Another episode, dar­ling? Go on, then. Let’s binge

Esquire (UK) - - Style - By David Thom­son

when does the net­flix stream be­come a flood?

Per­haps it was the “x”, but in 1997 the new word sounded sci-fi cute. More than a prod­uct or a ser­vice, “Net­flix” seemed to promise some cul­tural-tech­no­log­i­cal in­fin­ity in which we were all a part, just as once we might have been cit­i­zens in a na­tion or a so­ci­ety — or fish in the sea. “Net­flix” whis­pered that there was a “net” out there, an am­bi­ence or a to­geth­er­ness, in which “flicks” (that quaint name for movies) could be a way of be­ing or a dis­course. No one delved too deeply into what a “net” was. The word over­pow­ered thought. But it was as­sumed that it was a safety net: a be­nign con­tainer, a merry tram­po­line, a kind­ness or a com­fort, that kept us all in place. An older irony was passed over, or for­got­ten, that a net was only a set of holes tied to­gether by string. Fish know that nets are not al­ways kind or com­fort­ing.

Of course, Net­flix is a stun­ning suc­cess story and we are raised to hon­our that phe­nom­e­non, even if we are so stunned we may be con­cussed. Two men brought the idea to life: Reed Hast­ings (born 1960) and Marc Ran­dolph (born 1958). Hast­ings had been in the Peace Corps, teach­ing maths in Swazi­land, be­fore he got a mas­ter’s in com­puter sci­ence at Stan­ford Univer­sity, and then en­tered the busi­ness of mak­ing sys­tems to de­tect bugs in soft­ware. Marc Ran­dolph’s de­gree was in ge­ol­ogy, but he was the great nephew of Ed­ward Ber­nays (him­self a nephew to Sig­mund Freud), a cen­tral fig­ure in trans­lat­ing prin­ci­ples of psy­chol­ogy to mass mar­ket­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions. They made a spe­cial team.

It was not that they liked movies es­pe­cially; no more than the or­di­nary per­son. But they were im­pressed by a few things break­ing in the Nineties: the ap­pear­ance of Ama­zon (in 1994), sell­ing books on the in­ter­net, by­pass­ing book­sell­ers; and the de­vel­op­ment of DVDs, at that date the most por­ta­ble form that movies had ever found.

So they started Net­flix, as a post-of­fice through which the pub­lic could pur­chase or rent DVDs. They had an an­gle: they un­der­stood how much we hated late fees on video rentals from stores. In­deed, they saw the video store it­self as an in­sti­tu­tion that would die as quickly as it had come into be­ing. If the pub­lic sub­scribed to Net­flix then they could or­der ti­tles from a list or a cat­a­logue, get rapid de­liv­ery by mail and keep the disc as long as they liked. Send it back in­tact and you would have your next se­lec­tion. I don’t think they fully imag­ined the larger pos­si­bil­ity: that we might one day grow weary of movie the­atres and want to watch at home. It was enough that the video rental habit caught on.

We the Peo­ple made Net­flix a suc­cess. Those mod­est pa­per sleeves (tougher than they looked) would be­come the chief item of busi­ness for US Mail. To­day, you don’t need to be re­minded of this. But that’s no rea­son not to think about it. For the cul­ture was shift­ing in pro­found ways.

Just be­cause Net­flix was a soar­ing busi­ness — a sim­ple, knock­out idea — it was eas­ier to over­look the im­pli­ca­tions of what was hap­pen­ing. This was a start-up that re­de­fined the con­test. Much the same thing had oc­curred at the time of World War I when a group of young hus­tlers, out of eastern Eu­rope, with­out much ed­u­ca­tion, but all chutz­pah, had cre­ated the movie busi­ness. Once pro­jec­tors turned over, so­ci­ety had to fol­low.

But when the wheels go round so smoothly, and with such in­stant ex­cite­ment, we can lose sight of the real revo­lu­tion. Hast­ings and Ran­dolph were smart, ap­peal­ing and gen­er­ous guys, lift­ing a kid en­ter­prise

to a busi­ness level of $8.8bn an­nual rev­enue (the 2016 fig­ure). They were icons for a new age in which pi­o­neer en­trepreneurs were cul­tural he­roes (even if they had a few flaws; those flaws could be hu­man­is­ing if the he­roes ever got their own movies). That bil­lion­aire’s list in­cludes War­ren Buf­fett (the Santa Claus of “clean” money), Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Be­zos, Elon Musk, Mark Zucker­berg. Think of those ca­reers and you re­alise what an ugly cuckoo, a wretched fail­ure and an old­fash­ioned gang­ster Don­ald Trump is at that court. (But, re­mem­ber: our gang­ster hero was in­vented by the movies.)

The red, white and black en­velopes still ride the mail, but their flow is much re­duced, just as Hast­ings an­tic­i­pated, as Net­flix started stream­ing (about 10 years ago). This was in keep­ing with show busi­ness his­tory. Those old movie stu­dios 100 years ago had been in the busi­ness of ex­hi­bi­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion, un­til they re­alised there was no re­li­able flow of “good” ma­te­rial. So they de­cided to make movies them­selves and the mo­nop­oly laws didn’t catch up with them for 30 years.

Net­flix is now more cel­e­brated for shows it has ini­ti­ated, or picked up early in the game. When streams were still pretty, ru­ral photo op­por­tu­ni­ties, in Bri­tain in 1990 there had been a TV se­ries, House of Cards, based on a novel by Michael Dobbs, with Ian Richard­son, sat­ur­nine and en­dear­ingly nasty as Fran­cis Urquhart, a con­niv­ing politi­cian. It was four 55-minute episodes; tidy, funny and a hit in the UK and in the US. The show was modern in its cyn­i­cism, but an­cient in its nar­ra­tive struc­tures (this was the tem­plate of The God­fa­ther).

In Amer­ica, Me­dia Rights Cap­i­tal saw it and thought House of Cards could trans­late to Wash­ing­ton DC. HBO and Show­time didn’t fancy it, but the new Net­flix liked the idea and the prospects for a se­ries that would “stream” on TV. Sit on the couch, press the but­ton and there it would be — hours of it, at your bid­ding, to suit your sched­ule — a sea­son of 13 episodes. Urquhart was too damned English (or Scot­tish), so Fran­cis be­came Un­der­wood, and Kevin Spacey — an un­in­hib­ited Richard III on stage — was lined up to play him as the new Machi­avelli. Top di­rec­tor David Fincher had seen the light and the new day in which movie peo­ple might have to de­pend on TV for a liveli­hood — if you were con­tent to call it “TV”.

