FEATURE Penélope Cruz

“I've been expecting you...”

PenÚlope Cruz in Blow

From Captain Corelli's Mandolin to Blow and more, Ian Spelling and Terry Richards fall under the magic spell of the Spanish Enchantress

From Film Review June 2001

Its taken some time for the rest of the world to catch up with her, but there’s little doubt that by the end of 2001, Penélope Cruz (and you won’t forget the accent over that second ‘e’) will be a household name across the world.

Cruz with Nicolas Cage in Captain Corelli's Mandolin She's been a star in Spain since her teens (she was just 17 when her movie career was launched with the cult flick Jamon, Jamon) and is, simply, nothing short of a sex symbol. While Hollywood may have dithered over casting her, the spotlight’s suddenly dazzling with a heavy run of films from Woman on Top (out earlier this year, and her first lead role), to Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (out in May), Blow (also out in May) and All the Pretty Horses (out in June). After appearing alongside such Hollywood heavyweights as Matt Damon, Nic Cage and Johnny Depp, she’s paired alongside none other than Tom Cruise for her next venture, Vanilla Sky.

Cruz herself, however, doesn’t care for the ‘Next Big Thing’ tag that too many people are quick to pin on her. “I don’t think in those terms,” says the 26-year-old. “I just love this job, this profession. I want to work in America and in Spain and in Italy, wherever they call me from – with a good character or something that represents something I haven’t done before.”

It’s this drive to push herself into new areas that is heard over and over again from the actress, whose international recognition came playing an HIV-positive nun pregnant by a transvestite prostitute in All About My Mother (yes, it was an Almodóvar movie), which won the Oscar for Best Foreign film. Describing her character Mirtha in Ted Demme’s Blow, Cruz says, “She is something very different from everything I’ve done before. She goes through so many changes and is so extreme.”

In Blow, Cruz is the ravishing party girl Mirtha who loves the fast lane, until her life as a drug smuggler’s wife crashes and burns. Playing alongside Depp as her drug-trafficking husband George Jung (he's also interviewed in this issue), was a major reason for joining the production. “Johnny is one of the most special people I’ve ever met. He has that magic charisma and he doesn’t have to force it. I don’t know if someone’s born with that quality or if you have to work at it, but it’s very rare.”

Depp is equally complimentary: “She plays Mirtha as this wild horse who George wants to grab the reins of, even though he knows he can’t. I was deeply impressed by her as an actress.” Cruz saw her character as someone “who, for a while, lived in a fantasy world that took her far from the pain of reality. She created a world of money and power and drugs and fashion and when she lost it all, she thought she lost everything. But she actually grows from that...”

Her director on All the Pretty Horses, Billy Bob Thornton, suggested that there “is something haunting about Penélope, not only as an actress but as a human being.” Considering the amount of attention she’s receiving, this really doesn’t go far enough. She’s not only haunting but utterly captivating. You’ll see.

Images copyright: Buena Vista / Entertainment
Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

Film Review May 2001 issueCaptain Corelli's Mandolin opens in the UK on May 4 and is distributed by Buena Vista

Blow opens in the UK on May 25 and is distributed by Entertainment

Read our reviews of both these releases, plus Johnny Depp on Blow in the 606th issue of Film Review...

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