Actress. Born Penélope Cruz Sanchez on April 28, 1974 in San Sebastain de los Reyes, Madrid, Spain. Her father, Eduardo, worked as a car mechanic and her mother, Encarna, was a hairdresser. Cruz was born as the eldest of three and a natural performer; Penélope amused her family as a child by re-enacting TV commercials for their entertainment. Although a natural actress, she took up dance for her choice of performance arts. She studied classical ballet for nine years at Spain's National Conservatory and moved to New York to dance under a series of prominent performers.
Cruz made her movie debut in El laberinto griego (1993) (The Greek Labyrinth), then appeared briefly in the Timothy Dalton thriller "Framed" (1992). Her third film was the Oscar-winning Belle epoque (1992), in which she played one of four sisters vying for the love of a handsome army deserter. The film also garnered several Goyas, the Spanish equivalent of the Academy Awards. Her resume continued to grow by three or four films each year, and soon Cruz was a leading lady of Spanish cinema. Carne trémula (1997) (Live Flesh) offered her the chance to work with renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (who would later be her ticket to international fame), and the same year she was the lead actress in the thriller/drama/mystery/sci-fi film Abre los ojos (1997), a huge hit in Spain that earned eight Goyas (though none for Cruz). Her luck finally changed in 1998, when the movie-industry comedy La niña de tus ojos (1998) won her a Best Actress Goya. Cruz made a few more forays into English-language film,
Her transition to acting began when she defeated more than 300 other girls in a talent agency audition at the age of 15. This initial success resulted in her decision to quit her study at a secondary school. The contract she obtained led her to appear in commercials ... and Spanish TV shows, including that of "La Quinta Marcha" in which she started to gain people's attention as the program's host in 1990. Turning her attention to acting, she made her debut in the following year through "El Laberinto Griego" (The Greek Labyrinth), which was delayed to be released until the year of 1993. However, it was her appearance in Mecano's music video of "La fuerza del destino" (1992) that she finally was able to embrace national fame.