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“There is really no one like her.”This is why we’re here, why Cruz is getting a star amid an eight-deep crowd of fans in front of the El Capitan theater, waving old magazine covers. Sheathed in a violet L’Wren Scott dress and wearing tall black Louboutins, she is, as always, a burst of smoky-eyed beauty.Her brown hair plunges over her shoulders in the way hair does only for cartoon mermaids. Bardem slips by in sunglasses and a navy blazer, barely noticed.
The Walk is America’s most accessible shrine to show-business fantasy: If you dream big enough, one day your name could be commemorated on this hallowed ground in gold letters.She’s still the dreamer who aspired to work with her cinematic idol Almodóvar—she lied about her age to buy a ticket to and points out that the woman who helped Cruz’s character give birth on the bus was played by Pilar Bardem—Javier’s mother.“I always saw Penelope as a mother,” Almodóvar says.“Two years later she did it for me again in Cruz and Almodóvar speak all the time, even when they’re not collaborating.She is a woman who, growing up in Spain, saw a photo of a bedazzled Michael Jackson kneeling before his red-carpeted star and never imagined she would one day do the same.“It sounded like science fiction,” she says, her famous inflection deliciously animating the term. “I would find cats in the street and take them with me.She is an Oscar winner who can obsess over the films of the mid–twentieth century Italian actress Anna Magnani (“I only drive in movies,” she says, laughing. “The best thing about Penélope’s sense of humor is that it’s primarily about herself,” says Cruz’s close friend the actress Salma Hayek.
Even now, Cruz doesn’t feel far removed from her modest roots in Spain, where she grew up the older daughter of a hardware-store owner and a mother who ran a beauty salon.
How strange it is to think that not long ago, Penélope Cruz’s status as an American movie star was an unresolved question.
Her popularity abounded in Europe, but there were high-profile misfires here alongside a series of strapping leading men: in which she played Maria Elena, the volatile Spanish artist and ex-girlfriend to Bardem’s rakish painter, Juan Antonio.
It’s very interesting, that picture.”It is an amusing mental image, the elegant Academy Award winner and the NBA giant, howling away to R-rated hip-hop.
There is a transformation that can happen when actors win Oscars: Dipped in gold and put up on the mantel alongside the little gold statue, they are denied the human, quirky qualities that made them so appealing in the first place.
“Every time I am on a movie location, we find a karaoke bar and take the crew.”Not long ago, there was a rowdy karaoke night that included Bardem and the couple’s close friend the Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Pau Gasol, who is from Barcelona. It is a few days before the Walk of Fame event, and I am meeting Cruz at an outdoor restaurant at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.