Penélope Cruz

Penélope Cruz

Academy Award-winning Spanish actress Penelope Cruz became best known for her roles in "Vanilla Sky" (2001), "Volver" (2006), "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (2008), and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" (2011). Cruz, who was born Penelope Cruz Sanchez, grew up in the town of Alcobendas, Madrid. A lively and extroverted young girl, Cruz loved to reenact commercials for her family, and dreamt of one day becoming an actress. Her dreams of acting stardom took a bit of a detour, however, when she began studying classical ballet at a very young age. Cruz studied dance for 9 years, but by her mid-teens her love of film grew so strong that she decided to give up on ballet and embark on an acting career. Although she never had any formal acting training, Cruz did have an "it factor" that casting and talent agents immediately took notice of. When she was 15, Cruz beat out over 300 girls during an audition to win a spot with a Spanish talent agency. From there, she began appearing in Spanish TV shows and music videos, thus slowly learning the chops she needed to be in front of a camera. Then in 1992, Cruz landed her first big break with a supporting role in the romance-drama "Jamon, Jamon" (1992). Also appearing in the film was a young actor and Cruz's future husband, Javier Bardem. "Jamon, Jamon" was a big hit in Spain, thus making Cruz a star in her native country. As a result, more Spanish film roles followed, including "The Rebel" (1993), "Brujas" (1996), and "Live Flesh" (1997). In 1998 Cruz appeared in her first American film, a western called "The Hi-Lo Country" (1998). That film, however, was unsuccessful at the box office. Despite the failure of "The Hi-Lo Country," by the early 2000s Cruz was becoming more of a presence in mainstream American films. She appeared in critically-acclaimed films like "All the Pretty Horses" (2000), "Blow" (2001), and "Vanilla Sky" (2001), the latter of which also starred her then-boyfriend Tom Cruise (the couple split in 2004). By the mid-2000s, Cruz's acting career was gaining steam both in her native Spain as well as in America. In 2007 she earned her first Academy Award nomination for her role in director Pedro Almodóvar's comedy-drama "Volver" (2006), and two years later, went on to earn her first Oscar for her supporting role in Woody Allen's romantic comedy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Cruz earned another Oscar nomination for her supporting role in 2009's "Nine," making it her third nomination in four years. If the 2000s were a breakout decade for Penelope Cruz, the 2010s would prove to be just as good. In 2012 she re-teamed with Woody Allen to appear in his music comedy "To Rome with Love" (2012), and would also go on to appear in the broad comedies "Zoolander 2" (2016) and "The Brothers Grimsby" (2016). Then in 2018 Cruz made her American TV debut by playing fashion mogul Donatella Versace on "American Crime Story" (FX, 2016-). The series, which was about the assassination of the iconic 90s fashion designer Gianni Versace, was critically acclaimed, while earning Cruz an Emmy nomination. After her acclaimed television performance, Cruz returned to film acting in 2019 with a part in Pedro Almodóvar's "Pain and Glory" (2019). The film, which was Cruz's sixth collaboration with the director, was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards.