Penélope Cruz Sánchez ( born 28 April 1974) is a Spanish actress and model. Signed by an agent at the age of 15, she made her acting debut at 16 on television, and her feature film debut the following year in Jamón Jamón (1992). Her subsequent roles in the 1990s and 2000s included Belle Époque (1992), Open Your Eyes (1997), The Hi-Lo Country (1999), The Girl of Your Dreams (2000), and Woman on Top (2000). Cruz achieved recognition for her lead roles in the 2001 films Vanilla Sky, All the Pretty Horses, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and Blow. She has three Academy Award nominations, and one win.
She has since appeared in a wide variety of films, including the comedy Waking Up in Reno (2002), the thriller Gothika (2003), the Christmas film Noel (2004), the action-adventure films Sahara (2005) and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), the romantic comedy To Rome with Love (2012), the crime drama The Counselor (2013), and the mystery film Murder on the Orient Express (2017). She was praised for her roles in Volver (2006) and Nine (2009), receiving Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for each. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for playing volatile painter María Elena in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She is the first Spanish actress to win an Academy Award, as well as the first Spanish actress to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2018, Cruz made her American television debut as Italian fashion designer Donatella Versace in the FX series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, for which she was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.
Cruz has modelled for Mango, Ralph Lauren, Chanel and L’Oréal, and along with her younger sister Mónica Cruz, has designed clothing for Mango. Cruz has volunteered in Uganda and India, where she spent one week working with Mother Teresa; she donated her salary from The Hi-Lo Country to help fund the late nun’s mission.
Cruz was born in the town of Alcobendas, Madrid, Spain, to Encarna Sánchez, a hairdresser and personal manager, and Eduardo Cruz, a retailer and car mechanic. She has two siblings, Mónica, also an actress, and Eduardo, a singer. She also has a paternal half-sister, Salma. She was raised as a Roman Catholic. Cruz grew up in Alcobendas, and spent long hours at her grandmother’s apartment. She says she had a happy childhood. Cruz remembers “playing with some friends and being aware that I was acting as I was playing with them. I would think of a character and pretend to be someone else.”
Initially, Cruz focused on dance, studying classical ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservatory. She took three years of Spanish ballet training and four years of theatre at Cristina Rota’s school. She says that ballet instilled in her discipline that would be important in her future acting career. When she became a cinephile at 10 or 11, her father bought a Betamax machine, which was then a very rare thing to own in her neighborhood.
As a teenager, Cruz became interested in acting after seeing the film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. She did casting calls for an agent but was rejected multiple times because the agent felt that she was too young. Cruz commented on the experience, “I was very extroverted as a kid…. I was studying when I was in high school at night, I was in ballet and I was doing castings. I looked for an agent and she sent me away three times because I was a little girl but I kept coming back. I’m still with her after all these years.” In 1989, at the age of 15, Cruz won an audition at a talent agency over more than 300 other girls. In 1999, Katrina Bayonas, Cruz’s agent, commented, “She was absolutely magic [at the audition]. It was obvious there was something very impressive about this kid…. She was very green, but there was a presence. There was just something coming from within.”
Her father, Eduardo, died at his home in Spain in 2015, aged 62, from a heart attack.
Cruz is married to Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Bardem was her co-star in her breakthrough role as Silvia in Jamón, Jamón, as well as starring alongside her in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. They were also both in the 2013 film The Counselor. Cruz began dating Bardem in 2007 and they married in early July 2010 in a private ceremony at a friend’s home in the Bahamas. They have a son named Leo Encinas Cruz who was born in January 2011 in Los Angeles, and a daughter Luna Encinas Cruz born on July 2013 in Madrid, Spain. She became a public advocate of breastfeeding following the birth of her children.
Cruz had a three-year relationship with Tom Cruise after they appeared together in Vanilla Sky. The relationship ended in January 2004. In June 2003, Cruz settled a defamation lawsuit against Australian magazine New Idea over an article it published about her relationship with Cruise; the publication had to apologize, pay her legal costs, and donate $A5,000 ($3,200) to her nominated charity.