Fincher was fas­ci­nated by a cul­tural shift. “The world of 7.30 on Tues­day nights, that’s dead,” he said. “A stake has been driven through its heart. Its head has been cut off and its mouth has been stuffed with gar­lic. The cap­tive au­di­ence is gone. If you give peo­ple this op­por­tu­nity to main­line all in one day, there’s rea­son to be­lieve they will do it.”

That came just a few years af­ter Fincher had asked au­di­ences to go see his Zo­diac in cin­e­mas — at some Tues­day 7.30 or another — and the box of­fice take had barely crawled above pro­duc­tion costs. So Fincher di­rected the first two episodes of House of Cards, re­sum­ing his creative re­la­tion­ship with Spacey (they had done Se7en to­gether in 1995). House of Cards is a street now, or a neigh­bour­hood, a prize-win­ning show where un­til re­cently ca­ble was looked on as an up­start. It has also been a world­wide mon­ey­maker and an ef­fort­less in­duce­ment to us all to see that pol­i­tics is a filthy game, a spec­ta­tor sport and a nifty, shame­less adap­ta­tion of the gang­ster spirit. Don’t lose sight of this pos­si­bil­ity: that House of Cards has only en­cour­aged our Un­der­woods to go armed and dan­ger­ous.

House of Cards may be the great­est hit Net­flix has had so far, but the sys­tem has

also de­liv­ered Or­ange is the New Black and Joon-ho Bong’s fea­ture movie, Okja, which was a fo­cus for protests at Cannes in 2017 on the grounds that stream­ing and on-line de­liv­ery were shock­ing in­tru­sions on the the­atri­cal movie busi­ness. That lost cause.

Net­flix has had fail­ures, like any film pro­duc­tion house, and the com­pany has never had enough love of film to en­dure fail­ures. Sen­ti­men­tal­ists were in­clined to see its start-up as a mirac­u­lous door­way to the great ar­chive of world film. But it was quickly proven that Net­flix car­ried the films we wanted to see. They craved pop­u­lar­ity. That can seem demo­cratic, but it ig­nores the way some of us have no idea how many good movies there are out there, be­cause we have never heard of them.

And if Net­flix ran the archival show, then they could turn our ig­no­rance into or­tho­doxy and a re­vised in­ter­pre­ta­tion of his­tory. If you are a cinephile or a film buff, you need Ama­zon, the Cri­te­rion Col­lec­tion or your own li­brary of lov­ingly as­sem­bled DVDs — for as long as disc play­ers are still avail­able and the discs don’t fade. In other words, pre­serv­ing film his­tory and mak­ing it avail­able are not part of the Net­flix busi­ness plan.

So, what is the plan for stream­ing? And what is the stream do­ing to our ground? “Stream” is a pre­cious word; it re­news our bond with na­ture; and it seems to sug­gest that we have all of na­ture to choose from. In a dream world, a stream tum­bles down from the snow-capped sierra to feed the land. It car­ries fish, fo­liage, cur­rent, vol­ume, swim­ming, raft­ing… as well as drown­ing, tox­ins and water snakes. The stream can’t help that, and it ex­pects us to be alert and mind­ful while we’re en­joy­ing our­selves. In­stead of just binge­ing like in­dulged cus­tomers. You have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for streams, rivers and ev­ery­thing else that is valu­able. You shouldn’t trust grav­ity or “the sys­tem”.

Why not con­sider “binge­ing” while you’re about it, the word we are in the new habit of ap­ply­ing to our­selves. Binge­ing is not al­ways OK: as it refers to drink, to food, to shop­ping, to sex, it has draw­backs. I’m all for po­etry, but I’m wary of binge po­ets if they can’t make break­fast or take out the rub­bish. Break­fast and rub­bish have po­etry in them. But binge watch­ing is al­most de rigueur now. And I worry.

Sup­pose this es­say has got you in­ter­ested in House of Cards — pol­i­tics, Spacey, mis­chief? That sounds likely, but you’ve never got around to it so far. You’re busy: you have a spouse, two kids, a dog, a job you’re cling­ing on to, and a bad back; you are many streams. But your fancy has been tick­led and you ask where should you be­gin. Well, House of Cards is poised to go to a sixth sea­son. That’s 65 episodes in the stream al­ready at about 50 min­utes a pop. I’m not sure I could fit that in, not while I am emo­tion­ally booked to keep up with Home­land (six sea­sons now), Peaky Blin­ders, the new Pre­mier League sea­son, Ken Burns’ mag­nif­i­cent doc­u­men­tary se­ries The Viet­nam War (that’s 18 hours), and track­ing MSNBC’s nightly cov­er­age of the mad ego­tist in the White House. I was ex­hausted be­fore I started writ­ing this es­say — is sleep a stream? (I think it is, it has to be.)

There’s another prob­lem. I like a lot of these long-form TV shows that go on for years. I try not to miss an episode; I have done Break­ing Bad, the box set, in a long week­end; I binge, baby. But I feel a tug of war in these se­ries. They seem to be sto­ries, a form with a be­gin­ning and an end, also known as res­o­lu­tion. Break­ing Bad went on for five years, but Wal­ter White got it in the end and that show

had a sat­is­fy­ing shape­li­ness akin to what you can find in Anna Karen­ina, or the Ge­orge Gersh­win song, “Our Love is Here to Stay”.

That fi­nite for­mat, the clo­sure, is a mat­ter of creative re­spon­si­bil­ity; I loved The So­pra­nos, but its cre­ator David Chase let him­self off the hook, fi­nally. He didn’t quite want to off Tony. Af­ter all, he and the others on the show had spent sev­eral years try­ing to have it go on and on be­cause there was money in that re­newal. It is the string that makes the holes into a net. But great sto­ries and dra­matic char­ac­ters need to meet their fate, if only to teach us how brief and fa­tal life is.

