Many of you remember Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem from their unforgettable movie roles—Penelope for her beauty and Javier for his formidable acting prowess. As we know, love does not always bloom at first sight. Penelope met her current husband Javier on the set of her first movie Jamon, Jamon (1992) when she was just a teenager. Fifteen years later, on the set of Vicky Christina Barcelona (2007) they reconnected and Bardem decided she’s The One for him. By then, each had the maturity to fully comprehend what it was they were looking for in a spouse. This is their story
By Maliha lone
Javier Ángel Encinas Bardem, now 48, comes from a long line of actors and filmmakers, some of whom helped establish the Spanish film industry. Born in 1969 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, Spain, he is the son of Pilar Bardem, an actress, and the late, José Carlos Encinas Doussinague, an eco businessman. Javier’s parents split up shortly after his birth and he was raised solely by his mother. From his maternal side, he is a grandson of actors Rafael and Matilde Muñoz Sampedro, and nephew of screenwriter and director Juan Antonio Bardem who was imprisoned by General Franco for his anti-fascist films. Both his older brother and sister, Carlos and Mónica, are also actors.
Javier spent his childhood at theatres and on film sets, making his film debut at only six years old in Fernando Fernán Gómez’s El Pícaro (The Scoundrel). Javier told The Guardian about his childhood in Spain, “It was a very troubled time, to the point that to have the surname Bardem in those times was not good; you were pursued and put in jail. I was too little, but I saw things. People being arrested, my mother crying because colleagues of hers and people she loved were imprisoned or disappeared. The streets were violent….My mother is an actress; my grandfather and grandmother were actors. The parents of my grandparents were actors, in a time when actors were not allowed to be buried on sacred land. Terrible. My uncle is an actor, my brother is an actor and a writer, my sister used to be an actress. My cousins are actors. I’ve seen since I was born all that you can imagine in an actor’s life. So I don’t buy anything. I don’t buy success. I don’t buy failure. I only buy commitment.”
However, the boy was ambitious to become not an actor as you would imagine but a painter. He studied painting for four years at Madrid’s Escuela de Artes y Oficios and took on acting jobs only to pay the bills. Perhaps this was due to the fact that he was well aware of the non glamorous aspect of the showbiz world. In addition, the sporty, well built youth played rugby for the junior Spanish National Team. In time, not having enough talent or skill to make it as an artist, Javier wisely decided to pursue acting seriously. Struggling to make it, he even worked as a stripper for a day to subsidize his income between acting jobs. He nearly threw in the towel though when in 1989 after donning a Superman costume for a comedic sketch for the Spanish comedy show El Día Por Delante (The Day Ahead), he questioned this choice of career as well.
Then, at 20, Javier got a small but what proved to be a breakout role in a film his mother was in called The Ages of Lulu. Pilar Bardem Bigas Luna, the director, was so impressed by his promise that he gave him the leading male role in his next film, Jamón Jamón opposite teenage ingénue Penelope Cruz. A young buff Bardem played an underwear model and bullfighter in the film hired to seduce Penelope’s character. The entertaining movie became a big critical and box office hit, making stars of its young leads.
As it happened, the year they started filming, Javier had already started dating his English teacher Christina Pales, a relationship that was to last nearly fifteen years. He was in love and committed and he didn’t have eyes for his ambitious nubile costar. He said at the time, “I’m in love with my English teacher. We have many of our lessons in bed.”
Penélope Cruz Sánchez, 45, had been born in the working-class neighbourhood of Alcobendas, Madrid, to Encarna Sánchez, a hairdresser and the late Eduardo Cruz, a car mechanic. She has two younger siblings, Mónica, also an actress/designer who resembles her sister, and a brother Eduardo who dated the now happily married Desperate Housewives alum Eva Longoria.
Penelope had a happy childhood and spent long hours at her grandmother’s apartment. She remembers “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.” But, like Bardem, she initially focused on pursuing a different career and studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain’s National Conservatory. She said that ballet instilled in her discipline that helped in her future acting career.
Aged 10, she became interested in movies and her father bought her a Betamax VCR to watch films on, a rare thing to own in her neighborhood. After watching Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s film, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) she wanted try her hand at acting. She started doing casting calls for an agent but was rejected multiple times because the agent felt that she was too young. Cruz said in an interview, “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.” Finally, after she won an audition at a talent agency beating over 300 other girls, she was signed by a talent agent Katrina Bayonas at age 15 and made her acting debut at 16 on TV hosting TV channel Telecinco’s talk show for teenagers.
