There is a reason Spanish superstar, and Oscar winner Penelope Cruz is the phenomenal actress and all around cool woman she is today. She never compromised. Well, I mean, we all compromise a little, but the secret is that throughout life if we hold on to our standards and morals, we'll go further. Maybe not faster, but we'll get there probably unscathed.
When I sat down with Cruz in Venice, where she was presenting 'Loving Pablo', a cinematic retelling of journalist Virginia Vallejo's romance with the infamous Pablo Escobar, the sexual abuse scandals in Hollywood hadn't surfaced yet in the media. But here was Cruz addressing them, against the trends and before it was popular to do so.
For that alone, she is a personal heroine.
This coming March, Cruz will receive an honorary prize from France’s Academy of Arts and Techniques of Cinema during the 43nd Cesar Awards ceremony, the country's equivalent to the Oscars. And she deserves that and more, in my book. So here are three questions with a woman who represents the spirit of "duende" that je-ne-sais-quoi only genuine Spanish women possess.
When you play a real person, are you curious of what they might think of the performance?
Penelope Cruz: Yes, of course, I’m curious. And there has to be some respect involved in that. But if we are talking about a subject that has created so much pain, things have to be called by their name.
How interesting is playing a heroine for you?
Cruz: Well it depends. No more and no less. You can be a heroine for doing things that are very valuable and maybe it can be somebody who isn’t known to the world but has done something for their own family or in their own neighborhood and can be a total hero for me. So when I say heroine I don’t mean big things. Small things can be huge. The more complex a character is, the more attractive for an actor.
As an actress, especially at the beginning of your career, did you ever experience someone trying to use their power to control you?
Cruz: Yeah, I have seen situations, especially when I was really young or when I was starting to work in America and I didn’t speak English the way I speak now — where I can have a conversation and understand everything. Before it wasn’t like that. I have experienced the kind of “oh, it’s OK she’s only nineteen…” And I’m very stubborn and if I see something that isn’t just, I can get crazy. And then I spoke English. Don’t ask me how but in those moments, I spoke English.
I remember one time with executives from a studio that brought me from Spain to America — I was twenty. They offered me this huge movie but when I got there, they gave me a different contract and they were asking me to do a lot of things that I didn’t want to do. They didn’t tell me before I got on the plane. Things that were not on the script and I didn’t feel they were right for the movie or right for me at that moment. I asked why didn’t you tell me before I got on that plane? And they said “because we wanted to tell you in person.” And I said “guess what, f*** you and I’m not signing your contract!”
And I got back on the plane, and I left and what a feeling I had on that trip! I had no fear, I didn’t think about whether this studio will talk to another studio and I’ll never work again. I felt better about myself than ever. I remember that feeling as if it was yesterday and it gave me a lot, to grow. That feeling, to say “NO!"