelope Cruz who, in 1998, took part in her first American production, Hi-lo country, an unmemorable western but which convinced her to improve her English and to attend an acting course in New York. As a result, Hollywood began to notice her. She was the wife of Johnny Depp in Blow, joined Nicholas Cage neither Captain Corelli’s mandolindivided the scene with Halle Berry in gothic and a certain Tom Cruise he fell in love with her and wanted her by his side Vanilla sky (2001), remake of the Spanish Open your eyes Of Alejandro Amenàbar, in which she had starred herself. No one was immune to her charm, from the Italian Sergio Castellitto who wanted her for his unfortunate Italy, protagonist of Do not move (2004), which gave her a Donatello’s David as best leading actress, to the handsome Matthew McConaughey which, after starring with her in Sahara, snatched her from Cruise’s arms. But Penelope, more than matters of the heart, was busy coping with a career that was taking off without moderation in the aftermath of her touching interpretation of Raimundasingle mother in the crumbling suburbs of Madrid, in Volver by Almodóvar (2007) thanks to which he was successful in Cannes, at the Goya awards, ai Golden globe and got his first Oscar nomination.

Oscar which he then won the following year for his Christina in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) by Woody Allen, the first Spanish actress to bring home the legendary statuette and, shortly thereafter, repeated the feat with the famous star in her name imprinted on the Hollywood walk of fame in Los Angeles. Nothing escaped Cyclone Penelope. After starring in the musical Nine (2009) by Rob Marshall, for which he repeated the combo Oscar and Golden globe nominations, he found some old acquaintances on the set. Starting with Johnny Depp in the fourth chapter of Pirates of the Caribbean (2011), to continue with Almodóvar ne Broken hugs And Passenger lovers, Woody Allen in To Rome with love (2012), Sergio Castellitto who wanted it in Came to the world (2012) and Javier Bardem, now his official companion, with whom he shared the set of The counselor – the attorney (2013).

Penelope Cruz in Chanel at the Venice Film Festival (ph Virgile Guinard, courtesy Chanel)

Beautiful and satisfied even in private life after the birth of children Leonardo And moon had with Bardem, Penelope Cruz boasted the title of sexiest woman in the world according to the American monthly Esquire in 2014 and once again showed her chameleonic streak in what, to this day, remains the film she is most proud of, But but- everything will be fine (2015), in which she gives voice and body to a woman stricken with breast cancer, which earned her her eighth Goya nomination. Her talent was so versatile that she Penelope could pass without a pleat from American comedies, where she took part in Zoolander 2 with Ben Stiller it’s at Grimsby with Sacha Baron Coehn, to the dramatic role of Donatella Versace in the second season of American crime story dedicated to the murder of Gianni Versacealways, in any case, believable. It’s very enjoyable. It must be said that the actress has an excellent knowledge of the Italian language and was (and is) by now at home in the Bel Paese, especially in Venice, to which Film Festival attends almost every year, from Escobar – The Charm of Evil (2018) a Parallel mothers (2021) by Almodóvar with his pregnant photographer who won the Fox cupfrom Wasp network (2020) until recently The immensity (2022), the delicate and touching film by Emanuele Crialese in which she once again explores the world of motherhood.

After all, Penelope Cruz has never made a secret of recklessly loving immersion in always new and always different characters, who force her to get back into the game every time and to whom she literally gives her soul, building it, piece by piece, as if it was a puzzle. A similar thing happened to her with fashion. From the first poses as a model taken when she was still attending acting school in Madrid, Penelope has become an icon sought after not only for her beauty, but above all for her power to give life to clothes thanks to a personality that does not pass unnoticed. Face of Ralph Lauren in 2001 and then by Mango with the sister monicaPenelope has been a testimonial for Revlon what about Lancomeand has not disdained to appear on the calendar Pirelli in 2007, then replicating, in 2017, photographed by Peter Lindbergh. But her great love was with Chanel, and in particular with Karl Lagerfeld, whom she had met in 1999 and with whom she shared chats and dresses, the wonderful ones that he created especially for her and that she wore on red carpets all over the world until she became an ambassador of the maison, a role she still holds today with the creative director Virginie Viard. Often compared to Sophia Loren not only for her Mediterranean beauty but also for her ability to be loved at all latitudes, including America, Penelope has shown that a simple girl from Alcobendas can get where she wants. You just never stop dreaming. (All rights reserved)

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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