Katrina Bayonas recalled her audition, “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.”
Desperate to make it, Penelope appeared nude in the Elle et lui episode of an erotic French TV series called Série rose in 1991. She was 18 and also dating musician and record producer Nacho Cano. The same year, she made her feature film debut as the lead female role in Jamón, Jamón, a comedy drama art house film. Her character Silvia is a young woman 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. For her performance, she was nominated for a Goya Award for Best Actress. Additionally, according to People magazine, Cruz’s topless scene made her “a major sex symbol.”
In an interview given to the Los Angeles Daily News in 1999, Cruz said 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 Rose announced on 60 Minutes that Cruz “became an overnight sensation as much for her nude scenes as for her talent.”
With the success of this film, the director cast Javier for a third time in his next film Luna as well, while Penelope starred in the Academy-Award-winning period romance drama Belle Epoque playing a very different character that of a virginal young girl.
From 1993 to 1996, Cruz appeared in ten Spanish and Italian films. At 20, she went to live in New York to study ballet, theatre at Cristina Rota’s New York school and English between films. She said sheorized the dialogue for casting calls and learnt English “kind of late,” getting by on only saying, “How are you?” and “Thank you.”
Actor John Malkovich impressed by Bardem’s acting talent offered the 27-year-old Spaniard a role in his English film in 1997, but despite the lessons with his girlfriend Javier felt his English was still poor. Instead he chose to do director Álex de la Iglesia’s bilingual (released in Spanish and English) action crime horror film Perdita Durango (Dance with the Devil), in which Bardem and Hispanic American actress Rosie Perez play a psychotic criminal couple.
When he had approximately two dozen Spanish films under his belt, Bardem finally gained widespread international recognition when he portrayed homosexual Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas who was persecuted by Fidel Castro in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls (2000). For his sensitive portrayal, his idol Al Pacino left an appreciative message on his answering machine, something he considers one of the most beautiful gifts he has ever received. Bardem received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, a first for a Spaniard.
Having broken up with her Spanish long distance boyfriend, Cruz started dating Czech filmmaker Tomas Obermaier and appeared in her first American film as Billy Crudup’s down to earth Mexican girlfriend in Stephen Frears’ Western, The Hi-Lo Country (1999). She reported that she still had difficulties understanding people speaking English while filming. The movie which starred Woody Harrelson and Patricia Arquette bombed. Cruz followed this up with Almodóvar’s well received All About My Mother, playing a pregnant nun with AIDS. She went from strength to strength starring in the delightful Hollywood rom-com Woman on Top in the lead female role playing a sexy world class chef. Variety magazine ran a story saying that Penelope “burst off the screen”, and had a charming accent. The curvaceous and pretty actress came to be known as the “Spanish enchantress.”
Another review in Box Office magazine stated, “Cruz is stunning in the role—innocent and vulnerable yet possessing a mature grace and determined strength, all while sizzling with unchecked sensuality.”
In 2000, she was cast as A-lister Matt Damon’s love interest in Billy Bob Thornton’s film adaptation of the Western bestselling novel, All the Pretty Horses. Claiming that her career ambitions were responsible for her breakup with Obermaier, Penelope started seeing Damon. Though they never confirmed their onscreen romance, they both made a promotional appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show together. On the show, Cruz said: “Matt’s a very special man, he’s funny and he’s one of the most generous people I’ve met in my life. He has no defects.”
Damon blushed and replied: “That’s the most amazing thing to say.”
When Spanish sci-fi blockbuster film Open Your Eyes (1997) was being remade by Hollywood heavy weight director Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky (2001) Cruz was asked to reprise her role opposite mega star Tom Cruise. The movie also starred Cameron Diaz in a supporting role who came across blond, bland and insipid next to Penelope’s more exotic dark looks. This was a huge budget movie that grossed $200 million worldwide and marked the turning point in her career. After the movie premiered, when Tom Cruise was in the midst of divorcing Nicole Kidman due to her infidelity, he took up with Penelope in a high profile relationship that lasted till 2004. We don’t know if it was a publicity stunt/cover up relationship but it managed to generate Cruz countless tabloid headlines that made her a household name Stateside, and gave him a beautiful actress on his arms while his ex-wife engaged in a series of public hookups.
