What You Never Knew About Penélope Cruz

Penélope Cruz may be a household name these days, but when her acting career first began, she probably seemed like an unlikely candidate for a spot in Hollywood's elite. For years, she performed only in Spanish films. It wasn't until 2000 that the actress moved to Los Angeles to pursue an English-language film career with a role in "Woman on Top." Of course, she proved to be just as appealing to U.S. audiences as she was to those on the other side of the Atlantic. She soon racked up an impressive CV, with roles in "All the Pretty Horses," "Blow," "Bandidas," and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

These days, she is perhaps best known for her roles in the films of director Pedro Almodóvar — as of 2022, they have collaborated on seven movies, including "Volver, "Broken Embraces," "Pain and Glory," and the 2022 film "Parallel Mothers."

Cruz already has one Oscar under her belt for her performance in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," and at the 2022 awards, she might pick up another for "Parallel Mothers." But despite her critical success and popularity, there might still be a few things you don't know about Penélope Cruz.

Penélope Cruz had dreams of being a ballerina when she was young

If you've ever seen Penélope Cruz acting, you'll know that she seems to be a total natural in front of the camera. However, there was a time when Cruz was passionate about a different kind of performing. When she was young, the actress had big dreams of being a ballerina. "That's what I wanted as a little girl," she told Interview magazine. "By the time I went to ballet school at age 4, I was already asking to play the role of Carmen." At ballet school, Cruz worked incredibly hard, training for up to five hours a day, six days of the week.

But even though ballet may seem quite different to acting, Cruz's attraction to dance lay in the opportunity to play a character. "I didn't realize then that the reason I liked dancing was because it was just another form of acting," she said. So, when Cruz eventually tried acting at 17, she realized that film was the art form she had been looking for, and she hung up her pointe shoes for good. 

Nevertheless, Cruz's time training as a ballerina certainly gave her some useful tools for acting. Just look at her dance number in "Nine." As she told British GQ, "I wouldn't have been able to do that number had it not been for my dance background."

She is deeply proud of her Spanish heritage

Penélope Cruz was born and raised in Spain, and the actress remains a Spaniard through and through. Even now, she and her family live permanently in Madrid (via The Local). Clearly, Cruz's Spanish heritage is hugely important to her.

"I'm very Spanish," she told Esquire in 2017. "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." Cruz went on to explain that she always enjoys being with other Spaniards. "If we are in a big group, we all talk at the same time," she said. "I love that. I love it!"

And yet, even though Cruz is proud to be Spanish and calls Madrid her home, she still considers herself, as she once told The Guardian, "a citizen of the world." 

Penélope Cruz told some lies to kickstart her career

Getting a professional acting job isn't always easy — and sometimes, new actors find themselves lying on their resumes just to get in the audition room. For Penélope Cruz, it was kind of the same story.

As she explained to W magazine, she started acting when she was a teenager after auditioning for a manager in Spain. Soon she was being sent to casting sessions. "And then I got 'Jamón, Jamón' when I was 16, 'Belle Époque' when I was 17," she recalled. "Of course, I always had to lie about my age." Apparently, Cruz told the production teams that she was older than she was, presumably because of the adult nature of her early films.

And those weren't the only lies she had to tell. "I had to lie to my parents about the content of the script — more than lying, omitting. I just didn't talk about the details," she laughed.

This is how she takes care of her skin

It goes without saying that Penélope Cruz has always had a totally gorgeous complexion. She's now in her 40s, and many would say that she is more beautiful than ever. So, what skincare products does this star use to keep herself looking so fresh?

First of all, Cruz is "very disciplined" when it comes to her skin, as she told British Vogue. Plus, she is a big fan of Lancôme — specifically, their serum Advanced Génifique. She also told Women's Health that she likes to use plenty of sheet masks to prep her skin — namely, Lancôme's Renergie Lift Multi-Action Ultra Sheet Mask.

