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Penelope Cruz   ('Volver') + HOT GIVEAWAY!! Penelope Cruz ('Volver') + HOT GIVEAWAY!!

'The Weight Of A Role'

In Volver, Penelope Cruz plays Raimunda, a working class mother of a precocious teenage daughter, who lives in a council apartment in the city with her lazy husband. When her aunt dies, Raimunda returns for the funeral to her native village in the country. There she joins her sister Sole (Lola Duenas) for the mourning, and both of them are very disturbed to hear gossip that their mother - presumed dead in a fire with her husband some years ago - has recently been seen in the town.

Being a superstitious lot, Raimunda and her family put this down to a ghostly apparition and return to their normal lives in the big city. Soon her slovenly husband becomes too much to bear, and when an unusual solution is found to this problem, Raimunda is off on her own, unique adventure, eventually finding herself as the unlikely manager of a neighbouring restaurant, coping with a cancer-stricken friend, as well as her ditzy sister who may or may not still be seeing apparitions of their deceased mother. All of this comes on top of Raimunda's own, dark secret.

Sitting down recently in a Toronto hotel room along with the 'Volver' star herself, Penelope Cruz, I first asked her how she was handling all the building momentum buzz that was fast growing around; and for this movie? "You can be flattered about it because that's already an award, to get that kind of love from people from a movie that they love so much - and for sure it doesn't happen in every movie, because I've been on the other side too, you know," she laughs.

It must have been a breath of fresh air to finally work on a movie in your own language and country therein "In terms of working in my country I never made the decision of not working there and I never left Europe for America. So I've been combining those things, working in four languages, trying to create the career that I want to have, and trying to take advantage of speaking those languages instead of looking at having an accent like a big problem."

Ironically, in the case of Volver, Cruz may speak Spanish - but with a regional accent. "We were working in Spanish but we still had to do all the training with the accent, so there is always something, but I love that. The more difficult the character is the more I love it, because the more opportunities you have to get to do something."

The on-screen relationship and friendship between Cruz and Almodòvar goes back to 1997's Live Flesh, with the pair re-teaming for 1999's All About My Mother. It's a relationship that has given Cruz the opportunity to show off what she is truly made of, so of course it is no question that when the director calls her up for a new film, she accepts without hesitation. "Even before reading it he knows that I trust him completely, so I don't need to read it to say yes. However, when I read it I was so happy that he was giving me that character and I knew it was an amazing opportunity for my career."

How was this woman important to you as a whole? "Because I felt like I knew women like that, and I love that she refuses to be a victim. I love the dignity that Pedro gave her in the script, and I just wanted to give her that."

Dare I say it, but you're looking rather more, er, buxom in this film than before! "Well, I only ate all that I wanted because I could not lose any weight for the character. So I gained like 3 or 4 kilos, and we rehearsed for three months, then there were a lot of hours of looking at the dialogue and adapting all the characters - sometimes different dialogue to each one of us. We would then do costume fittings like months before we would shoot and start creating the look of each character. I was also taking cooking lessons because I specifically handle the food in the movie and he's very precise with those things. He wants everything to be perfect, and I love that a director who is that demanding."

How has Almodovar changed over the years? "For me every film has been amazing and better and better every time. It's been great and I know how generous he is, but it always surprises me, when he does certain things. For instance, if something is not working he will tell you the truth, and if something is working he takes the time to call you home to tell you that he saw dailies and how grateful he is about what you did. That always surprises me with how busy he is on a set he takes time for those things."

While in her early Hollywood career, the still ravishingly beautiful star was known for her looks, often dismissed, at least early on, as another pretty face. But it seems that those days are well and truly behind her. "I feel like I have played a few characters that have made me able to demonstrate where I wanted to go as an actress."

And what about the ones that weren't so, shall we say, successful or beloved? "Well, even the ones that have not been successful they have taught me something, and I feel grateful because they help me stay in the game."

Do you have any regrets within this business thus far? "I think that would sound ungrateful if I would say that somehow the work in America was less interesting than my European work. I think I have worked with great people here that have given me great opportunities, but it is so happens that the character in Volver is more difficult and requires more. When the character is more difficult you have more chances to prove what you can do as an actor and you cannot do that by yourself, as you need the trust of a person that writes that for you and gives that to you. But here, I feel like I've worked with amazing people here like Cameron Crowe, and Stephen Frears - people that I really respect and want to keep working with, so I feel I've been very, very lucky to be able to work with them."


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