Here’s a larger ques­tion. The new golden age of long-form tele­vi­sion has been with us 20 years now, so it would be crazy of Net­flix or Ama­zon, or any­one, to think it will last for­ever. Noth­ing does in show busi­ness: streams be­come oceans, or they dry up. I can’t prove this, but I have a hunch the pub­lic is get­ting worn out by all the shows that re­quire binge ses­sions. I’ve been at par­ties where in­no­cent peo­ple dis­solve in help­less mirth at all the shows strangers rec­om­mend. They’d rather set­tle for the dog, the Pre­mier League and hav­ing a bad back. And what is that place I can see out­side? Isn’t that what they used to call a gar­den? Is that a stream at the end of it?

I’m hop­ing to make you smile, and I want to ask, “Hasn’t tele­vi­sion al­ways been a binge?” There was a time (it was the era of your grand­par­ents maybe) when some peo­ple saw three movies a week — call that six hours’ screen time. Some scolds thought that was ru­inous in 1945–’50. But then tele­vi­sion came into be­ing and soon it was ap­par­ent that some peo­ple were watch­ing six hours a day.

Now, “watch­ing” was not quite the word, not if you mean it to cover a Ro­man sen­try on the walls in Me­sopotamia peer­ing to see the bar­bar­ian hordes ad­vanc­ing by night. Tele­vi­sion taught us that we did not have to “fol­low” ev­ery­thing. At­ten­tion was one of the first deficits in the new age. While the TV idled, we could take a phone call, eat din­ner, do some of the sweet noth­ings that beloveds do; we could leave the room, se­cure in the knowl­edge that the “telly” was on, and keep­ing us in touch with… the global vil­lage, the streams, the power source… the net?

That’s where that name Net­flix was so cun­ning. It half un­der­stood that the idea of a net was go­ing to be im­posed upon us, and that we needed to be com­fort­able with it… or stand up and say some­thing like, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not go­ing to take this any­more.”

You see — I’ll break it to you gen­tly — I am not happy with the phi­los­o­phy of the net and stream­ing. I re­main con­vinced there is a thing called re­al­ity, or na­ture, or so­ci­ety, or time, that will not en­dure it.

Let me be clear, Reed Hast­ings was touched by ge­nius and Net­flix can be hours of fun. (Though I think Spacey’s Un­der­wood suf­fers from the ac­tor’s smug­ness.) I do pre­fer the name of its chief ri­val, Ama­zon (more than a ri­val: in 2015, Ama­zon had rev­enue of $136bn). Choos­ing that name could seem sur­real and un­busi­nesslike, but Jeff Be­zos and his co­horts liked that ex­otic dar­ing and I like the thought of an en­ergy that winds through­out life, full of ooz­ing mud, is­lands, spir­its and pi­ranha. We’ve seen movies about the Ama­zon — we know what to ex­pect. And while I re­alise that names are brands and for­giv­able, still I would rather have a wild, dan­ger­ous river than these jit­tery trick­les.

Fancy a pad­dle? Or, if you re­call the cap­tive au­di­ence that David Fincher told us was gone, maybe it’s here still, in cap­tiv­ity, lonely and dys­func­tional, in a trance called stream­ing. Maybe it’s us.

Madrid in the dog days of Au­gust, and in the fe­ro­cious grip of the heat­wave they’re call­ing Lu­cifer. Any­one with the means to es­cape the fur­nace of the city has long since de­parted for cooler climes; my best lo­cal con­tact texts to ex­press his amaze­ment at my turn­ing up dur­ing the “ter­ri­ble heat”, and to de­cline my of­fer of a cold cerveza: he’s sailing around Ibiza.

If only he knew. Sure, Madrid is sti­fling. No doubt, the Balearics will be breezier. But I have good rea­son to be here, in the cooker. And I can think of many worse things to do with a work­ing Wed­nes­day, what­ever the weather, than to have lunch with Spain’s most cel­e­brated daugh­ter, a great star of con­tem­po­rary cinema and — let’s not be coy about this — one of the most beau­ti­ful women ever to ap­pear in movies, or any­where else.

My ap­point­ment with Pené­lope Cruz is ar­ranged for 3.30pm at a res­tau­rant 40 min­utes’ drive north of the city. From the web­site it looks like it’s one of those places that’s all ter­race, idyl­lic un­der al­most any cir­cum­stance — ex­cept, per­haps, in 40°C heat. I imag­ine us shel­ter­ing from the scald­ing sun be­neath a thin para­sol, her cool and soignée be­hind mega shades, caramel skin glow­ing, while I roast and sizzle, beads of sweat trick­ling from my nose into my soup. I’m sure Pené­lope Cruz wea­ried long ago of men re­act­ing in em­bar­rass­ing ways to her pres­ence, but an English­man as­sum­ing en­tirely liq­uid form while at­tempt­ing to con­duct a mag­a­zine in­ter­view with her might be a new one, even on her.

Hap­pily, the res­tau­rant is not, it turns out, all ter­race. It oc­cu­pies a 16th cen­tury Castil­ian build­ing, and is as tra­di­tional as that makes it sound: gnarled wood beams on the ceil­ings, faded ta­pes­tries on the walls, a hush that might have lasted since the Mid­dle Ages. It’s dark in­side, and cool. Too cool. Hav­ing ar­rived id­i­ot­i­cally early — only shortly af­ter the close of the 16th cen­tury — and been given a choice of ta­bles for two, I’ve clev­erly se­lected one un­der­neath an air con­di­tion­ing vent: surely the only place in south­ern Eu­rope to­day where a diner might suf­fer frost­bite. I scrape the chairs about, po­si­tion­ing my­self di­rectly be­neath the blast of icy air and mov­ing the empty seat as far away from it as pos­si­ble with­out seat­ing my in­ter­vie­wee in the kitchen. And then I hope, as per­haps no man be­fore me ever has, or will again, that Pené­lope Cruz will ar­rive for our tête-à-tête swad­dled in mul­ti­ple lay­ers, with per­haps a thick scarf over a shape­less woollen jumper. And an anorak. And a bob­ble hat.

Blow­ing on my frozen fin­gers to keep them warm, I wait. At last the maitre’d — tall, el­e­gant, sat­ur­nine — strides to­wards me, beck­on­ing with his pad and pen­cil, and I fol­low him through the res­tau­rant and out­side, onto a cov­ered ter­race that is bright and warm and de­serted but for a small, dark-haired woman, sit­ting alone at a ta­ble for two, tap­ping on her phone. She’s wear­ing a thin black T-shirt, off the shoul­der, dark jeans, flat shoes. No sun­glasses. No scarf. We shake hands. She hopes I don’t mind sit­ting out here, where it’s more pleas­ant. I do not.

