Penelope Cruz is the only Spanish actress who has ever won an Oscar. After several nominations, the Oscar came for her role as a somewhat hysterical Mediterranean lover in the Woody Allen film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”.
Penélope Cruz was born in a small town in the Madrid region, daughter of a car salesman and a hairdresser. From the age of 13 her ambition was to become and actress and work with Pedro Almodóvar, a decision she reached after watching his film “Átame” with Victoria Abril and Antonio Banderas. She studied dance and acting over a period of nine years and attended hundreds of auditions in order to achieve her goal.
Her first TV appearance was in a pop video of the trendy eighties group Mecano, after which she had a long relationship with the group’s musician and writer Nacho Cano. This was followed by a part in a TV programme for teenagers followed by a part in the erotic series “Serie Rosa” in 1991. Her first film role was in “El Labertino Griego” in 1990 followed by the quirky cult film “Jamón Jamón” in which she played opposite Javier Bardem. This film brought her fame as a seductive and sexually powerful actress and it was followed by a succession of Spanish film roles culminating in “Belle Epoque” by Fernando Trueba which was the first Spanish film to win the non-English speaking film Oscar in 1993. This film gave her the opportunity to escape from her typecast sex-symbol image.
This led to a succession of interesting Spanish film roles and several awards establishing Penelope Cruz as a versatile and successful actress. In 1998 she starred in other Fernando Trueba film “La Niña de tus Ojos” in which she played the part of a young Spanish actress unwittingly caught up in the German Nazi regime. The success of this film allowed her to make the change over to the American film industry with a number of small roles. Her initial rise to public recognition in the States was due to some extent to her relationship with Tom Cruise.
She has continued to pursue her career in both the States and Spain with award-winning performances in several films including those by Pedro Almodóvar. In 2010 she married Javier Bardem in secret and they now have two children, Leo born in Los Angeles and Luna born in Madrid.