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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 the 2001 films Vanilla Sky and Blow.
She has since built a successful career, appearing 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), and the action adventure Sahara (2005). She has received critical acclaim for her roles in Volver (2006) and Nine (2009) receiving Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for each. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. 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. Penélope 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. A wax sculpture of Cruz will be placed in a premier spot in the Grevin Wax Museum in Paris.
In 1989, 15 year-old Cruz made her acting debut in a music video for the Spanish pop group Mecano's song "La Fuerza del Destino". Between 1990 and 1997, she 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 18 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 1997, Cruz appeared in the Spanish comedy film Love Can Seriously Damage Your Health. She portrays Diana, a fan of The Beatles band member John Lennon; she tries unsuccessfully to meet him. Years later, after multiple failed relationships, Diana re-unites with an acquaintance under unusual circumstances. Also in 1997, she appeared in the opening scene of Pedro Almodóvar's Live Flesh as a prostitute who gives birth on a bus and in Et hjørne af paradis (A Corner of Paradise) as Doña Helena. Cruz's final appearance in 1997 was the Amenabar-directed Spanish sci-fi drama, "Abre Los Ojos"/ Open Your Eyes. She plays Sofia, the love interest of Eduardo Noriega's lead character. Open Your Eyes received positive reviews, and was later remade by U.S. director Cameron Crowe as "Vanilla Sky" (who cast Cruz in the same role and Tom Cruise in Noriega's role), but "Open Your Eyes" was not commercially successful.
2001 marked a turning point when Cruz starred in the feature films Vanilla Sky and Blow. In Vanilla Sky, Cameron Crowe's interpretation of Open Your Eyes, she played Sofia Serrano, the love interest of Tom Cruise's character. The film received mixed reviews but made $200 million worldwide. Her performance was well received by critics, with BBC film critic Brandon Graydon saying that Cruz "is an enchanting screen presence," and Ethan Alter of the Film Journal International noting that Cruz and her co-star Cruise were "able to generate some actual chemistry." Her next film was Blow, adapted from Bruce Porter's 1993 book Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 million with the Medellin Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All.....