The same year, Cruz next starred opposite Johnny Depp in the biographical crime film Blow about the American cocaine smuggler George Jung, adapted from Bruce Porter’s 1993 book Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 million with the Medellín Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All. It was her second big hit of the year, grossing $80 million worldwide. Her third film of 2001 was the epic World War II love saga Captain Corelli’s Mandolin starring Nicholas Cage, also an adaptation of a novel of the same name. They sweeping lyrical movie did well with women and made $62 million worldwide. Three huge movies with three huge movie stars—it was a great year for Cruz that made her an A-list star despite her heavily accented English.
In an ironic twist, Bardem made his Hollywood debut in a small but significant role as a crime lord who summons Tom Cruise’s (Penelope’s boyfriend at the time) hit man in the action crime thriller Collateral (2004). Then, he starred in Miloš Forman’s film Goya’s Ghosts (2006) opposite Natalie Portman, in which he played a twisted monk during the Spanish Inquisition.
The two mega successful and talented Spanish Stars fell for each other on set of Vicky Christina Barcelona. Bardem later told GQ that he initially Had reservations regarding Penelope’s on set Passion, which both drew him to her and also Made him worried for their future. He said that She shares the same fiery personality as her onscreen Character in the movie, “Oh, boy. She has That feistiness. There are those scenes where we Are arguing, she’s throwing plates and so on. I Had to wonder, ‘Do I really want this?’ She has What I call the loving blood. Passion for everything.” But Javier in the end fell for her after Deciding that Penelope’s passionate personality Is what makes her both beautiful and sexy. ‘That’s what I find attractive. There is beauty And there is being sexy. Penelope has both.’”
In 2007, Bardem acted in two film adaptations: the violent Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men in which he played a sociopathic assassin and the adaptation of the romantic and soulful Colombian novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez.
In No Country for Old Men, his character is a sociopathic assassin. He did such a fantastic job as a cold blooded killer that he was awarded an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the first Spaniard to win, as well as won a Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award, the Critics’ Choice Award and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award. This was his star making turn that not only catapulted him to the position of a globally recognizable star but the character he played also went down as one of the most vile villains in cinematic history. Because of his broken nose that was the result of a bar fight in his youth, Bardem had a face that could look very menacing. He didn’t need to shout or overact, rather underplayed his villains, so that they realistically appear like emotionless, cold psychopaths. Though after the horrible bar fight he said he struggles to watch violence play out on screen, “From that moment on, I couldn’t stand violence. I still can’t even watch it. I can’t bear it. So if I hate violence so much why did I do No Country For Old Men, right? I know, I know.”
Bardem mixed it up by playing a love lorne character that pines all his life for his married childhood crush only to finally attain her at a ripe old age in Love in the Time of Cholera, a move that displayed his range. This too was an unforgettable film.
With so much to thank for, the couple with a conscious signed an open letter during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict denouncing Israel’s actions as a “genocide.” They didn’t care that their move was criticized by some in Hollywood and could potentially cost them jobs
Francis Ford Coppola named Bardem as an heir to such greats as Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro, and lauded him being ambitious, hungry, unwilling to rest on his laurels and always “excited to do something good.”
At her end, Penelope started seeing yet another costar, this time the sexy Texan at the time wild child Matthew McConaughey during the film of their box office dud Sahara, but the relationship fizzled out within a year. Next she starred in another Western, this time a female bonding summer comedy movie alongside her good friend Salma Hayek in the Bandidas (2006) in which they play “lusty dream team” of bank robbers.
In fall, just in time to be nominated for the Oscars, Cruz gave a serious turn in her mentor Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver (2006). A review in The Los Angeles Times stated, “Cruz, who has remarked that in Hollywood she’s rarely allowed to be anything more than pretty, instills her with an awesome resoluteness and strength of character.” It was quite a gripping performance for which she tapped in to her working class roots. For her uninhibited fearless acting, Cruz shared a Best Actress award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival with five of her co-stars, as well as receiving a Goya Award and European Film Award, and was nominated for the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Academy Award for Best Actress in a leading role. She was the first Spanish actress to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She also briefly dated Orlando Bloom during this year, another feather in her cap.
