05/08/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT
SHE MAY BE CAREFREE ABOUT HER EXERCISE ROUTINE ("Lately I've been a little lazy") and her diet ("I eat everything. And I like junk food, especially french fries"), but Penélope Cruz, 26, is never lax when it comes to getting her beauty rest. "When I don't sleep," she says, "I get crazy like a baby. My record for sleeping is 17 hours! I think sleep is the best thing for happiness, beauty, everything." Which must leave those around her in a constant state of despair, given that in her waking hours, this sleeping beauty casts a spell on all who cross her path. Just ask Ted Demme, who is directing her as the drug-addicted wife of Johnny Depp
. "She was not right at all for the part," he admits, "but it was just because of her absolute beauty that I hired her." Or listen to Alan Poul, producer of Woman on Top
, due out this summer, in which Cruz has her first starring role in an American film. "She can actually stop traffic," he says. "When you see her in motion, you can't help but stare." Mark Feuerstein, her costar in that film, is a goner too. "Her eyes are so dark and mysterious," he says. "I often couldn't tell if she was staring into the depths of my soul or just spacing out." The 5'5" Cruz, who was sultry even as a pregnant nun in this year's Oscar-winning Pedro Almodóvar film, All About My Mother
, plays Matt Damon
's love interest in June's All the Pretty Horses
and the object of Nicolas Cage's affection in next year's Captain Corelli's Mandolin
. The daughter of Eduardo, 47, an auto mechanic, and Encarna, 47, a hairdresser, Cruz grew up in Madrid, where she studied classical ballet for 14 years. With Hollywood now at her feet, which, by the way, are her favorite feature ("They are damaged and ugly but full of life and remind me of the years I was dancing"), Cruz has no plans to change her distinctly Latin look-especially since her only previous attempt to do so was a disaster. "I dyed my hair blonde, and the bleach left blisters on my head!" she recalls. "I looked very scary with my dark eyebrows. I don't think I'll ever do it again." Why should she? In Cruz's case, brunettes definitely have more fun.