Penelope Cruz is busy, busy, busy. She's in her hometown, Madrid, dashing to an evening shoot for Pedro Almodovar's “Los Abrazos Rotos” (“Broken Embraces”), while talking on her cell as her driver zips in and out of traffic. She's got two other films to plug: the mournful “Elegy” opposite Ben Kingsley, and Woody Allen's more cheerful “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” in which she locks lips with both Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson. (Not a big deal, but “it was very crowded that day on the set.”)
Q: Where are you based these days?
Madrid is always my main home because my family is here and I have a house here. And I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles. I have a home there. But I've always preferred New York.
Q: Do you still take ballet classes?
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I don't do it unless I have a reason. Now this (filming the musical “Nine” with Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman and Sophia Loren) is a very big reason, to dance five, six hours a day. Finally I was able to fully train and dance with a movie.
Q: With “Elegy,” it seems like you're really coming into your own with an English-language role.
Now that I have spent all those years studying, and living where they speak the language, I feel more free. I still have my accent. … (Woody Allen) asked sometimes for me to improvise in English and Spanish. I couldn't have done that three or four years ago. It's great not having to hear that anymore (that she doesn't speak English well). (She laughs.)
Q: And what was it like, working with Woody Allen?
He's not a man of too many words. But he gives you treasures. … I would go to him with all these questions, all these theories of the character. He'd say, “We can do this if you want, but I trust where you're going with the character.” But in a very respectful way. But very direct. And very funny. Of course. I would have liked more time, but he shoots the whole movie in like five weeks. (She shrieks.)
Q: What happened?
We almost crashed with the car. My driver almost crashed with the car.