It’s safe to say that Penelope Cruz is one of the most successful Spanish movie stars to have ever lived. Even before her film career, she was an accomplished model and ballerina. And now that she’s Hollywood’s brunette bombshell, she still makes time to do far more than act. Cruz is a wife, a mother, a philanthropist, and a designer. Get ready to be impressed: Here are glamorous facts about Penelope Cruz.
Penelope Cruz Facts
1. So She Voted for Pedro?
Cruz was first inspired to pursue a film career after watching the film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, which was directed by Pedro Almodovar and starred Antonio Banderas. Cruz later acted alongside Banderas and became a frequent collaborator of Almodovar, being directed by him in such films as Volver, Everybody Knows, and I’m So Excited! Who said you shouldn’t meet your heroes?
2. One Out of Three
As of 2019, Cruz has been nominated for two Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and one for Best Actress. Of those nominations, she won the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance in the 2009 film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The other films she was nominated for Volver and Nine.
3. Respectable Second Place
Speaking of the Oscars, Cruz became the second person of Spanish origin to win an Academy Award in an acting category. If you’re wondering who the first one was, look no further than her current husband, Javier Bardem. Bardem won the year before Cruz for his work on the film No Country for Old Men.
4. A Star is Born
Penelope Cruz Sanchez was born in the Spanish city of Alcobendas on April 28, 1974. She is the eldest daughter of car mechanic Eduardo Cruz and hairdresser Encarna Sanchez.
5. Take a Bow
Long before acting was the focus of Cruz’s interests, she was preoccupied with dancing. She spent nine years studying classical ballet at the National Conservatory of Spain. Though she eventually switched to acting, Cruz credited her years of dancing with instilling in her the discipline which proved so useful in her career and life.
6. Going Back to the Well
Cruz has appeared in two different films which featured actors playing notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar. The first of these films was the 2001 feature Blow, and the second was the biographical film Escobar, which was released 17 years later.
7. Quite the Prestigious List of Ex-Boyfriends!
Aside from Javier Bardem, Cruz has been romantically linked to a number of well-known actors. These include Matt Damon and Matthew McConaughey. Additionally, Cruz was in a relationship with Tom Cruise for three years, beginning when they met on the set of the film Vanilla Sky.
8. Nice to Meet You, Johnny!
According to Cruz herself, she came to the United States not knowing how to speak English except for two sentences. They were, allegedly, “How are you?” and “I want to work with Johnny Depp.” In 2001, she got her wish when she co-starred alongside him in Blow. She also appeared alongside Depp in the films Murder on the Orient Express and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
9. What a Woman!
Cruz first auditioned for a talent agency when she was just 15 years old. Although she competed against 300 other girls, Cruz nevertheless stood out to her future agent, Katrina Bayonas.
Cruz can speak three languages: Spanish, English, and Italian. In the case of the latter, Cruz specifically learned how to speak Italian out of a desire to act in the film Don’t Move. In case you’re curious, her efforts were successful.
11. Lost in Adaptation
Fans of Cruz might recall that she was cast in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s book Murder on the Orient Express. Some might not know that the character she plays—Pilar Estravados—was specifically retailored to suit Cruz’s background. The original character was named Greta Ohlsson, a Swede. In the 1974 adaptation of the same book, Ohlsson was portrayed by Ingrid Bergman, who won an Oscar for her performance in that film.
Sadly, Cruz didn’t enjoy a repeat of that critical triumph.
12. Family Business
Cruz isn’t the only person in her family to pursue acting. Monica Cruz is her younger sister, and she is a dancer and actress based in Spain. One of her most famous roles was a recurring one in the highly successful Spanish TV series Un Paso Adelante. She appeared in 81 episodes between 2002 and 2005.
13. Call it a Family Activity?
Aside from both being actresses, Cruz and her sister Monica also once collaborated on designing jewelry and handbags for a Japanese company. That fact might be up for an award for the most random fact we could find about Cruz!