She wants to get the busi­ness with the menus out of the way be­fore we talk. “You trust me, no?” she asks. I do.

She pep­pers the maitre’d with a se­ries of rapid-fire ques­tions, purses her lips while she lis­tens to his an­swers, and then makes some crisp de­ci­sions. My Span­ish is pa­thetic but I gather that she has or­dered me gaz­pa­cho to start, and a salad for her­self, and then she checks if I’m a veg­e­tar­ian — I’m not — be­fore sug­gest­ing we share a plate of meat, which she says is very good here. Meat? More con­fer­ring with the maitre’d. “Cow,” she says. Per­fect. I love cow.

“Vino?” she asks. “Wine?” Yes, I say, wine. She won’t have any her­self. She hardly drinks at all. At a party re­cently she had a beer, a sin­gle can, gluten-free, and it went straight to her head. Well, per­ish the thought of that hap­pen­ing. (I don’t say that, ob­vi­ously. But I do think it.) Once more she con­fers with the maitre’d, and a bot­tle of red ar­rives, and I’m in­vited to taste it, and it’s smooth and rich and heady and full bod­ied — you think I’m mak­ing this up — and just when it seems things could hardly get any bet­ter a big plate of Iberico ham makes its en­trance. She eats this with her fin­gers, rolling each piece as if it were a tiny, salty car­pet and pop­ping it into her mouth.

The cow men­tioned ear­lier is a rib­eye steak that could feed a block­buster film crew, grilled and sliced. When it ar­rives, bloody, pos­si­bly still breath­ing, she re­quests what turns out to be a ta­ble-top hot­plate, which is placed be­tween us and on which she singes each slice of meat to her de­sired re­quire­ments be­fore bit­ing into it. She in­di­cates that I should do the same, so that our con­ver­sa­tion, for quite a while, is punc­tu­ated by the sound and smell of siz­zling steak.

She tells me she’s jet lagged, hav­ing re­turned only a day ear­lier, en famille, from LA. But I can find no ev­i­dence what­so­ever

‘It doesn’t mat­ter if you be­come fa­mous, if peo­ple look at you in the street. You have to stay the one that is al­lowed to be the ob­server. Other­wise, as an ac­tor, you are dead’

for this as­ser­tion. Not once does she yawn or flag. She was in the US to film the next se­ries of Amer­i­can Crime Story, the fizzy TV show that, hav­ing dealt al­ready with one high pro­file Nineties celebrity mur­der case, in The Peo­ple v OJ Simp­son, now turns its at­ten­tion to The As­sas­si­na­tion of Gianni Ver­sace, with Cruz as Donatella — a prospect, for fash­ion and pop cul­ture nerds such as my­self, al­most as suc­cu­lent as our shared steak.

This is the first TV show Cruz has made since she was a teenager. “The rhythm of tele­vi­sion is dif­fer­ent be­cause they’re writ­ing so quickly,” she says. “Some­times you get the new scenes three, four days be­fore you shoot. So that’s a new thing for me. It’s a lot of di­a­logue, in my sec­ond lan­guage, but with [Donatella’s] ac­cent, which is Ital­ian.”

Not that Cruz hasn’t pre­vi­ously made a film in which she speaks Ital­ian-ac­cented English. (Imag­ine, as an English-speaker, try­ing to im­per­son­ate a Spa­niard with a Ger­man ac­cent and you can see how daunt­ing this might be.) “I did it in [the mu­si­cal] Nine,” she says. “And I have played an Ital­ian woman be­fore, in Ital­ian, in Don’t Move, the movie with Ser­gio Castel­litto — I don’t know if you’ve seen it — so I am fa­mil­iar with the lan­guage. I speak Ital­ian. But still, it was a big chal­lenge.”

That “I don’t know if you’ve seen it” is, I hope, not as pointed as it might sound, but I’m glad that I have seen Don’t Move, and don’t have to pre­tend. (She might ask ques­tions.) Cruz is com­pletely charm­ing, but some­thing about her — some­thing steely and self-pos­sessed — says I wouldn’t want to dis­please her. On only a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions do I in­ad­ver­tently cause a flash of what might have de­vel­oped into ir­ri­ta­tion if I hadn’t quickly clar­i­fied things. At one point, I men­tion that she had made a small num­ber of Span­ish films be­fore em­bark­ing on her Hol­ly­wood ca­reer. She mis­hears me. (Prob­a­bly I’ve a mouth­ful of cow.)

“I’ve only done a cou­ple of films in Span­ish?”

No, no. I meant to say that at that point in your ca­reer you’d only done a cou­ple. I am aware you have made many films in Span­ish. The smile re­turns.

Another time I ask her if she feels that Hol­ly­wood direc­tors, in the early years of her ca­reer in Amer­ica, did not un­der­stand how to use her cor­rectly, be­cause of her beauty, her ac­cent, so ex­otic to An­glo­phone eyes and ears. “They used me?”

This was per­haps a poor choice of words. She thinks I’m sug­gest­ing she was ex­ploited. No, I say, not at all. I mean they weren’t sure how best to em­ploy your tal­ents, so rather than the nu­anced and lay­ered and three-di­men­sional char­ac­ters you played in Euro­pean films (I’m gab­bling here), in Amer­ica you were too of­ten the generic Latina lovely, there to make the lead­ing man look vir­ile. Even Pe­dro Almod­ó­var, her com­pa­triot and great­est col­lab­o­ra­tor, has said so.

“Oh, OK,” she says. And we’re on good terms again. (Though for the record she takes is­sue, quite per­sua­sively, with this char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of her early Hol­ly­wood films as un­wor­thy of her.)

Cruz was 18 when many of us first saw her in the Span­ish sex com­edy, Jamón, Jamón. She was gor­geous then but, un­der­stand­ably, still girl­ish, a lit­tle gawky. She is 43 now. No­body looks to­day ex­actly as they did in 1992. That would be weird. But to say that she is age­ing well is to con­sid­er­ably un­der­sell her al­lure. To­day, the glam­our is di­alled down — not that I’m an ex­pert, but I can see hardly any makeup — and, per­haps as a re­sult, her beauty seems more ex­treme, rather than less.

Woody Allen, who has di­rected her twice, in­clud­ing in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), the film for which she won her Os­car, once said that Cruz’s beauty is so over­whelm­ing that he found him­self un­able to look at her di­rectly. I must say I’m strug­gling with the re­verse prob­lem: I have to make an ef­fort not to stare.

