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Name: Penelope Cruz
Birth Name: Penelope Cruz Sanchez
Height: 5' 5"
Date of Birth: April 28, 1974
One of Spain's foremost leading ladies of the 1990s, Penélope Cruz
has managed to make her mark with international audiences as well.
Born in Madrid on April 28, 1974, Cruz was one of three children of
a merchant and a hairdresser. After years of intensive study in
ballet and jazz, she broke into acting in 1992. That year, she had
starring roles in Jamón Jamón and Belle Epoque, two very disparate
The former cast her as the desperately poor daughter of a village
prostitute, while the latter featured her as one of four lusty
daughters of a wealthy man in pre-Franco Spain. Belle Epoque proved
to be a huge success, winning nine Goya Awards (the Spanish
equivalent of an Academy Award) and an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.
Its success gave Cruz a dose of international recognition, and after
starring in a number of Spanish films, she enhanced this recognition
in 1997 with the Sundance entry Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes). That
same year, she had a brief but memorable role in Pedro Almodóvar's
Carne Trémula (Live Flesh).
The next two years would prove to be a critical turning point in
both Cruz's personal and professional life, with increasingly
visible roles in large-scale Hollywood productions as well as a
developing relationship with one Tinseltown's most popular leading
men. Gaining notice for her roles in All the Pretty Horses in 2000
and Blow the following year, it appeared as if Cruz's career had
suddenly kicked into overdrive.
After starring alongside Nicolas Cage in the underperforming Captain
Corelli's Mandolin in 2001, Cruz dove back into familiar territory
with director Cameron Crowe's remake of Abre los Ojos, Vanilla Sky
(2001). Developing a close relationship with lead Tom Cruise as his
much publicized breakup with Nicole Kidman drew to a close, the pair
soon found themselves the center of considerable paparazzi attention
as they became Hollywood's hottest new couple.
While "Cruz &
Cruise" outlasted most celebrity couplings born on movie sets --
even generating wedding talk -- the duo went their separate ways in
2004. Perhaps not coincidentally, Cruz's career took a backseat to
her paramour's while she was dating him; between 2001 and 2004, most
of her roles were either minor ones in uncelebrated American indies
(Waking Up in Reno, Masked and Anonymous, Noel) or meatier ones in
foreign films that failed to gain traction in the States (Fanfan la
Tulipe, Don't Move, Bandidas). Luckily, the actress rebounded with a
performance thought by many critics to be the best of her career,
when she re-teamed with one of her earliest champions, Pedro
Almodóvar, for his nostalgic, bittersweet Volver in 2006. Warm,
witty, and biting, Cruz's performance kept her name in the running
for many year-end awards, even garnering her her first Oscar
nomination for Best Actress.