14. Time for a Change
In 2000, Cruz appeared in the western film All the Pretty Horses, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel. Her experience on the film resulted in her embracing a vegetarian lifestyle, which she continues to this day.
15. Short and Sweet
Allegedly, Cruz’s nickname amongst her friends is the shortened name “Pe.”
16. Profitable Modeling Career
In 2006, Cruz became a spokesmodel for L’Oreal, the French cosmetics company. She was paid $2 million per year for her sponsorship of said company.
17. Working Around a Baby Bump
Some of you might recall that Cruz co-starred in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, known as On Stranger Tides. What you didn’t notice, however, was the fact that Cruz was pregnant during the production, and it became very noticeable as the shoot progressed. Cruz’s sister, Monica, was brought in to double for Cruz in the long shots, with Cruz being limited to the close-up shots.
18. One’s All We Need
One of Cruz’s best friends is Mexican actress Salma Hayek. Despite their many years of friendship, however, they have only made one film together. This film, in particular, was the action-western film Bandidas.
19. Love and Marriage
Cruz first met Javier Bardem when they both worked on the film Jamon Jamon in the early 1990s. However, it wasn’t until they played an on-screen couple in Vicky Cristina Barcelona that they began a relationship in real life. The two of them would have a private wedding in 2010 and are still married as of July 2019.
20. Just Tell Me if Luke Skywalker Dies!
While she was acting in the film Murder on the Orient Express, Cruz participated in a prank video organized by her co-star Josh Gad. In it, several cast members of the film, including Cruz herself and Dame Judi Dench, pester Daisy Ridley for information on her then-upcoming film Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. As planned, this tongue-in-cheek video went viral online.
21. High School Wasn’t Interesting Enough?
While she was in her teens, Cruz was the host of a talk show in Spain that was hosted by and aimed at teenagers. Known as La Quinta Marcha, Cruz was involved with the show from 1990 to 1991.
22. Time for Kids
In the early 2010s, Cruz became a mother for the first time. Her son was born in 2011 and her daughter was born in 2013.
23. Come on Back!
Not only did Cruz act in the film Open Your Eyes, but she also acted in the English remake of that film, Vanilla Sky. 12 years later, Cruz and her Vanilla Sky co-star Cameron Diaz reunited to act in The Counsellor.
24. Sweet Penelope
Cruz was named for Joan Manuel Serrat’s song titled “Penelope.” We’ve certainly heard of worse inspirations for naming a child!
25. Still Thinking About Money, I See
Cruz and her friend, Salma Hayek, were both strongly considered for the big-budget action film Sahara. Although Clive Cussler, the author of the book that Sahara was based on, was convinced that Hayek would be perfect for the role, the producers chose Cruz instead. However, it wasn’t because of any talent on Cruz’s part over Hayek.
Cruz is a Spanish citizen and having her in the film meant that the production was eligible for more than $20 million if they shot the film in Europe with at least one European in a major role. We can only imagine Cruz’s reaction to that bit of reasoning which justified her casting.
26. Just the Way We Wanted
You might be surprised to know that Cruz and her partner, Javier Bardem, didn’t have a very lavish wedding when they finally tied the knot. In fact, their wedding was held in the home of a mutual friend in a very private ceremony. Granted, that friend’s house was located in the Bahamas, so at least the honeymoon was able to start right away!
27. Loss in the Family
Cruz tragically lost her father, Eduardo Cruz, to a fatal heart attack in 2015.
28. Save the Critters!
Cruz has twice posed for ads funded by PETA in their campaign to ban the wearing of animal furs. The first ads featuring Cruz were photographed in 2012, while the second occasion took place six years later, in 2018.
29. The Magnificent Seven
As of July 2019, Cruz has made seven films with her partner, Javier Bardem. These films are Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Everybody Knows, Escobar, Jamon Jamon, Live Flesh, No News from God, and The Counsellor.
30. Creative Differences
In the film Murder on the Orient Express, the detective protagonist conducts a series of interviews with the people aboard a train when a body is found, as anyone could be a suspect. Director Kenneth Branagh was determined to have every one of his co-stars film their interview scenes on their first days on set. The actors had a mixed response to this system.