She doesn’t look any­thing like the girl next

door, then. But she grew up just down the road from where we’re sit­ting. And while she has, at var­i­ous times, lived in New York and LA, and spent months on movie sets around the world, this is her home.

“I’m very Span­ish,” she says. “I love my city and I love my coun­try. The food, the cul­ture. And it’s where my mother is, my sis­ter. I’m very fam­ily-ori­ented. This is a very Span­ish thing. And also the way we speak, you know? Like if we are in a big group, we all talk at the same time. I love that. I love it!”

Just as the cliché of us Brits, I ven­ture, is that we’re ad­mirably stoic but also crip­plingly re­pressed, the cliché of the Span­ish is that they are in­tensely pas­sion­ate and given to dis­plays of high emo­tion. Her char­ac­ter in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, the spec­tac­u­lar María Elena, is the ul­ti­mate hot mess: sul­try one mo­ment, mur­der­ously en­raged the next, the Span­ish fire­cracker par ex­cel­lence.

Does she recog­nise any truth in that?

“No.”

Not at all?

“No! Span­ish peo­ple are not like my char­ac­ter in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She was crazy!”

And we both press another slice of steak on the siz­zler.

The road from Madrid to San Agustín del Guadalix un­spools through arid scrub­land, pass­ing strip malls and busi­ness parks, and sun-bleached sub­urbs of sand-coloured high-rises. On the way to the res­tau­rant I pass the turn-off for Al­coben­das, the work­ing-class town where Pené­lope Cruz was born and grew up, el­dest of three — two girls and a boy — born to Ed­uardo and En­carna. He worked in a hard­ware store; she ran a hair and beauty sa­lon. (Cruz has some skills in that de­part­ment her­self, she says, telling me a story about do­ing her friend Salma Hayek’s hair and makeup, by can­dle­light, for a pre­miere in LA, a scene that could have been scripted by Almod­ó­var.)

When she won her Os­car, in 2009, the first Span­ish woman to do so, Cruz’s ac­cep­tance speech ac­knowl­edged, win­ningly, that things like that just don’t hap­pen to girls from Al­coben­das. She says some­thing sim­i­lar to­day.

“No­body around me had a job re­lated to the arts, mu­sic, any­thing like that,” she says. “The dream was much more hum­ble, but it was big for me. It was: ‘I want to be in­de­pen­dent when I’m older and have a job that I love. It’s ei­ther go­ing to be a dancer, or an ac­tress.’ Just to be able to eat from that, that was my dream. If some­body [back then] would have shown me a pic­ture of me with an Os­car in my hand, that would have been like some­body telling me, ‘At some point you will go to the moon.’”

When she was 13, her fa­ther bought a Be­ta­max player. They were the first of any of the fam­i­lies they knew to own such a thing. Im­me­di­ately, she fell in love with movies. “This ma­chine, it re­ally changed my life,” she says. In­stead of go­ing to the park, play­ing out with friends, she would rent movies, two and three at a time. The fam­ily called her Space Cadet, be­cause she lived in her imag­i­na­tion, fired by film. “We didn’t have a [cinema] near enough that I could walk to, and we didn’t have a car, but at home I was study­ing cinema. I dis­cov­ered Billy Wilder, Mar­i­lyn, Sophia Loren, Pa­solini… Ev­ery time I dis­cov­ered some­body I was blown away. Anna Mag­nani, Bel­lis­sima. I would watch it three, four times in one week.”

The film that re­ally changed her life, as she puts it, she did see in the cinema, at age 14: Pe­dro Almod­ovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! It’s a fa­mous story in Spain, of how the fu­ture muse of the na­tion’s most im­por­tant di­rec­tor since Buñuel en­coun­tered his work for the first time as a young girl, sit­ting alone in the dark of a Madrid pic­ture­house.

“I came out, I took a walk and I said, ‘I’m go­ing to look for an agent. Be­cause one day I want to meet this man. And I want to thank him. And I would love to work with him.’”

At 15, she ap­proached a man­ager. “I lied to her. I said I was 17. She sent me home, I came back. She sent me home again, I came back.” Af­ter a third failed screen test she im­pro­vised — “I don’t know where that tape is, it would be so em­bar­rass­ing to see” — and she is still with that same man­ager, Ka­t­rina Bay­onas.

Her break­through — a mem­o­rable one — was Jamón, Jamón, Bi­gas Luna’s feast of car­nal­ity, with its de­li­cious tagline: “A film where women eat men and men eat ham”. (I once saw the ti­tle trans­lated as Salami, Salami, which is in­ac­cu­rate but also spot on.) She played Sil­via, a small-town co­quette whose breasts, we are told, taste of ham. Cruz re­ceived the first of many nom­i­na­tions for a Goya award — the Span­ish equiv­a­lent of the Os­cars — and has hardly looked back since.

Jamón, Jamón is also no­table be­cause it in­tro­duced her to her hus­band, the tremen­dously cool and charis­matic ac­tor, Javier Bar­dem, though it would be another 16 years be­fore they got to­gether. (They mar­ried in 2010.) In Jamón, Jamón, Bar­dem played the lo­cal stud for whom Sil­via throws over her rich

‘I know what it’s like to be 17 or 18 and in the same five min­utes to hear, “I love you!” and then, “Bitch!” I looked at my dad and said, “I guess this is what it’s like to be fa­mous”’

kid boyfriend. The fu­ture first cou­ple of Span­ish cinema shared a num­ber of steamy scenes.

“I had a feel­ing the movie was go­ing to be spe­cial,” Cruz says now. “I knew the script was good. I knew there was some­thing very unique there. Even if I had not seen many scripts be­fore, it was so clear, it was so brave, so re­fresh­ing. And yes, it was very sexy.”

Did the nu­dity not put her off ?

“I thought, ‘There is a char­ac­ter there, there is a style, the ma­te­rial is re­ally good.’ Of course I was not look­ing for­ward to those scenes but I did it. Ev­ery­one was re­ally re­spect­ful, aware of the fact that I was 18. I re­mem­ber the last day of film­ing, I was cry­ing, say­ing, ‘What if I never shoot a movie again?’ The feel­ing was dev­as­tat­ing. ‘Who knows when I will see these peo­ple again?’ In­clud­ing Javier.”

