Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Penélope Cruz

Penélope Cruz is a leading lady, that rare creature in its pure form. Why rare and pure? In the world of cinema, film sets are kingdoms, and the politics of the film set exists, just as politics exists in all walks of life. Penélope, 35, understands and lives inside the politics of the film set with a rare grace, empathy and warmth. In short, she is a joy to work with. Between "Action!" and "Cut!" she serves her character with all the stamina, tenacity and technique of a champion marathon athlete. Always the character first, her ego second. We see the pure character take life before our eyes — never a copy of a copy but startlingly authentic and original, and forever drawing upon her profound grasp of female mythology. She has become a champion of her gender because of this quality, admired equally by both men and women.

I first met Penélope having just watched her wonderful work in Don't Move and Volver. (No two of her performances are alike; watch any two of her films back to back and the sheer reach of her range is immediately obvious.) So I had already witnessed her unique blend of strength and vulnerability, and still to be face to face with her on the set of Elegy was a revelation. Our characters' journeys through the intimacy, tragedy and redemption of Elegy demanded complete vulnerability to the material and to our fellow actor. She never trivialized nor diminished the smallest second of her character Consuela's journey. I can say that I watched Penélope's surrender to her character while I was just inches from her, day after day.

Yes, Penélope is a leading lady, surrendering to that role, too, with great discipline and much grace.

Kingsley is an Oscar-winning actor and the star of the upcoming films Shutter Island and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Fast Fact: The first Spanish actress to win an Oscar, Cruz originally trained to be a ballet dancer