Cruz, for her part, was deeply opposed to filming such a big scene on her first day, even though Branagh wanted to capture her “first day excitement” onscreen.
31. Do Re Mi
An accomplished singer, Cruz has provided her voice to the soundtracks of eight different films: Nine, The Girl of Your Dreams, Pain and Glory, Papitwo, The Queen of Spain, Placido y la copla, Buscando a Penelope, and Penelope, camino a los Oscar.
32. No Hard Feelings
Although her relationship with Tom Cruise didn’t pan out in the long run, the two actors continue to maintain a close friendship. When Cruise’s daughter, Suri, was born in 2006, Cruz was one of the first people to visit her in the hospital.
33. What a Coincidence!
Bizarrely, Cruz has starred in two films where her character discovers the mythical spring known as the Fountain of Youth. The first of these films was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, while the other was Zoolander 2. If only we’d had a crossover scene where the two Cruz characters ran into each other while visiting the fountain!
34. Fake it Til You Make it
Although she appeared in the French film Fanfan and appeared to speak French, Cruz is not actually a speaker of the French language. She learned her lines phonetically with the help of a dialect coach.
35. They Won’t Even Know Your Name!
In 2003, Cruz filed a lawsuit against the Australian magazine New Idea. The magazine had published an article which Cruz alleged contained false information about herself and her then-relationship with movie star Tom Cruise, specifically saying that she had an affair with a Spanish actor while dating Cruise. Surprise, surprise, the story was bogus and Cruz won her suit.
36. Make it Happen!
Like so many other people in the world, Cruz is a very devoted fan of Indian cinema. She has even expressed an interest in working with Bollywood legend Shah Rukh Khan one day. Frankly, if Sylvester Stallone can do a Bollywood film, we’ll happily watch Cruz act in one!
37. Supportive Partner
One of Cruz’s former partners was Nacho Cano, a musician from Spain who is part of the highly popular Spanish pop group Mecano. Cruz not only lived with Cano for a time, but she also appeared in one of Mecano’s music videos.
38. For the Cause
Speaking of Cruz’s ex, she and Nacho Cano worked together with other Spanish celebrities to establish the Sabera Foundation. This NGO comprises of a home, school, and clinic for homeless girls in the city of Calcutta. The Sabera Foundation also focuses on the treatment of people suffering from tuberculosis.
39. Showing Skin
Very early in her film career, when Cruz was still in her late teens, she was cast in Jamon Jamon, a film in which her character appears nude and partakes in a number of sex scenes. Years later, Cruz admitted that she had been very unprepared to perform nude for a film at the time, but she concluded that she didn’t have any regrets about participating in the film.
40. Keep My Name Out of This!
One of the lowest points of Cruz’s career thus far has been the famous flop Sahara. More than just being a financial and critical disaster for Cruz, the film’s production also bore witness to a minor scandal in 2007. The Los Angeles Times leaked information on the film’s budgets due to lawsuits being carried out. Among the surprising secrets it revealed was the fact that Cruz’s hairstylist and dialect coach were allegedly paid over a quarter of a million dollars.
Additionally, the producers had spent a lot of money bribing government officials in Morocco, which was a clear violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Thankfully, Cruz wasn’t guilty of any of those financial misdemeanors!
41. Expanding Horizons
In recent years, Cruz has begun a second career as a filmmaker in her own right. In the last seven years as of 2019, Cruz wrote and directed a documentary (Y soy uno entre cien mil) and two video shorts (L’Agent and L’Agent by Agent Provocateur).
42. Giving Back
In between her film roles, Cruz has devoted not just her money but her time to philanthropic causes. Cruz has worked as a volunteer in Uganda, Nepal, and India. Part of her travels involved her working in a leprosy clinic alongside Mother Teresa, of all people. It was rumored that she donated the entirety of her salary from the film The Hi-Lo Country to Mother Teresa’s mission.