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Later this month, Penélope Cruz is back on the big screen in Pedro Almodóvar’s semiautobi­ographical film Pain And Glory, in which she plays the Spanish director’s mother opposite Antonio Banderas. It’s the sixth film she’s made with her mentor, who she credits with inspiring her to become an actress when she was a little girl in Madrid.

The 45 year old could never have imagined back then that she would become an Oscar-winning superstar. ‘I can’t say it was a dream as I never dreamed it could be possible,’ she has said.

Equally at home in an art house flick as in a blockbuste­r like Pirates Of The Caribbean,

Penélope nailed her TV debut, too, earning a Primetime Emmy nod for her turn as Donatella Versace in 2018’s The Assassinat­ion Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

She was also the first Spanish-born actress to win an Academy Award – her husband Javier Bardem, 50, being the first Spanish actor – and the first Spanish actress to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It’s a long way from the working class suburb of Alcobendas, Madrid, where, in 1974, Penélope was born, the eldest of three, to hairdresse­r Encarna

and Eduardo, a mechanic. She had a happy childhood listening to the chat in her mother’s hair salon, which she later called ‘the best acting school’.

A natural performer, she trained in classical ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservato­ry and, aged

15, beat 300 girls to land a position with Spain’s top talent agent. She made her screen debut in a music video, but longed to be an actress – obsessivel­y watching Almodóvar’s films on the family’s Betamax video recorder.

‘He was the whole reason I became an actress,’ she has said. ‘He changed the way I looked at the world before I even knew him. When I was a kid, I would go to the set in Madrid where he was shooting, hide and watch him.’

In 1992 she was cast as the daughter of a prostitute in art house hit Jamón Jamón, alongside her future husband Javier Bardem. Her hero Almodóvar took notice: ‘He called me and said that maybe one day we could work together. I was blown away.’

They first collaborat­ed on Live Flesh

in 1997, but it was her performanc­e as pregnant and Hiv-positive nun Rosa in 1999’s All About My Mother that showed Hollywood what Penélope was capable of. Lead roles in 2001’s Vanilla Sky, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Blow cemented her star status, with Vanilla Sky

sparking a headline-grabbing relationsh­ip with Tom Cruise that lasted three years.

Other high-profile boyfriends followed, including her Sahara

co-star Matthew Mcconaughe­y and Matt Damon, her leading man in All The Pretty Horses.

With her film career on the up, 2006 mystery drama Volver – which earned her a Golden Globe nomination – was a ‘liberation’, she says. ‘It opened a lot of doors. I did feel a difference in terms of the types of role I was offered.’

One such was a career milestone – playing Javier Bardem’s fiery former wife in Woody Allen’s 2007 comedy drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, alongside Scarlett Johansson. Her performanc­e won her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar – as well as the affections of her co-star, as her on-screen chemistry with Javier spilled into a real-life romance. The pair began dating in 2007 and married in 2010 in the Bahamas.

Becoming an item added a new, not always welcome, dimension to joint projects, including Loving Pablo, about infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar. ‘It’s not something we want to do that often,’ Penélope has admitted of working with her husband, ‘partly out of a desire to protect what we have.’

Indeed, Penélope and Javier are one of Hollywood’s most private couples and have managed to keep their children Leo, eight, and Luna, six, out of the spotlight, too. Of motherhood, Penélope has said: ‘There are a lot of things that have surprised me. It’s like a revolution inside you – a very animal-like one. The whole world looks different. You’ll never think of yourself first again, and I think that’s a very good thing. It happens in a second.’

Now in a position to be able to pick and choose her films, she’s firm about putting family before work. ‘The first questions I ask about a movie is: “Where in the world is it being shot?” The next question is: “When?” And then I look at the project – I don’t want projects that would mean we would not be able to be together.’ ‘PAIN AND GLORY’ IS RELEASED ON AUGUST 23.

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 ??  ?? Penélope and husband Javier Bardem
Penélope and husband Javier Bardem
 ??  ?? With her Best Supporting Actress Oscar
With her Best Supporting Actress Oscar
 ??  ?? As Donatella Versace in The Assassinat­ion Of Gianni Versace
As Donatella Versace in The Assassinat­ion Of Gianni Versace
 ??  ?? Penélope puts family before work
Penélope puts family before work

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