Penelope Cruz is a lovely, talented, and versatile, Oscar-winning actress who can play any role under the sun. As long as the role involves being a feisty, sexy Latina spitfire who’s just a little crazy and is destined to lead any man who dare love her to emotional, mental, and perhaps physical ruin.
Oh, I kid the Penelope Cruz. I’m a big fan of the 37-year-old Spanish actress, and yes of course she plays lots of other less “combustible” roles. (She’s done fantastic, subtle work in Spain with her longtime collaborator Pedro Almodóvar. And I don’t recall her breaking any hearts as a talking guinea pig in G-Force.)
But let’s face it, in most of her highest-profile roles “the Spanish Enchantress” often brings the loco, or at least leads a man or two down the path of self destruction. When she passes away—hopefully many, many decades from now—her Oscar tribute reel is gonna consist of a quite a bit of yelling and throwing things.
Take for example A Matador’s Mistress, the recently released biopic about the life and death of the famed and beloved Spanish matador Manolete (Adrien Brody). It’s a well-made little film, set in beautiful ’40s Spain. The single-minded and virginal Manolete fights with a stoic, fearless fatalism in the face of death—that is, until he meets the actress Lupe Sino, a beguiling and passionate temptress. Who, of course, is played by Penelope Cruz. And what happens to Manolete? Well sure, he gets to have a lot of great movie sex with Penelope Cruz. But his love for Lupe causes him to lose his fearlessness in the ring, a bull gores him in the groin area, and he dies.
(Come on, you didn’t need a Spoiler Alert for that, did ya? It’s like “giving away” that Keats dies of consumption or that Hemingway blew his brains out with a shotgun. Manolete was famous for his death. He was like the Dale Earnhardt of Spain. Okay, well then be warned, some of the descriptions of the films below do contain SPOILERS.)
Let’s take a look at a few other examples from Cruz’s career:
What is It? A Spanish sci-fi mind-twister about obsession and reality that was remade in the U.S. by Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky
Who Does Cruz Play? In both the Spanish and U.S. versions she’s Sofia, a beautiful young woman who has an affair with the protagonist.
Who Falls in Love with Her? In Spain it’s Eduardo Noriega, also known as “The Spanish Tom Cruise.” In the U.S. version it’s Tom Cruise, also known as “The American Tom Cruise.” (Cruz dated Cruise for a bit during filming, mostly just for the cute couple-name thing.)
What Happens to Him? In both films the protagonist’s girlfriend sees him with Sofia and later intentionally crashes their car, killing the girlfriend and facially disfiguring the guy. The recovering man hooks back up with Sofia after the accident, but starts to have nightmarish visions that she’s really his dead girlfriend. Which leads him to do, um, hasty things.
What is It? Billy Bob Thornton’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s award-winning novel about American cowboys in Mexico during the ’40s
Who Does Cruz Play? The beautiful daughter of a rich Mexican ranch owner
Who Falls in Love with Her? Matt Damon as Cole, a young Texan cowboy
What Happens to Him? Dad finds out about their secret affair, is not pleased, and turns Cole over to the Mexican police for a murder he didn’t commit. Turns out life in a Mexican prison isn’t as fun as they make it out to be in the brochures.
What is It? The true story of how South American cocaine became so popular in the United States in the ’70s
Who Does Cruz Play? Mirtha, a sultry drug moll
Who Falls in Love with Her? Johnny Depp, as George Jung, the American who almost singlehandedly popularized cocaine in the U.S.
What Happens to Him? He gets rich, has some very sultry, hot sex with Mirtha (you know it’s hot because the lighting goes all red), but then Mirtha throws a birthday party for him, the party is raided by the Feds, and George has to go on the lam and eventually ends up in the hoosegow for a long time.
What is It? Woody Allen’s terrific tale of two young American women (Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson as the title’s Vicky and Christina) who get romantically entangled with a couple of artists in Barcelona, Spain (the title’s Barcelona)
Who Does Cruz Play? María Elena, a somewhat volatile and mentally unstable sculptress—the role that won Cruz her Best Supporting Actress Oscar
Who Falls in Love with Her? Cruz’s eventual real-life husband Javier Bardem as her on-screen ex-husband. And also Christina. Yes, a threesome is implied.
What Happens to Them? Elena does not handle the emotional wax and wane of relationships very well. Luckily for everyone, she does not handle handguns very well either.
What is It? The film adaptation of the Broadway musical version of Fellini’s film 8 1/2
Who Does Cruz Play? Carla, a high-spirited Italian mistress who sings and dances in lacy lingerie
Who Falls in Love with Her? Daniel Day Lewis as Guido, a Fellini-esque Italian film director who might have a few too many hot-blooded mistresses on his hands
What Happens to Him? In a fit of melodramatic rejection, Carla tries to overdose on pills. Eventually Guido is stricken with a creative mental block and cannot start his latest film. We assume it’s because he can’t see Penelope Cruz in lacy lingerie anymore.
What is It? The fourth in a series of really big, loud movies about pirates. Who hang out in the Caribbean.
Who Does Cruz Play? Angelica, a saucy girl-pirate who may or may not be the daughter of the infamous buccaneer Blackbeard
Who Falls in Love with Her? Why it’s our old pal Johnny Depp again—his Capt. Jack Sparrow had a past romantic entanglement with Angelica that didn’t end well.
What Happens to Him? Quite a bit, actually, but he lands on his feet in the end, as usual. Turns out not even Penelope Cruz can permanently mess with Jack Sparrow’s mojo. On the other hand, she does find a voodoo doll…