And, of course, Cruz believes in beauty from the inside-out. As she told InStyle, she is a big fan of Bikram yoga, she doesn't drink much, and she quit smoking when she was younger. No wonder Cruz has such a natural glow!

Penélope Cruz is something of a photographer when she's not acting

We all know that Penélope Cruz is a super talented actress, but did you know that she's a pretty good photographer, too? Like her character Janis in "Parallel Mothers," Cruz loves taking pictures. In fact, according to an interview in The New York Times, it's been a hobby of hers since she was a teenager.

It seems that Cruz is actually pretty serious about her hobby. While visiting Nepal, Cruz took photos of Tibetan children, and the photos were eventually shown in a major exhibit. The images were heartbreaking. "I photographed their feet," she told Marie Claire. "Some had lost toes because of the snow." She added, "I have to control myself not to cry."

While her photography isn't always easy or pleasant, it clearly means a lot to Cruz. "I like being on the other side of the camera, seeing what can be expressed without words, just images," she explained.

The actress once performed on stage with Prince and U2

Penélope Cruz is definitely a Hollywood A-lister — so it's hardly surprising that even the biggest stars want to party with her. As the actress explained in an interview on "The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon," she and her husband have been pulled up on stage during concerts with the likes of Prince and U2.

"With Bono, yes. He told us [he was going to pull us on stage] and he said, 'Come on. You cannot say no,'" she recalled. Apparently, she and her husband even had costumes for their performance. However, Prince gave them no warning. "I was very excited to be there, but at the same time, I could not wait to get [off] the stage. It was terrifying," she said. "Because he was expecting us to dance and maybe to sing." As cool as it would be to perform with Prince, we can hardly blame Cruz for feeling scared to be thrust into the spotlight like that!

Penélope Cruz has 'secret rituals' on set to help her get into character

So, just how does Penélope Cruz get in the zone to play her characters? Like all actors, she has her own unique process.

As she told Vogue France, her rituals change from role to role. "I have a lot of secret rituals," she said. "Sometimes it's through music or complete isolation for an hour before or meditation." However, Cruz isn't superstitious about preparing to get on set. For her, there is no "good luck charm" that can help her get into character. Instead, she simply tries to concentrate and do lots of preparation. "Sometimes that's hard because you have to be in your own bubble," she said.

One thing that Cruz doesn't do is method acting — instead of staying in character, she's found ways of going in and out of character throughout the day. "I don't stay in one state for 12 hours straight ... and I don't take the characters home," she said. Well, whatever her rituals are, they're definitely working.

The Hollywood star doesn't love social media

For some celebrities, social media offers an opportunity to connect with fans and build a bigger profile. But for Penélope Cruz, social media isn't something she enjoys — especially when it comes to her kids.

"I have a strange relationship with social media where I use very little of it in a very careful way," she told "CBS Sunday Morning." "There is something that is not making sense and it's especially affecting younger generations." As far as Cruz is concerned, social media is actually quite dangerous for children because there is no protection for kids who are still learning about the world. And of course, it can lead to self-image issues and bullying. She feels that it's almost like a twisted "experiment." She said, "Let's see what happens if you expose a 12-year-old to that much technology."

So, Cruz likes to keep her children away from social media as much as possible. Instead, she limits their technology time to movies and cartoons. "No phones until they are much older," she said.

She would much rather sleep than party

As a Hollywood star, Penélope Cruz probably gets invited to loads of amazing parties. However, it turns out, she's not too keen on dancing the night away. In fact, she always prioritizes her sleep over socializing. "If I don't have at least seven hours, I feel it later," she told Red. "I can lose focus, I can get moody." Now that she is a mother, this sometimes means that she even says no to dinner invitations so that she can get her sleep.

Luckily, saying no to party invitations is pretty easy for Cruz, who has never been much of a party girl. "'The great thing is, I've never been interested in drugs or alcohol," she said. In fact, when she does stay up late at a party, it's so surprising that people tend to comment on it. "I do that once every two years!" she said.

