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Star Penelope Cruz Is on Cloud "Nine"

The Madrid-born Penelope Cruz, a standout star in the Rob Marshall musical Nine, came to American attention with the steamy seriocomedy Jamón, Jamón (1992), in which she co-starred with future boyfriend Javier Bardem. After he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2007's No Country for Old Men, Cruz returned the volley with her Best Supporting Actress win for 2008's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

In the interim, Cruz made such middling U.S. movies as 1998's The Hi-Lo Country, 2001's Blow, Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Vanilla Sky – which sparked a three-year relationship with Tom Cruise –  and 2005's Sahara.

But she became a signature screen persona for acclaimed director Pedro Almodóvar, starring in his Live Flesh (1997), All About My Mother (1999), Volver (2006) and his latest, the recently released Broken Embraces -- which was the closing night film for the 2009 New York Film Festival. She now co-stars with an international pantheon in Nine, an adaptation of the Broadway musical inspired by Federico Fellini's classic film 8 1/2. Cruz speaks about her two latest movies, her cameo in Sex and the City 2 and much more in this one-on-one interview.

FL: You've said that Almodovar knows how to push your buttons to get the performance he wants. How did he do that in Broken Embraces?

PC: He knows me very well, but he is that way with all actors – he knows how to take you to the place that he needs, in a way that is a beautiful dance. He can be very tough and very demanding, but in the end for me it has always been an experience where I go home and feel happy about what everybody did on the set.

FL: But for an example.

PC: It's hard to explain; it's hard to put it into words. But sometimes he would play [the filmmaker character] Mateo in the rehearsals. We had a moment looking at each other in the mirror when the relationships were mixed together – the relationship between Lena and Mateo, and the one that I have with Pedro and what he means to me in my life, my career. It was a beautiful mix of reality and fiction. I have to say that was my favorite moment in the whole process of making this movie

Penelope CruzFL: In Broken Embraces we see snippets of the film-within-the-film, Girls with Suitcases. Was there any talk of releasing it as, say, a half-hour TV film or a DVD extra?

PC: No, but because we shot stuff for Girls with Suitcases that didn't make it into the movie, [those scenes] will be in the DVD extras.

FL: In your major dance number in Nine, you do a lot of rope work without gloves, and endured a lot of calluses and bleeding. Did you realize that would happen when you decided against gloves, or did you realize it as it was happening and continued anyway?

PC:  No, I knew it would happen because I trained for three months to do the number, and I knew I would be living with blisters during those months and I was used to it. During those months you rehearse, like, four hours a day of dancing, and when you get to shoot the number, you do 12 hours a day of dancing for three days in a row, and that's when you get all the bruises and blisters and everything open. But I didn't even feel that much physical pain because I felt like flying!

FL: According to reports, all the actresses in Nine had to do singing and dancing auditions. You haven't had to audition for movie roles for a while. What was that like? Were you out of practice?

PC: No, because I took a lot of lessons before the audition. I auditioned one time for the dancing and one time for the singing., I think it was very important to be able to go through that for the movie because Rob had to see that we could really do it, so most of us had to get in the room and audition. I mean, there was no other way to get the movie.

FL: Did you say to yourself, "Wow, I thought I didn't have to audition anymore?"

PC: No, because I know that sometimes I will have to, when it's something like that. Look, I've never sung before and nobody has every seen me dancing, really dancing – I've done something here and there, but this is a difficult solo number and I had to prove that I could do it. So of course I had no problem with getting in the room and auditioning. I was nervous about it, but I was happy they gave me the opportunity

FL: Different reports say that in your cameo in the upcoming Sex and the City 2 you play either yourself or a character named Lydia.

PC:  No, I don't play myself. It's a little character [role]. I only was on the set for three hours. I did this collaboration because I'm a big fan of the show and the movie.

FL: You're listed as working on two upcoming features, Lasse Hallstrom's Rain in Spain and Sergio Castellitto's Venuto al Mondo.

PC: I'm not making Rain in Spain. I don't know why somebody wrote that somewhere. Venuto al Mondo, if that movie gets made, I think I will do it.

FL: And you're producing Haunted Heart?

PC: That's for the future. It's the first movie I have with Fernando Trueba [who directed Cruz in her second film, 1992's Belle Epoque, and in 1998's The Girl of Your Dreams] he wrote [as well as directed], and we want to do it sometime in the future but not yet.

FL: What is this eight-minute Almodóvar short, "The Cannibalistic Councillor" that you're in?

PC: That is one thing that we shot for Broken Embraces that didn't make it in the movie, so he released it as a short film. In Spain it played on TV.

FL: I'm not going to pry, but why do you suppose the public cares so much about whether a celebrity has a baby or not?

PC: It's all because of the Internet, because there are more and more shows and stuff to fill with material. A lot of the press is losing so much credibility that people don't know anymore what to believe and what not to believe. I have a couple of great friends who are journalists, who are very serious journalists, and at the end that affects them and their work.

FL: Yet when People magazine, say, pays a million dollars for a baby picture, those covers apparently sell well because the public, for reasons I just don't know, wants that.

PC: I don't want to talk about it.

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