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Penelope Cruz Interview

CRUZ-ING INTO HOLLYWOOD BIG TIME

She's made a dynamic leap from European actress to Hollywood superstar--but for Penelope Cruz the sudden rise to fame and fortune hasn't come without a price.

The exquisitely beautiful Spanish star has been at the center of rumours linking her to most of her leading men and was even accused of breaking up Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's marriage.

The actress, who stars with Cruise in the yet to be released film, Vanilla Sky, has had to learn quickly how to deal with the intense interest surrounding her.

"I have been hearing gossip and lies since I began working," she says with a dismissive wave of her hand, "When I was 17, I used to get very angry because I opened a magazine and I saw myself in a picture on a motorcycle and the headline was, 'I'm getting married next month'. I had a boyfriend at the time and I was so embarrassed that he was going to think I would say that to the press," she adds in her distinctive broken English.

"Now, I have seen that I am not the only one that has to go through that, because everyone who is in the public eye unfortunately has to go through that, and sometimes it is very unfair. But I try not to put too much attention into those things and use my energy for some other things I have to do in my life. I don't even want to get angry about those things now."

She admits that the rumours may stem from the fact that she likes to flirt sometimes.

"Matt (Damon) and I were only ever friends, but sometimes all these stories are written. Just because we are celebrities, it doesn't give anyone the right to ask who we sleep with," she says firmly.

But, however much the 27-year old star tries to shrug off the gossip, it continues to dog her. Her latest on-screen romance with Nicolas Cage, was also rumoured to have spilled from script to real life.

The pair play lovers in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, the much-awaited big screen adaptation of Louis de Bernieres best-selling novel.

The two spent weeks filming on the idyllic Greek island of Cephallonia, but while she is full of praise for her co-star, Cruz insists their love affair was only a celluloid one.

"It seems part of some Hollywood game to put people together," she says of the rumoured romance.

"I grew up watching Nic's movies. I think he's one of the best actors in the world. I think he's done amazing things. I was very happy about working with him, and when I saw him I was looking at him with my mouth open, because he can do anything he wants," she adds with a shy smile.

In the film, Cruz plays Pelagia, daughter of the island doctor, who falls for Captain Corelli, (Cage) a member of the Occupying Italian forces during World War II.

Although the Madrid-based actress had to learn Greek dancing and speak with a local accent for the shoot, she says she felt completely at home on Cephallonia.

"I was shooting in a place which was similar to some of the islands in Spain where I spent some time when I was growing up," she explains. "I don't think we are so different the Greek and Spanish. It was a beautiful experience from the moment we arrived. We worked very hard, but it was a happy and magical experience," she beams.

In fact, the talented star fell in love with Pelagia, even before she was cast in the part.

"I loved the character," she recalls. "When I read the script, I was on a plane going from LA to Madrid and I was crying and I was saying, 'I hope they call me to do an audition for this movie.' Then I arrived and they told me they were calling, so it happened almost at the same time I had the script.

"I like the character very much and I like her, too, as a woman. I understand her very well."

Cruz, who became a star in Spain when she was a teenager, after appearing in the film, Jamon Jamon, was next seen in two more high profile Hollywood films, Vanilla Sky, with Tom Cruise, and Blow, alongside Johnny Depp. But the actress, who still lives near her parents in Madrid, says she has no intention of uprooting to LA.

"I'm happy with the way things are going, because I've been working for 11 years in my country, and now I'm making a movie in Madrid in Spanish," she explains.

"I never left, but I haven't worked there in two years, and I really wanted to work. The thing that really makes me happy is the real work and rehearsing and creating the character and the process of making the movie. Hollywood's not real," she adds with a defiant smile. "It's about what you have become, rather than who you really are."

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Penelope Cruz Pictures

"Not everybody can do what they want to do and still eat. I'm very lucky. And it's getting better and better."
On Tom Cruise... "I think that he's an amazing person. He's generous. An amazing person."
"I am always scared and nervous. At the start of shooting, I always feel as if I have never done this before."

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