Penélope Cruz: Snapshot

Penélope Cruz
Date of Birth
April 28, 1974
Birth Place
Madrid, Spain
Although she came to Hollywood with 20 films and a Spanish Academy Award under her belt, screen siren Penélope Cruz initially became best known stateside as the sultry girlfriend of costars Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey.

After appearing in a string of mediocre films from All the Pretty Horses to Sahara, Cruz returned to her roots, collaborating with Oscar-winning filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar on the dramedy Volver. Her gut-wrenching performance made her the first Spanish Best Actress nominee in Oscar history, and eventually paved the way for her Academy Award winning performance in 2008's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, for which she was named Best Supporting Actress.

Offscreen, the brunette beauty wed Spanish actor – and Vicky Cristina costar – Javier Bardem, with whom she welcomed son Leo in 2010 and daughter Luna in 2013.

Penélope Cruz: Five Fun Facts

  1. Penélope Cruz studied ballet for nine years and it shows on her toes. "All of them are twisted," she told Time in 2000. "I used to bleed from dancing so much. I would peel my toenails off and throw them away because they were completely black from the pain. To look at them now and see they are like this – they have a lot of life for me."
  2. Penélope Cruz donated her salary from The Hi-Lo Country to Mother Theresa's children's sanctuary in Calcutta after spending a week there as a volunteer.
  3. After filming 1998's All the Pretty Horses, where animals played a prominent role, Penélope Cruz became a vegetarian.
  4. Penélope Cruz, who has played a variety of ethnicities in her films, tried to pull off Japanese when she read the script for Memoirs of a Geisha. "I heard that Steven Spielberg wants to make that movie," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1999. "So I was asking everybody, 'Do you think I can look Japanese?' But nobody thinks I can look Japanese."
  5. Penélope Cruz told PEOPLE in 2001 that when she gets homesick, she heads over to fellow Spaniard Antonio Banderas' house: "He and Melanie [Griffith] make Spanish paella if I need it."

Penélope Cruz: Biography


A Bad Girl

Cruz's parents, hairdresser Encarna and retailer Eduardo, give their rambunctious daughter an outlet for her nonstop energy: ballet classes. "When I was small, I used to give others small nervous breakdowns," she tells Chicago Sun-Times in 2000. "I'd throw myself on the floor and start kicking and breaking things when I didn't get my way." Cruz eventually studies at Spain's National Conservatory in Madrid.


Penélope Cruz

Beating the Competition

Cruz, 15, competes in a talent agency audition and beats more than 300 girls to win. "She was absolutely magic. It was obvious there was something very impressive about this kid," Katrina Bayonas, the agent who signed Cruz, says in 1999. "She was very green, but there was a presence. There was just something coming from within." In the next two years, Cruz hosts the Spanish TV talk show La Quinta Marcha and lands her feature film debut in El labertinto Griego (The Greek Labyrinth).


Penélope Cruz

The Breakthrough

Cruz, 17, snags her first leading role as the lusty Sylvia in Bigas Lunas' art-house hit Jamón, Jamón (Ham Ham). After appearing topless in the film, Cruz becomes a major sex symbol. "It was a great part, but...I wasn't really ready for the nudity," Cruz tells L.A.'s Daily News in 1999. "But I have no regrets because I wanted to start working and it changed my life." She shows her versatility as the virginal Luz in Fernando Trueba's Oscar-winning Belle Epoque.

Read More on Penélope Cruz's Life

Photo Credits

Top Left: Fabrice Trombert/Retna

BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Kobal Collection/Wireimage

Edited by Julia Wang

Penélope Cruz

Celebrity Central / Top 25 Celebs