Born in Madrid in 1974, Penelope Cruz Sanchez made her acting debut aged 16, before receiving critical acclaim for her role in Jamon Jamon the following year in 1992.
Since then her career has gone from strength to strength. She’s the first Spanish actress to receive an Academy Award (the second ever to be nominated), and the first to receive a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
She’s also a bit of a force of nature. Think about her performances, each one immediately hooks you in. Screen presence, allure, seductive sex appeal… All that stuff.
In terms of her performances I consider my favourites, it’s a mixed bunch. There is a theme, though, and her work is defined by a level of intensity, conflict and inner fire. Simply put, she compels you to watch her.
Open Your Eyes (1997)
One of her first major roles. One which saw her receive critical acclaim for a film praised for its intelligence and complexity. It got the inevitable Hollywood remake, with Cruz reprising her role as the seductive Sofia.
Critically this film didn’t do that well. Cruz, too, suffered the wrath of the critics, receiving a Golden Raspberry Award for her performance. Perhaps a bit of a harsh assessment. Still, it led to bigger and better things.
Vanilla Sky (2001)
Reprising her role from Open Your Eyes, Cruz gave a solid, if unspectacular performance in this remake. Overall, the film perhaps suffered from being even more confusing than the original, thus dividing people’s opinions.
A high point in her career, particularly in terms of working with acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. This film drew together many complex themes, all of which Cruz and Almodovar weaved together elegantly.
A restrained, mature and utterly heartbreaking performance in this tale which had Cruz as the on/off cancer suffering girlfriend of Ben Kingsley’s misogynistic Professor. A surprise of a film and worth a watch if you get the chance.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
My pick of the bunch. A beautiful film and a hypnotic, wild performance from Penelope, opposite a cast that were far too sexy for their own good. This one won her an Academy Award (the first Spanish actress in history to achieve this).
So what’s next for Penelope?
Well, rumours keep surfacing of her involvement in the next Bond film – Sam Mendes’ follow up to Skyfall – as the new Bond girl. She’s also recently written, directed – and starred in – the latest Agent Provocateur advert. Nothing to do with film, but Bond girls are glamorous, sexy and exotic. And if this ad isn’t that, then I don’t know what is.
Either way, it’s nice to have Cruz maintain her presence on screen. whether it’s adverts or films or – dare I say it – TV shows. Here’s to whatever comes next in the world of Penelope.