Penelope stars in an all star ensemble cast of agatha christie’s murder on the orient express directed by kenneth brannagh to be released in november
Woody Allen is actually indirectly responsible for finally bringing the two top Spanish stars together when he cast them in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), which also starred Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall. Both the Spanish stars were single simultaneously during the filming. Javier played a painter and Penelope his tempestuous ex-wife. Pe (her nickname) arrived on set after a brief summer fling with actor Josh Hartnett with whom she had vacationed win Turks and Caicos. Clearly, her Hollywood relationships were not working out and getting shorter each time. Javier had broken up his long term romance with his serious girlfriend in 2005. He probably had rebounded with hookups, but they didn’t leave a dent.
Cruz’s masterful and energetic performance won her a Goya Award and her first Academy Award and BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress. Cruz was the first Spanish actress to ever be awarded an Academy Award in that category and the sixth Hispanic person to ever receive the award.
Keeping their burgeoning relationship under the radar, the couple tied the knot in July 2010 in the Bahamas in a private ceremony. Penelope was three months pregnant at the time. Both had been raised as Roman Catholics by their respective grandmothers, so not finding any reason to wait, they probably wanted to make their relationship official as soon as they discovered the pregnancy. Bardem is an atheist now, but he probably wanted to seal the deal with his hot girlfriend and felt it was time he settled down for good. Their son Leonarodo was born in January in the new year in Los Angeles. That year Bardem was awarded Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance in Biutiful directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who had written the film with Bardem in mind, quite an honour. He became the first all Spanish-language Best Actor nominee at the 2011 Oscars and won his 5th Goya Award, which he touchingly dedicated to his wife and newborn son. However, generally the couple maintains a low public profile, seldom discussing their personal lives.
Completely unlike his onscreen persona, Bardem is a gentle, one-woman man who likes intense, lasting monogamous relationships. A telling example of how different he is in real life to the randy thugs he usually plays, he doesn’t even know how to drive a car in real life whereas in films he is seen racing cars at breakneck speeds in car chase scenes. In his downtime, Bardem unwinds by listening to heavy metal, his favourite band being AC/DC, while Pe devotes her time to philanthropic pursuits and advocates breastfeeding.
The biggest hit of Penelope’s career to date grossing more than a billion dollars she filmed when she was pregnant. This summer blockbuster is Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth installment in the film series, starring Johnny Depp. Cruz was the only actress considered for the role, as she fit Marshall’s description. He invited her for the role as they wrapped the production of Nine, a musical with an ensemble all female cast, which she dominated with her superbly sensual dancing.
The actress spent two months working out and learning fencing for her role in the pirate flick. During filming, she discovered she was pregnant with her first born. The costume department obligingly redesigned her wardrobe to be more elastic, and the producers got her sister Mónica Cruz to double for her in risky scenes. That year, Penelope got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, becoming the first Spanish actress to receive the honour.
Bardem also turned in a remarkable villainous portrayal of defaced rogue agent Raoul Silva ranked among the greatest villains in the James Bond series in the Daniel Craig starrer Skyfall (2012). He too received his Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
Both such bankable stars with worldwide fame, Academy and other prestigious industry awards and tens of millions of Euros in their bank accounts, they were soon to be blessed with a baby girl named Luna born in Madrid in 2013, completing their family.
In the next installment of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017), it was Bardem’s turn to star as the main antagonist. This year, he also has the recently released Darren Aronofsky horror film Mother! with Jennifer Lawrence, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ed Harris that is not doing too well either commercially or critically.
Yet another recent release is the Spanish film Loving Pablo in which the two spouses play the corpulent Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his journalist mistress Virginia Vallejo. In an interview, Javier revealed they were careful not to bring the dark subject material home with them after a day on set: “One of the joys, and the fun of what we do, is to create. We were very careful (during shooting) to make sure we kept that joy and that we keep being able to create and use our imagination.’
A critic wrote in The Guardian, “the heat really rises when their fiery attitudes mix and threaten to combust; though the script is in (Colombian accented) English for what Bardem has confirmed were wrangling-a-budget reasons, their spats spark with such passion that a viewer can nearly hear the Spanish behind it.”
The couple is currently busy having a blast creating what is expected to be another film masterpiece by Oscar winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi called Everybody Knows. Bardem commented on Farhadi in a recent interview: “He sees everything. He may not understand a word, but he knows what you’re saying. He only wants honesty to its deepest level so you are really obliged to take the mask off and go there completely naked. I believe in giving it all, but the hands have to be sensitive, caring, nice — that’s why you give it to him. You trust him. And, he’s super funny.”
Sounds like a movie to watch out for!