In Toronto to promote her new movie, Twice Born, Penelope Cruz looks impossibly glamorous, as always. Wearing a light pink Versace gown which featured a thigh-high split, Cruz was all anyone could talk about on the red carpet. Wife of Javier Bardem and mother of their son, Leonardo, born January 2011, Cruz, 38, lives between Los Angeles and Madrid. On a warm Toronto day, she talked to us about her career, motherhood, and aging.
Do you like to learn different languages? How difficult or easy is it for you?
I always think and dream in Spanish, but when I am making a movie in a different language, sometimes it even gets in my dreams, because I train for so many hours every day with a dialect coach. And this movie here I worked with an Italian teacher and then for the English, I have a dialect coach, so I speak English, not with a Spanish accent, but with an Italian accent. It’s a crazy process but I love it (laughs). Every time I have an opportunity to do a job which is a challenge like this, I am really, really excited to do it.
But do you feel the same kind of emotions when you speak a foreign language, because when it’s not your language, you don’t always have the freedom to completely connect?
If you already have a good understanding of the language, even if you have an accent, but if you really understand the words to the point where on the set you can just throw everything away and just connect with the meaning of it, it works. And I have that with Italian. Even if I don’t speak it well, I understand and I speak it enough to really connect with the language, and with English, the same now.
How was it to see an older version of yourself?
Well that was one of the things that interested me very much about this character – to be able to play somebody from 20 to 50 years old and to go with her through the whole journey. I’ve always wanted to do that but I never found the right character until now. And not only for the curiosity of the role physically, but really being with her through all those years. And the makeup artist did an incredible job, because he did very little, but he did the face and even the face of your mother according to your bone structure, and he did it in a very clever way. And of course the great work that Felipo did with the lighting, that was also very important.
So how did you feel?
I was taking pictures for all my family saying, ‘Look how much I look like you! Here momma, look, look how much I look like my grandmother at that moment!’ So many things on my face, so many things on my family, even from my father, from all of them, because at the end our faces are matched with the story and it was really interesting for me to see them there.
"If you already have a good understanding of the language, even if you have an accent, but if you really understand the words to the point where on the set you can just throw everything away and just connect with the meaning of it, it works."
Do you think about that? Aging can be very difficult for actresses on screen and in life itself?
I’ve been lucky with one thing, I’ve always been very aware of how important health is. I never took that for granted because of the things that I’ve seen in my life. Normally I could give you a stupid answer, but the reason I don’t is that they ask actresses about their age from the moment they are 22, 23, or 24. That’s when they [reporters] start asking the question, and I’ve never engaged in that question. The only thing that I care about is health. I try to take care of myself for that reason and for my family, and to just to avoid the situations that I have seen sometimes when health goes away, where people are living in pain. When that goes away, it doesn’t matter what you have or how much you have in your life or how wonderful everything is. It’s really the only thing. In terms of growing older, that’s the only thing I care about. And hopefully I will stay healthy.
And did that even change more when you became a mother?
From that moment, everything changes. Everything. You look at the world with completely different eyes. From the first second, you revisit your childhood in a way that it doesn’t go through any filter, not mental, it’s just really in your heart. You really experience these things again and if you thought you had forgotten, it really opens your eyes. With this character I felt I really understood the character when I read it; it was two years before I became a mother, two or three years ago, and it’s true that I am doing it in a much more different way now than I would have before.
Can you share a little bit about Vicky Cristina Barcelona and To Rome With Love, as far as the shooting with Woody Allen?
I had my books, I had all my notes and I had the Italian version and the Spanish version and the English version and my script and my book notes, all for that character. So I arrived like I did when I was in high school, with all the books. Normally, many directors laugh at me with that but Woody is an actor, so he knows. He didn’t say to me, but I read it in an interview, he said he would love to have one of the books that had all my notes. But if he had told me, I would have it given it to him. I like preparing when I have the shoot and I like having a few months so that I can really study and prepare and understand as much as possible the character. The best thing is when you are with Woody Allen, because he looks at you as if you were from Mars (laughs).
Photos: Courtesy of TRUNK ARCHIVE