Penelope Cruz – Armando Gallo Portraits 2014 + CANNES Q&A: Penelope Cruz on Producing ‘Ma Ma’
Known outside her native country as the “Spanish enchantress”, Penélope Cruz Sánchez was born in Madrid to Eduardo (a retailer) and Encarna (a hairdresser). As a toddler, she was already a compulsive performer, re-enacting TV commercials for her family’s amusement, but she decided to focus her energies on dance. After studying classical ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservatory, she continued her training under a series of prominent dancers. At 15, however, she heeded her true calling when she bested more than 300 other girls at a talent agency audition. The resulting contract landed her several roles in Spanish TV shows and music videos, which in turn paved the way for a career on the big screen. Penélope Cruz made her movie debut in The Greek Labyrinth (1993) (The Greek Labyrinth), then appeared briefly in the Timothy Dalton thriller Framed (1992). Her third film was the Oscar-winning Belle Epoque (1992), in which she played one of four sisters vying for the love of a handsome army deserter. The film also garnered several Goyas, the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards. Her resume continued to grow by three or four films each year, and soon Cruz was a leading lady of Spanish cinema. Live Flesh (1997) (Live Flesh) offered her the chance to work with renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (who would later be her ticket to international fame), and the same year she was the lead actress in the thriller/drama/mystery/sci-fi film Open Your Eyes (1997), a huge hit in Spain that earned eight Goyas (though none for Cruz). Her luck finally changed in 1998, when the movie-industry comedy The Girl of Your Dreams (1998) won her a Best Actress Goya. Penélope Cruz made a few more forays into English-language film, but her first big international hit was Almodóvar’s All About My Mother (1999), in which she played an unchaste but well-meaning nun. As the film was showered with awards and accolades, Cruz suddenly found herself in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Her next big project was Woman on Top (2000), an American comedy about a chef with bewitching culinary skills and a severe case of motion sickness. While in the US, she also signed up to star opposite Johnny Depp in the drug-trafficking drama Blow (2001) and opposite Matt Damon in Billy Bob Thornton’s All the Pretty Horses (2000). Cruz says she’s wary of being typecast as a beautiful young damsel, but it’s hard to imagine disguising her wide-eyed charms and generous nature. Fortunately, with Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky (2001) (a remake of Open Your Eyes (1997)) and a John Madden collaboration looming in her future, Damsel Penelope isn’t likely to disappear just yet.
CANNES Q&A: Penelope Cruz on Producing ‘Ma Ma’
Penelope Cruz will be in Cannes today to present “Ma Ma,” which is her first as a producer. In it, she plays Magda, a gutsy mother who battles to overcome tragedy. “Ma Ma” also marks Cruz’s first film with Spanish auteur Julio Medem, who has directed some of the most sensorial, sensual and involved portrayals of feminine sensibility in modern Spanish cinema (“Vacas,” “Lovers of the Arctic Circle,” “Sex and Lucia”). Cruz and Medem talked to Variety exclusively about “Ma Ma,” which bows Monday. “Ma Ma” is being sold at Cannes by Seville Intl., the boutique sales arm of eOne Films Intl. Cruz, Medem and Alvaro Longoria at Spain’s Morena Films produce, in association with France’s Backup Media Group. France’s Mare Nostrum co-produces. CAA represents U.S. rights.
You both live in Los Angeles. Why return to Spain to make a film in Spanish?
Medem: “Ma Ma” is right up my street: Large emotional and dramatic intensity, and it turns on the intimacy of the characters — one woman, two men, played by Luis Tosar and Asier Etxeandia, who love her, and a 10-year-old boy. It’s the first time I portray a character who’s not a woman and lover but a mother. Maternity is key in “Ma Ma.” The tragedy stems from that.
Cruz: A few months ago, Julio gave me the script over lunch. I read it that night and was just bowled over. It’s one of the most complex, most beautiful characters I’ve ever been offered, the most difficult. Some films take years to come together, “Ma Ma” has come together very fast.
Why the move into production?
Cruz: I want to build what could be my future in cinema, not always being in front of the camera. I’d also like to direct a feature, maybe 10 years from now. For now, I’m directing commercial and video-clips; I love that. And it’s the best way to learn. I want to go slowly, step by step. I’m following the whole production process very closely, from the film’s inception.
Julio has suggested that Magda has certain things in common with you.
Cruz: Maybe, she battles for things because all sorts of things happen to her. She’s optimistic. But her pace and energy are different. Acting interests me a great deal more than playing someone very much like myself. The further away she is from me, the more possibilities that offers as an actress. That’s acting: the beauty of risk, facing up to the unknown, placing yourself in the skin of someone you invite into your life for a time, someone who isn’t you.
For ‘Ma Ma,’ you’ve reunited the team of ‘Sex and Lucia’: d.p. Kiko de la Rica, composer Alberto de la Iglesia, and art designer Montse Sanz. Will you also return to the style of ‘Sex and Lucia,’ whose second part offered a total immersion in Lucia’s life?
Medem: “Ma Ma” will be a luminous film, with somewhat overexposed and cold images, strong blues, cold reds and golds. The camera will be constantly at Magda’s side, we’ll sense her feelings and sensations, constantly accompany her. It’s a subjective film, beginning with tragedy, but it’s not about tragedy but rather how to react to tragedy, a film that creates a desire to live, to be happy.
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Penelope Cruz – Armando Gallo Portraits 2014