Date of Birth: April 28th 1974
Come 2009, Penelope Cruz had really made it. Previously, she'd only been one of the most famous actresses in the world. Aside from her cinematic output, she'd stared down from Ralph Lauren posters everywhere, and there was the small matter of a relationship with Tom Cruise, at the time daily tabloid fodder following his split from Nicole Kidman. Unfortunately for Cruz, everyone knew who she was, but few knew what she did. Her huge success in Europe, where she'd appeared in two movies awarded Oscars as Best Foreign Language film and a slew of other notable productions, had passed most people by. To them, she was simply Cruise's latest glamorous squeeze. However, she kept on and, after her split from Cruise in 2004 would, with Volver two years later, become the first Spaniard to be Oscar-nominated as Best Actress in a foreign language film. When she won the Oscar in 2009, for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she would have proven herself in two different languages. Respect was finally due.
She was born Penelope Cruz Sanchez in Madrid, her first name being inspired by a song by Joan Manuel Serrat. Her father Eduardo was a retailer, her mother, Encarna, a hairdresser, the family living in the working-class suburb of Alcobendas, about five kilometres north of Madrid. She has one younger sister, Monica, a professional flamenco dancer and TV star (she'd break through in Un Paso Adelante in 2002), and one brother, also younger, named after his father. Penelope was a natural performer, mimicking TV ads as soon as she could walk but, from the age of 4, it was dance that captured her imagination and dominated her life. She spent 9 years studying classical dance at Spain's National Conservatory, including three years of ballet with Angela Garrido, and a period of jazz dance with Raul Caballero.