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Straight From Europe: The Next Great Hollywood Beauty

Posted August 11, 2010 to photo album "Straight From Europe: The Next Great Hollywood Beauty"

Anton Corbijn’s The American will give Americans the chance to discover two European actress: Italy’s Violante Placido and Dutch actress Thekla Reuten. They are only the latest in string of European discoveries.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: Greta Garbo - The Swedish Goddess
Slide 3: Alla Nazimova - The Passionate Russian
Slide 4: Marlene Dietrich - The Tough German
Slide 5: Ingrid Bergman - The Natural Swede
Slide 6: Alida Valli - The Italian
Slide 7: Sophia Loren - The Italian Scandal
Slide 8: Catherine Deneuve - The Cool French Beauty
Slide 9: Penelope Cruz - The Dark Iberian Vision
Slide 10: Audrey Tatou - The Fresh French Face
Slide 11: Monica Bellucci - The Exotic Italian
Slide 12: Thekla Reuten & Violante Placido - The New Wave
Slide 9: Penelope Cruz - The Dark Iberian Vision

Slide 9: Penelope Cruz - The Dark Iberian Vision

For the Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, the story of her relationship to the American film industry is a drama all its own. Born in Madrid in 1974, Cruz’s first role in Spain launched her stardom. She appeared opposite current husband Javier Bardem in Bigas Lunas’ 1992 film Jamon, Jamon. The film made her not only an international star but also a sex symbol, and it earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Goyas (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars). A series of Spanish and European films followed, including the thriller Open Your Eyes, Pedro Almodóvar’s Live Flesh, and Fernando Trueba’s The Girl of Your Dreams, which won her a Goya. Her first American role was The Hi-Lo Country (“a little stiff,” is what Variety’s Todd McCarthy had to say about her performance). Billy Bob Thornton’s All the Pretty Horses followed, and again McCarthy panned her, writing, “Nor will it help the commercial prospects for this domestic Miramax release that there was more chemistry between Matt Damon and his golf balls in The Legend of Bagger Vance than there is here between the star and leading lady Penelope Cruz…. the dark Iberian beauty who still hasn't registered in English with the effectiveness that she does in her Spanish films; here, her range extends from come-hither looks to tearful remorse.” By the time of the U.S. remake of Open Your Eyes, Vanilla Sky, in which she starred alongside her reported boyfriend at the time, Tom Cruise, the critics had it out for her. While everyone commented on her charm, she simply wasn’t taken seriously as an actress in the English language. “…her performance is seriously weakened by barely competent English-language line readings that are just one step above phonetic pronunciation,” wrote Stephen Holden in the New York Times. As her U.S. career continued, performances in flops like Sahara created the impression that Cruz’s individualism was being squashed by producers’ desire to employ her as simply another glamorous European face. Cruz next took a break from American moviemaking to reunite with Almodóvar, and her starring role in his Volver earned her another Goya as well as a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Then, playing Bardem’s tempestuous ex-lover in Woody Allen’s Barcelona-set Vicki Christina Barcelona, she won an Academy Award role in an English-language film that embraced all the elements of her character and abilities. She recently married Bardem, received acclaim for her performance in Marshall’s Italy-set Nine, and signed up for another big American film — the fourth installment of Pirates of the Caribbean.