Penélope Cruz Sánchez (born April 28, 1974) is a Spanish actress. Signed by an agent at age 15, she made her acting debut at 16 on television and her feature film debut the following year in Jamón, jamón (1992), to critical acclaim. Her subsequent roles in the 1990s and 2000s included Open Your Eyes (1997), The Hi-Lo Country (1999), The Girl of Your Dreams (2000) and Woman on Top (2000). Cruz achieved recognition for her lead roles in Vanilla Sky and Blow. Both films were released in 2001 and were commercially successful worldwide.In the 2000s she has appeared in films from a wide range of genres, including the comedy Waking Up in Reno (2002), the thriller Gothika (2003), the Christmas movie Noel (2004), the action adventure Sahara (2005), the animated G-Force and the musical drama Nine. Her most notable films to date are Volver (2006), for which she earned Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), for which she received an Academy Award. She was the first Spanish actress in history to receive an Academy Award and the first Spanish actress to receive a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.Cruz has modeled for companies such as Mango, Ralph Lauren and L'Oréal. Cruz and her younger sister Mónica Cruz have designed items for Mango. She has donated both her time and money to charities. Cruz has volunteered in Uganda and India, where she spent one week working for Mother Teresa; she donated her salary from The Hi-Lo Country to help fund the late nun's mission.Penélope Cruz Sánchez was born in Alcobendas, Community of Madrid, Spain, the daughter of Encarna Sánchez, a hairdresser and personal manager, and Eduardo Cruz, a retailer and auto mechanic. She was raised Roman Catholic. Throughout her childhood, Cruz lived in Alcobendas, a working-class town, although she spent "a lot" of time at her grandmother's apartment. Cruz is the oldest of three siblings;she has a younger brother, Eduardo, who is a singer, and a younger sister, Mónica, who is an actress.She has said that she had a happy childhood, and Charlie Rose of 60 Minutes described Cruz's childhood as a "simple life." In a foreshadowing way, Cruz remembers when she was four years old, "playing with some friends and being aware that I was acting as I was playing with them—I would think of a character and pretend to be someone else." In 2000, Cruz stated that as a child she would throw herself on the floor and "start kicking and breaking things" when she did not get her way.
Initially, Cruz had no ambition to be an actress and focused on dance, having studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain's National Conservatory. She received three years of Spanish ballet training and four years of theater at Cristina Rota's New York school. She commented that "I used to take my toenails—they would die from dancing—so I would just take the whole toenail and throw it away, and not feel anything," however, ballet instilled in her discipline that would be important in her future acting career. She became a fan of movies at age 10 or 11. With no movie theaters nearby, her first relationship with cinema was watching movies on Betamax. Her father bought this " machine", of which Cruz recalls that it was very rare to own one in her neighborhood at the time.When Cruz was a teenager, she began having an interest in acting after seeing the film Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. She began doing casting calls for an agent, but was rejected multiple times because the agent felt that she was too young.Cruz commented on the experience that "I was very extroverted as a kid. I was studying when I was in high school at night, I was in ballet and I was doing castings. I looked for an agent and she sent me away three times because I was a little girl but I kept coming back. I'm still with her after all these years." In 1989, at the age of 15, Cruz won an audition at a talent agency over more than 300 other girls In 1999, Katrina Bayonas, Cruz's agent, commented, "She was absolutely magic . It was obvious there was something very impressive about this kid. She was very green, but there was a presence. There was just something coming from within."In 1989, 15 year-old Cruz debuted and starred in the video clip of the song La Fuerza del Destino of the synth-pop trio Mecano. Between 1990 and 1997, Cruz hosted the Spanish TV channel Telecinco's talk show La Quinta Marcha , a program that was hosted by teenagers, aimed at a teenage audience.She also played in the Elle et lui episode of an erotic French TV series called Série rose in 1991, where she appeared totally naked. In 1992, Cruz made her feature film debut at 17 as the lead female role in the comedy drama art house film, Jamón, jamón In the film, she portrayed Silvia, a young woman who is expecting her first child with a man whose mother does not approve of the relationship and attempts to sabotage it by paying Javier Bardem's character to seduce her. People magazine noted that after Cruz appeared topless in the film, she became "a major sex symbol."In an interview with the Los Angeles Daily News in 1999, Cruz commented that "it was a great part, but...I wasn't really ready for the nudity. But I have no regrets because I wanted to start working and it changed my life."Charlie Ross of 60 Minutes noted that Cruz "became an overnight sensation as much for her nude scenes as for her talent." When Ross asked Cruz if she was concerned about how she would be perceived after her role in the film, Cruz replied, "I just knew I had to do the complete opposite."