Leave it to the stunning Penelope Cruz to heat up the August box office in a pair of very sexy roles. In Elegy, she’s a young college student who has a passionate affair with an older professor played by Ben Kingsley. And In Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Penelope is one of three women entangled in relationships with an artist played by Javier Bardem.
While Woody keeps the heavy-breathing scenes to a minimum, Cruz does lock lips with Scarlett Johansson, and there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that she’s doing the same in real-life with co-star Bardem. But Penelope isn’t confirming that he’s the latest of her off-screen leading men.
Q: Do you laugh a lot when Woody is directing you to be funny?
A: Actually, he made all of us forget that we were doing a comedy. Everyone was taking things very seriously, and my character suffers a lot. I felt like I was doing the most serious drama until I saw the movie with an audience in Cannes. I was like, ‘What are they laughing about?’ And then I went, ‘Of course, Woody is such a genius.’
Q: Woody let you do some improvising in Spanish. Did he know what you were saying?
A: He had an idea. What he didn’t realize was that I was swearing a lot. I didn’t know if he was going to be too happy when he found out the bad words that I said. But some of them stayed in the film even after he heard the translation.
Q: Was kissing Scarlett Johansson a memorable moment?
A: I think Scarlett has been funnier about it. She said something like it was nice to kiss someone who didn’t have beard. But we don’t have a lot of funny stories to tell about it. The set was very crowded that day and I’m not sure everyone had a reason to be there
Q: Your love scenes with Ben Kingsley in Elegy are pretty explicit.
A: What helped was that Isabel Coixet, the director, operates the camera. So she totally cleared the set except for the sound man. There was nobody else in the room. And while Ben and I were doing the scenes, we could hear her breathing, which somehow was very comforting.
Q: You look amazing in both films. What’s the secret?
A: I don’t have any. I don’t think I am beautiful. I can look good and I can look ugly. What’s funny is that when I was younger I wanted everyone to look at me. Now I like to watch other people because you can learn a lot of interesting things.
Q: Next you’re going to be singing and dancing in the film version of Nine. That takes you back to your childhood, doesn’t it?
A: Yes, when I was a kid I trained as a dancer for 14 years. I used to dance every day for hours and it gave me a lot of happiness. But the discipline of it was too demanding and I had what I guess you call a nervous breakdown. That’s when I decided to try acting. Now I’ve been taking dancing lessons again and working on my singing.
Q: Would you like to set the record straight on whether you’re in love with Javier Bardem?
A: He’s an amazing and wonderful actor, but I never talk about my personal life. I feel that it’s my right to save that for myself and it’s my responsibility to do it. It’s always a trap to share your secrets. I did that when I first got attention as a teenager acting in Spain. I would get so upset because I would talk about a movie for two hours and then all I read about was something personal that I talked about.
Q: Have you given any thought to settling and have a family?
A: I’ve loved playing a mother on the screen. I want to have babies myself. I don’t feel it’s the moment now, but for sure I want to be a mother. I have a tendency to become a mother of everyone around me. My family, my brother, my sister, they’re always complaining that I’m too protective and I’ve always been like that. But I don’t know if I believe in marriage. I believe in family, in love, in children.
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