An Oscar, a marriage, a baby and a starring role in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Our reporter discovers life is sweet for Penelope Cruz
When Penelope Cruz revealed that she was pregnant halfway through filming her latest picture, there was no question of being made to walk the plank from Pirates of the Caribbean. “I just had a new costume fitting every three weeks,” recalls Cruz. “They were very good about it.” In fact, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Rob Marshall were so keen to keep Cruz aboard that they navigated their blockbuster movie around her condition. Besides swapping her corsets for stretchier fabrics, Cruz’s sister, Monica, a dancer and actress, was brought in to body double for the 37-year-old actress on the swashbuckling stunts and swordfights.
“Their reaction could not have been better,” says Cruz, who married Spanish actor Javier Bardem last summer and gave birth to their first son Leonardo in January. Motherhood is something Cruz has played close to her chest; in the past she had repeatedly claimed she was more likely to adopt, and she and Bardem didn’t announce Leonardo’s arrival for a full week. Today, her husband is nowehere to be seen and her son is safely stashed far from prying camera lenses, but above Cruz’s wedding band sparkles a diamond-encrusted “maternity ring”, a gift from Bardem.
“Things I had been worrying about before are suddenly incredibly insignificant,” she admits. “All that matters now is my family, and this little family I have started now.”
Since she first became famous, at age 18, Cruz has shied away from personal revelations. If anything, tabloid attention has made her even more reticent. In the past her on-set romances with Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey have been a source of speculation, while film critics judged both her career choices and her English skills and found them wanting. Yet the past few years have been transformative for Cruz: a three-time Oscar-nominated actress, she finally took home the award for her stunning diva turn in Woody Allan’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) and she’s become the first Mediterranean actress since Sophia Loren to earn a place on the Hollywood A-List. And she’s also learnt to shut out unhelpful opinions.
“I try not to read about myself on the internet,” she says. “You can get angry for no reason. The good and the bad – everything is out of proportion.”
Admittedly the balance of news is good right now: besides an Oscar, a marriage and a baby son, there’s Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which opens today. The rebooted film is a return to form for the franchise following the lukewarm reception to the more recent outings. A couple of overlong and over-complicated sequels had made audiences a little seasick, so the studio decided to change the colours of the flags, marking a back-to-basics return to vigorous looting, and rapier wits.
From an early stage, producer Jerry Bruckheimer had a picture of Cruz on the drawing board: a feisty beauty more than able to hold her own against Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. Unlike Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann, there’s no swooning in corsets for Cruz, who stipulated that if she came on board the franchise, she had to be a pirate too.
Eventually Marshall, who had just directed her in a musical remake of Fellini’s Nine, took her out for dinner to try to persuade her to take up the role. “But I said yes before I read the script,” smiles Cruz, who had worked with Depp before, on 2001′s Blow. “I said, ‘Are you crazy? I would love to do this. With you and Johnny, I don’t need to read anything’.”
On Stranger Tides was filmed around the world – at London’s Pinewood Studios, the Royal Naval College in Greenwich and at Hampton Court, as well as on a tiny island in Puerto Rico in temperatures above 40C. The island, where Depp and Cruz are supposedly marooned for one scene, had nowhere to hide a portaloo for the stars, which caused temporary anxiety for Cruz who was by then well into her pregnancy. “In the end I would take off part of my costume and head into the sea every so often,” she admits. “Everyone thought I was cooling off, but in fact I just had to pee.”
Most of her scenes are with Ian McShane, who plays Blackbeard, her pirate father, or with Depp who alternately woos and feuds with Cruz’s Angelica.
In real life, Depp and Cruz are more like brother and sister than sparring lovers, sharing a goofy sense of humour that led to Cruz donning yet another costume on the final day when she lost a bet to Depp. During filming the pair of them had become obsessed with the animated adult comedy South Park, and Cruz’s penalty on the final day was a brown Depp-designed outfit which was supposed to resemble Mr Hanky The Christmas Poo. “Christmas Poo” sounds positively delightful in Cruz’s heavy accent, but apparently the outfit was not. “Johnny made me walk around in the costume while he took photographs of me” she says. “I hope they don’t see the light of day.”
Next for Cruz is a reunion with Woody Allen for The Wrong Picture in Rome.
Their last collaboration won her an Oscar, and a husband – although Cruz and Bardem had known each other for 16 years and started their careers together in Bigas Luna’s Jamon Jamon, it wasn’t until they played husband and wife in the Allan picture that they clicked in real life. Yet all Cruz can remember of the film is that “I was crying and screaming for the whole time. I had no idea what I was doing with that character.”
Cruz is often prey to doubts about her ability, and tormented Allen – a one-take director from the Clint Eastwood school – by requesting that he redo her scenes over and over again. This is perhaps a legacy of her early experiences of Hollywood; despite being a huge star in Spain, she struggled for years to crack the international market.
One of her first English-speaking roles was in a Lynda LaPlante series called Framed, where she played one of Timothy Dalton’s many girlfriends and ended up having her voice dubbed by another actress. On the set of her first English-language movie, The Hi-Lo Country, she locked herself in the bathroom, crying, because her lack of English vocabulary meant she didn’t understand what her castmates were saying. Even in the mid-1990s, films like Gothika, Sahara and Bandidas were failing to win hearts and minds.
Cruz could write off these movies now, but doesn’t. Instead she stoutly insists that “every movie I’ve done since I was 17 is important: the ones that are good; the ones that are bad.”
The big change is that she’s no longer someone who says yes quite so easily, and after years of signing up for what seemed like any movie that came her way, she’s now pickier about her projects.
“A few years ago I changed the rhythm a little bit,” she agrees. “I was a workaholic, and used to work on three or four movies every year, but that changed a while ago. Now I maybe do one a year, two if they are very short. It’s very important for me to have that equilibrium, to have that balance, because I was always tired before. I could never enjoy the work, because I was always tired. Now I think I have a more healthy equilibrium.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, is on general release from today
Source: The Scotsman
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