In a mag­a­zine in­ter­view last spring, Bar­dem re­mem­bered Jamón, Jamón: “There was ob­vi­ous chem­istry be­tween us,” he said. “I mean, it’s all there on film; it’s like a doc­u­ment of our pas­sion. One day we’re go­ing to have to show the kids — imag­ine! ‘Mummy, Daddy, what did you do in the movies to­gether?’ Well, my chil­dren, you should cel­e­brate this movie as you’re here be­cause of it.”

It was fol­lowed the same year by a less sexy film: Belle Époque, in which Cruz played the vir­ginal daugh­ter of a lo­cal wor­thy in Civil War-era Spain. A gen­tle com­edy of man­ners, it won the Os­car for best for­eign lan­guage film.

“I was very lucky that these two movies came out at the same time,” she says. “It meant I wasn’t put in a spe­cific box. And what I did is that I went away for a while from any­thing that had to do with nu­dity or sex scenes be­cause I felt that I needed at that point to stay away from that. Not as a cal­cu­lated plan. Per­son­ally, I needed that.”

She still had dreams of danc­ing, and at 19 she moved to New York to study. She lived in Green­wich Vil­lage, on Christo­pher Street, with a bunch of Span­ish friends, all learn­ing English and en­joy­ing be­ing away from home, foot­loose in the big city.

“I fell in love with New York in a crazy way,” she says. “I was very happy there. But I was al­ways com­ing back [to Spain] for movies and then I got an agent [in LA] and they started to send me to cast­ings.” She re­alised she had to make a choice. Danc­ing lost.

The first call from Pe­dro Almod­ó­var, the man who would be­come the von Stern­berg to her Di­et­rich, the Bergman to her Ull­man, had come in the wake of her first suc­cesses, when she was still a teenager. She was at home. Some­one else an­swered. “At first I didn’t go to the phone be­cause I thought it was a joke. Ev­ery­body knew I was ob­sessed with him. I couldn’t be­lieve it. He said, ‘I’m call­ing to con­grat­u­late you for your per­for­mances.’ I said, ‘No. It’s not pos­si­ble. I dreamed such a big dream. It’s be­com­ing true.’”

She au­di­tioned for Almod­ovar’s 1993 film Kika, but he felt she was too young for the part. “But he said to me, ‘I will write you a film that will fit you like a body.’” (Another trans­la­tion that doesn’t quite work but is also unim­prov­able.) She au­di­tioned again for the lead in Live Flesh (1997). Again, he wanted some­one older.

Some years ago, I in­ter­viewed Almod­ó­var specif­i­cally about his re­la­tion­ship with Cruz — he was at that time pro­mot­ing Bro­ken Em­braces, a film at least in part about a pas­sion­ate af­fair be­tween a film di­rec­tor and his lead­ing lady, played by Cruz.

For Live Flesh, he said, he felt he needed a woman with more of a past. “So I of­fered Pené­lope a mi­nor role,” he said, “think­ing she would refuse. When she ac­cepted I de­cided to de­velop the part. I made it into an eight-minute set piece: she’s a young pros­ti­tute from the prov­inces who gives birth on a bus on a dark night in Franco’s Madrid. It’s one of the things that I’m most proud of in all I’ve done. And many, many peo­ple have also said that it’s one of their favourite things in my work. In fact, Stephen Frears told me that af­ter watch­ing it he de­cided to of­fer Pené­lope her first Amer­i­can movie, The Hi-Lo Coun­try, based just on that one se­quence.”

That was just the be­gin­ning. To date they have made five films to­gether. In All About my Mother, Almod­ó­var’s “screw­ball melo­drama” from 1999, she plays Sis­ter Rosa, a nun work­ing in the slums of Barcelona, who be­comes preg­nant by a trans­ves­tite pros­ti­tute and con­tracts Aids. (The di­rec­tor is not known for his cow­ardice.) “It was a very tricky part,” Almod­ó­var told me, “a hard char­ac­ter to play re­al­is­ti­cally. But she has an amaz­ing com­bi­na­tion of resilience and vul­ner­a­bil­ity.” She plays Sis­ter Rosa ab­so­lutely straight, with great del­i­cacy, and is ex­tremely af­fect­ing.

The best was yet to come. She re­ceived her first Os­car nom­i­na­tion (He­len Mir­ren won, for The Queen) for Volver, from 2006. Here was the role that fit her like a body. It was a love let­ter to her specif­i­cally, and to the strength and beauty of the work­ing-class women of Spain in gen­eral. A comic drama, full of vivid life and colour, it con­cerns the strug­gles of Raimunda, a poor sin­gle mother liv­ing off her wits in a run­down sub­urb of Madrid.

Almod­ó­var had Cruz’s bot­tom padded for the part, to en­hance her curves, and his cam­era lin­gered on her legs, her shoul­ders, her chest. In his pro­duc­tion notes — the reams of printed pages of­fered to jour­nal­ists at pre­view screen­ings — Almod­ó­var de­scribed hers

‘I never take my char­ac­ters home with me... I know Javier doesn’t do it ei­ther. Be­cause how are you go­ing to do that when you have a fam­ily?’

as “one of the most spec­tac­u­lar cleav­ages in world cinema”. At one point, aban­don­ing for­mal niceties al­to­gether, he chose to shoot a kitchen scene from above, pre­sum­ably for no bet­ter rea­son (and per­haps there couldn’t be one) than to al­low the au­di­ence a good look down Cruz’s top.

“From my per­spec­tive,” Almod­ó­var told me, “[Volver] is a film where the lens and my eyes are guided by de­sire to­wards the ac­tress… The char­ac­ter is a housewife, but very de­sir­able. It’s some­thing that hap­pens very rarely, but when de­sire guides the lens, when it’s le­git­i­mate, it re­ally in­forms the char­ac­ter.”

“For Pe­dro and for me it was like a dream, what we ex­pe­ri­enced to­gether mak­ing that movie,” Cruz says to me, draw­ing a cir­cle in the air with her hands, as if to in­di­cate a place of en­chant­ment into which they were drawn. “It was like a dance. Ev­ery­thing came so easy, so flu­ent, so mag­i­cal. That doesn’t hap­pen ev­ery time.”

