Her blazing role in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona made her Spain’s first ever female Oscar-winner. But really, Penelope will always be Pedro’s girl. Since he cast her a decade ago in steamy drama Live Flesh, Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar quickly adopted Cruz as his muse and leading lady of choice. No other director has been able to unleash and harness her sexuality, vulnerability and star power so fully. Casting Cruz as a would-be actress and call girl in tricksy tale of art and lies, Broken Embraces is her fourth movie with Almodovar. As Rotten Tomatoes chatted with her at Cannes 2009, we get the feeling it won’t be her last.
Penelope Cruz: We have developed this working relationship and this friendship now for many years. He was the reason why I decided to become an actress, because of the admiration I felt for him.
PC: We rehearsed every day for three and a half months for Broken Embraces. I like having that time. Just to find things, to be able to make mistakes, to try different ways to do a scene.
PC: He always tells me many, many months before. Sometimes a year before. Then if I know he wants to shoot there and he wants me to do it, I just skip everything so I am free.
PC: Yes, always. She was a great actress. She had a very special quality. She was magic, that woman.
PC: My favourite actress is Meryl Streep. Oh, and Anna Magnani.
PC: Well, I haven’t seen Antichrist, but yes I still want to work with him!
Cruz in Broken Embraces
PC: It was for Jamon Jamon. I felt very surprised that I was getting yes as an answer for the first audition that I did. It was really the beginning of a big change in my life, because after that I stated working all the time.
PC: The script, the director, the role… You just have to feel as though you can do something with it. In order to make anybody else feel anything with that character, you have to feel something first.
PC: It’s difficult to answer. I have fear, always on the set. Insecurity to the point where the first week I always think I could be fired. I think that’s a fear most actors have. But Pedro can intimidate me more than anybody. Because I care so much about him and I don’t want to disappoint him.
PC: I feel everything has gone very fast. And I need to take a few months or a year away from work. To really digest this whole adventure.
PC: No, I just get used to working while I’m nervous and insecure. It doesn’t change that much after the second week or the second month. It stays. It’s just a very, very exciting thing that has happened. I don’t know about the confidence!
PC: No, not now. But I did it for three weeks, I took it everywhere with me. I even took it to the beach one day. Because I was so excited! I would wake up and look at it and say, ‘No, that’s not mine. How could this happen?’
PC: My grandmother’s ring.
PC: Yes. But the things I am starting to develop, I don’t want to talk about them. Because they are still very green.
PC: Yeah, there is one. That’s one of the projects that we are developing. But I won’t tell you it! Because then I feel like I am talking about it too soon instead of putting my energy into doing it.
PC: Yeah, that’s why I’m not going to work for the rest of the year. I can make one a year. One movie a year. I’m going to work promoting this movie and promoting Nine. But I’m not going to shoot another movie.
With Almodovar on set.
PC: Yes, it’s a fresh and new thing, but it’s 100 percent inspired by 8 ½. The story is the same one of Guido and his creative crisis. I play Carla, the mistress of Daniel Day-Lewis. I think Daniel is going to be incredible in it.
PC: I love this character. I can’t believe I got this role. I did five castings to get the movie, because of the dancing and the singing. I was a student of dance for many years, but Nine is the first time that I do a musical. It was a lot of fun, but it was scary also. Most of my scenes are with Daniel Day-Lewis. He’s incredible. Such a gentleman.
PC: Because he says it to me and I think he’s joking. But then he says it to you! So… I think he was probably joking. But I don’t know. I will ask him again if he was joking. I mean, I know he’s joking… It’s Pedro!
Broken Embraces hits UK cinemas today.