The eldest daughter of a hairdresser and an auto mechanic, growing up in Madrid, Spain, Penelope Cruz didn't want the normal pretty pony or a pretty stud, she instead dreamed of swans and nutcrackers and handsome princes! She further studied classical ballet at the National Conservatory for nine years. Cruz worked steadily in Spanish cinema from her 1991 debut in El Laberinto Griego (Greek Labyrinth), for the next seven years.
Cruz also made a brief and forgettable trip to the American shores, and accepted a role in a 1993 telepic, Framed, featuring Timothy Dalton. And then in Belle Époque, which won a 1994 foreign film Oscar. She then played what she deemed "the ugly woman" in Live Flesh and in Mother (1999), in which Cruz depicted a nun impregnated by a transvestite. She filmed La Niña de Tus Ojos (The Girl of Your Dreams), a role that would earn her a 1999 Best Actress Goya. She also appeared in the Hollywood feature, The Hi-Lo Country, with Woody Harrelson and Billy Crudup.
Like any starlet, Cruz ran right out and completely spent all of her first official Tinseltown paycheck. Unlike any starlet, however, she donated those earnings to Mother Theresa's children's sanctuary in Calcutta, India, where she had briefly volunteered. It was Cruz's physical beauty that secured her next upcoming major motion picture outing, as Johnny Depp's drug-addicted wife, in Blow (2001). She's spent the beginning of the new millennium in Greece as Nicolas Cage and Christian Bale vie for her affections in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Meanwhile, her name has been paired with the other world-famous Cruise (Tom, but of course) to complete director-screenwriter Cameron Crowe's next pic, Vanilla Sky.