All About my Mother and Volver achieved in­stant clas­sic sta­tus. The same can­not be said of ev­ery film she has made in Amer­ica. In her early days in Hol­ly­wood, even when, as of­ten, she worked with ex­cel­lent film-mak­ers, and played op­po­site huge stars, it was sel­dom on their best work. All the Pretty Horses, di­rected by Billy Bob Thorn­ton, with Matt Da­mon, was a some­what lame adap­ta­tion of the Cor­mac McCarthy novel. Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky — a re­make of a much bet­ter Span­ish film, Open Your Eyes, in which Cruz also starred — was a shocker. Ted Demme’s Blow, a drug smug­gling drama about as deep as a late-night coke con­ver­sa­tion, was chiefly no­table for Johnny Depp’s col­lec­tion of wigs. Cap­tain Corelli’s Man­dolin, an adap­ta­tion of Louis de Bernières’ best­seller, with Nico­las Cage, was a film al­most as lovely to look at as its fe­male lead, but not nearly as in­ter­est­ing. Sa­hara, with Matthew McConaughey, was a slog.

She stands by those movies. She learned from each. She met peo­ple who re­main im­por­tant to her. (In­clud­ing Tom Cruise, with whom she was ro­man­ti­cally in­volved be­tween 2001 and 2004.)

“I chose all those films for dif­fer­ent rea­sons,” she says. “And maybe they are not at the top of the list of favourite movies that I’ve done but ac­tu­ally I don’t have a lot of re­grets. With The Hi-Lo Coun­try [Frears’ cow­boy bro­mance] and All the Pretty Horses, I spoke such a lit­tle amount of English at the time, it was so scary. But it was a chance to have a ca­reer there, to com­bine it with my work in Eu­rope and to work with great peo­ple. I’m not go­ing to say no.”

Hap­pily, bet­ter English-lan­guage roles came. She points to El­egy, an adap­ta­tion of Philip Roth’s The Dy­ing An­i­mal; and to Nine, for which she re­ceived her third Os­car nom­i­na­tion. A mu­si­cal in­spired by one of Cruz’s favourite films, Fed­erico Fellini’s 8½, Nine

125

starred Daniel Day-Lewis, in the Mar­cello Mas­troianni role, as the mae­stro try­ing to make a movie and jug­gle the many women in his life: Ni­cole Kid­man as his lead­ing lady, Mar­ion Cotil­lard as his wife, Sophia Loren as his mother, Cruz as his mis­tress. (“I’ll be here,” she tells him, “wait­ing for you, with my legs open.”) Even among such stel­lar com­pe­ti­tion she steals her scenes, not least with a show­stop­per song and dance num­ber in the form of an elab­o­rate and grav­ity de­fy­ing strip­tease.

Like al­most ev­ery ac­tor who works for as long as she has, she still en­dures her share of high pro­file duds — Sex and the City 2, Zoolan­der 2, Grimsby with Sacha Baron Co­hen — while the smaller, of­ten bet­ter films made out­side Amer­ica don’t re­ceive any­thing like the same at­ten­tion.

No mat­ter, she says. It’s the ex­pe­ri­ence that means the most to her. “The def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess for me, and what I look for is, what did I learn? And am I proud of it when I fin­ish it? There are some movies that I’m re­ally proud of. Like Ma ma,” she says, re­fer­ring to the 2016 film in which she plays a woman suf­fer­ing from breast can­cer. “I pro­duced that movie. Not a lot of peo­ple saw it. Does that mean that it was not suc­cess­ful? For me, no. I’m more proud of Ma ma than other things that have had huge box of­fice suc­cess or great re­views. Be­cause I re­ally love act­ing. I re­ally do. And that hasn’t changed from the be­gin­ning.” What is it about act­ing that she loves?

“I’m fas­ci­nated by hu­man be­hav­iour,” she says, “by how peo­ple re­late to each other, how peo­ple solve con­flicts or how they try to. It’s such a fas­ci­nat­ing thing that it doesn’t mat­ter if I’ve done 100 movies one day, I will still feel like I’m not fin­ished with this. It means you al­ways feel new. You al­ways feel young. You al­ways know just a lit­tle more than last year, but it’s just a lit­tle.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if you have be­come fa­mous, well-known, if peo­ple look at you in the streets. You have to stay the one that is al­lowed to be the ob­server. Other­wise, as an ac­tor, you are dead.”

Cruz has been fa­mous now for a quar­ter of a cen­tury. In Spain, she is al­most roy­alty. She’s the only Span­ish woman to win an Os­car for act­ing and her hus­band is the only Span­ish man to do so. Apart from the home-grown he­roes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and maybe Rafa Nadal, she might be the Spa­niard best known out­side her coun­try.

Her life in Madrid is far less cir­cum­scribed than it is in the States, she says, where the pa­parazzi are much more of a prob­lem and the at­ten­tion on her and Bar­dem and their kids far more in­tru­sive. In Spain, “I go to the su­per­mar­ket, I walk here, I go ev­ery­where I want to. That’s why I pre­fer to live here. LA is dif­fi­cult. I love LA, New York and Lon­don, but you have

126 to live in the place where you can have more of a nor­mal life, and raise your fam­ily that way.”

She is scathing about the cor­ro­sive ef­fects of fame, and not just on the fa­mous. Would she miss it if she were no longer well-known?

“I don’t know. I’ve asked my­self that ques­tion. I went from re­ally want­ing to be fa­mous at the be­gin­ning, to not lik­ing it at all, to mak­ing peace with it and say­ing, ‘OK. This is just a con­se­quence of my job.’”

She was fa­mous be­fore the celebrity age, be­fore the in­ter­net. “Be­fore even cell­phones,” she says, look­ing wist­ful. “No tex­ting, no so­cial me­dia, no noth­ing. I was lucky.”

Not that she es­caped un­wanted at­ten­tion. “I know what it’s like to be walk­ing in the street — I was 17 or 18 — and then in the same five min­utes to hear, ‘I love you!’ and then a minute later, ‘Bitch!’ I looked at my dad and said, ‘I guess this is what it feels like to be fa­mous.’” What did she learn from that ex­pe­ri­ence? “To al­ways be alert, to al­ways look at it from a dis­tance. Es­pe­cially when I have got­ten amaz­ing re­views I have felt like, ‘OK, be care­ful.’ Those are the ones I have to read with even more dis­tance. Be­cause the size of the screen is out of pro­por­tion. Ev­ery­thing is out of pro­por­tion. Don’t be­lieve what they write about you. It’s an il­lu­sion. It doesn’t ex­ist.