Her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona came out of a 40-second meeting

Many people consider "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" to be a career-defining role for Penélope Cruz. As it turns out, the role might not have happened if it hadn't been for a 40-second meeting.

In an interview with Female.com.au, Cruz explained that it all began when she heard that Woody Allen was working on a project set in Barcelona. After her agent approached Allen about Cruz being in the movie, the actress and the director met up, and he apparently kept her in mind when he was writing the part.

"I think my agent called him and said, 'We heard you're shooting in Spain, do you want to meet Penélope because she would love to work with you,' something like that happened, and then we met in New York and we had a 40-second meeting," Cruz explained. He reportedly told her, "I'm writing something, and if it keeps going in this direction, it could be great for you. So I'll let you know in a few weeks." Luckily, she got the part!

Here's how she and husband Javier Bardem got through the pandemic

COVID presented problems and struggles for everyone — even famous actors! Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, who live in Madrid, spent most of their time trying to keep things positive for their kids. "When you have children, most of your attention goes to them, to make sure that it's not a traumatic experience and that they know enough about what's happening so that they are responsible in terms of protecting themselves and others," she told British Vogue. "I feel like all the kids in the world have given adults a lesson in responsibility, empathy and compassion."

Luckily, the pandemic also gave Cruz some free time and a chance to reconnect with her old friend and frequent collaborator Pedro Almodóvar (via Asbury Park Press). She happened to pick up an old script during one of their FaceTime calls. Eventually, it became "Parallel Mothers," which earned the actress an Oscar nomination — so, in some ways, the pandemic lockdown was perhaps a bit of a blessing in disguise.

Penélope Cruz has a very unique Oscar statue thanks to her dad

In 2009, Penélope Cruz won her first Oscar for her performance in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." Apparently, Cruz has a very singular statue, thanks to her father.

After she received her award, Cruz explained to James Corden on "The Late Late Show," she didn't initially get her name plate attached. Eventually, she let her father attach it himself. "My father did it for me but he didn't have the glasses, so he put it upside down," she said. "And, of course, my dad, unfortunately, is not with us anymore, so I could never change it. He left his print there." 

Not only does Cruz's Oscar feature her name upside down, but it's also been very well cared for. Apparently, Cruz was so happy about receiving the award, she took it with her everywhere she went when she first got it — including the beach! Even though Cruz's Oscar statue might be a little strange, we can hardly blame her for keeping it that way.

She wanted to be a mother since she was a child

In 2011, Penélope Cruz gave birth to her first child, Leo (via Hello!). She was in her late 30s at the time, but, as she told Marie Claire, she had never doubted that she wanted kids. "It's the life that I always wanted since I was a little girl," she said. "When I was four or five, I was already performing, and the characters in my games were always mothers. I really wanted to be a mother, for as long as I can remember." But even though Cruz was desperate to have children, she was happy to wait for, as she put it, "the right time, the right person."

In an interview with Marie Claire UK, Cruz explained how becoming a mother had more lived up to her expectations. "From the second you see that little face, your life has changed forever." And while Cruz did have to adjust to the changes that come with motherhood, she said, "[Those changes] are the most beautiful things you will ever experience."

For Penélope Cruz, family always comes before career

Being a Hollywood superstar is kind of a full-time job — so how do Penélope Cruz and her husband Javier Bardem find time to raise their family and lead fulfilling careers? Well, as far as Cruz is concerned, her family always takes priority. When her son was first born, she even took time off work and focused on simply being a housewife. "I'm a housewife and it's beautiful, the best thing in the world," she told Hello! magazine (via RTE). "I know how to cook and it's important to me to make fresh food every day."

And in a 2021 interview with Vogue Arabia, Cruz echoed the same sentiments, explaining that she only ever thinks about how her actions affect her children, rather than her career. "I don't think of myself as a role model for anyone other than my children ... This is a huge responsibility, and my biggest mission in life is to try to do that well," she said. Well, it seems that Cruz has her priorities in order — and for her, family clearly comes first.