“And then there is a line I don’t cross. My per­sonal life is not pub­lic. My job is pub­lic, yes, but once I’ve fin­ished and I’m gone from the set, what­ever I do later — with my fam­ily, my chil­dren — I have to pro­tect that.”

Steak dis­patched, jamón in­gested, wine smudges on the linen table­cloth (well, my side of it)… af­ter close to two hours of con­ver­sa­tion, and se­ri­ous eat­ing, Cruz checks the time on her phone, does a dou­ble-take, and re­alises she’s sup­posed to be in an ADR suite nearby, record­ing di­a­logue for a forth­com­ing movie.

This one is called Lov­ing Pablo. It stars Cruz as Vir­ginia Vallejo, the real-life Colom­bian TV news­reader who had a long run­ning af­fair with the no­to­ri­ous nar­co­traf­ficker, Pablo Es­co­bar. (Spoiler alert: this is not a rom­com.) Es­co­bar is played, with con­sid­er­able men­ace, by Javier Bar­dem.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to judge a film on a few unfinished scenes — and that’s all I’ve seen of it — but at the very least Lov­ing Pablo looks like a gold-plated op­por­tu­nity for Cruz and Bar­dem to demon­strate the on screen in­ten­sity that made them both fa­mous.

I won­der what it was like for them, work­ing to­gether again, now as hus­band and wife, es­pe­cially on such har­row­ing ma­te­rial. In Lov­ing Pablo, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween their char­ac­ters is vo­latile at the best of times. “It’s true that I was wor­ried at the be­gin­ning,” she says. “Like, how does that work, with char­ac­ters that are so hard­core and that have scenes where he has to treat her [badly] and she’s is so des­per­ate? It’s such a raw, hor­ri­ble, dis­turb­ing thing, the state that she gets in.

“But at the end I thought, in a way, thank God we were there pro­tect­ing each other. I was safer that way. Be­cause you are jump­ing in and out of this fic­tion many times a day, but then you go home to­gether and it stays on set. I never take my char­ac­ters home,” she says. “I don’t want to speak for Javier but I know he doesn’t do it ei­ther. Be­cause how are you go­ing to do that when you have a fam­ily?”

The col­lab­o­ra­tion must have gone well enough, since the film she was just pre­par­ing to be­gin when we had lunch is another co-star­ring Bar­dem. This is Ev­ery­body Knows from As­ghar Farhadi, the bril­liant, Os­car-nom­i­nated Ira­nian di­rec­tor of A Sep­a­ra­tion and The Sales­man. It’s a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller about a woman who trav­els with her fam­ily to her home­town in Spain. And be­yond that she’s say­ing noth­ing about it, but cinephiles’ ap­petites will be whet­ted al­ready.

Be­fore that, there’s this month’s Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press, Ken­neth Branagh’s adap­ta­tion of the Agatha Christie clas­sic with the di­rec­tor him­self as Her­cule Poirot and an en­sem­ble cast star­rier, not to men­tion classier, than any Marvel movie could muster: Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeif­fer, Willem Dafoe, Derek Ja­cobi, Daisy Ri­d­ley from Star Wars... and our Pené­lope as Pi­lar Es­trava­dos, a mis­sion­ary, prim though hardly plain.

As movie go­ers older than Cruz and I will know, Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press has been filmed be­fore, on more than one oc­ca­sion. The most cel­e­brated ver­sion, di­rected by Sid­ney Lumet in 1974, boasted, if any­thing, an even more rar­efied col­lec­tion of thes­pi­ans than that gath­ered by Branagh: Al­bert Fin­ney as Poirot, with Lau­ren Ba­call, Vanessa Red­grave, John Giel­gud, Sean Con­nery… and, as the mis­sion­ary, In­grid Bergman.

I men­tion to Cruz that things have come full cir­cle for her. In her very first screen test, when she was 14, she was asked to do a scene from Casablanca, with her tak­ing the Bergman role — “stand­ing be­side a pi­ano,” she re­mem­bers. Now she re­an­i­mates Bergman again. She’s tick­led by this. It hadn’t oc­curred to her. But of course, “full cir­cle” sug­gests an end­ing, a neatly wrapped-up de­noue­ment of which Poirot him­self would be proud. But in fact one feels that Cruz’s great­est roles may still be ahead of her, as she moves into mid­dle age and grows even deeper into her tal­ent.

Per­haps most of all one hopes that Almod­ó­var will write her another part, one that again makes use of her ex­tra­or­di­nary fa­cil­ity for con­jur­ing the gritty spirit of the women of the place where we are now sit­ting, and from whence she came, and where she leaves me, stand­ing on the cor­ner out­side the res­tau­rant in the hot sun, as daz­zled as any in­ter­viewer — any per­son — could hope to be.

Prison drama Or­ange is the New Black started on Net­flix in 2013; BoJack Horse­man sad­dled up in 2014

Char­lie Brooker’s Black Mir­ror first aired on Net­flix in 2016; the Net­flix movie Okja was re­leased this year

Net­flix launched sci-fi hor­ror se­ries Stranger Things in 2016; Break­ing Bad pre­quel Bet­ter Call Saul ar­rived in early 2015

Bri­tish royal fam­ily drama The Crown launched in 2016; this year brought GLOW — Glo­ri­ous Ladies of Wrestling

‘It was like a dance,’ says Cruz of the mak­ing of Volver (2006). ‘Ev­ery­thing came so easy, so flu­ent, so mag­i­cal.’ Here she is pic­tured on set with, from left, Yo­hana Cobo, Lola Dueñas, di­rec­tor Pe­dro Almod­ó­var and Blanca Por­tillo. For her per­for­mance, Cruz be­came the first Spa­niard to be nom­i­nated for the Os­car for Best Ac­tress

‘No, Span­ish peo­ple are like my char­ac­ter in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She was crazy!’ For her ex­plo­sive per­for­mance in Woody Allen’s 2008 com­edy, Cruz won the Academy Award for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress

Vin­tage lace corset dress, by Found and Vi­sion

‘Even if I’ve done 100 movies one day, I will still feel like I’m not fin­ished with this.’

Above: Cruz in Mur­der on the Ori­ent Ex­press, out on 6 Novem­ber; in Lov­ing Pablo (2017), Cruz and her hus­band Javier Bar­dem play lovers Vir­ginia Vallejo and Pablo Es­co­bar

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