Being a mother has come naturally for Academy Award-winning actress, Penélope Cruz, as has playing the first female pirate (ever) in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Cruz plays Angelica, and in chatting, says she enjoyed being a pirate every bit as tricky and cunning as the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow.
She has also proven herself to be one of the most versatile actresses in the world, and becoming the first actress from Spain to be nominated and win an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Were you a fan of the first three films?
Yes, I had seen the three of them and I loved them. I laughed out loud watching them. I was amazed by the character that Johnny created. I remember when I saw the first one, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so brave and so brilliant.’
I was very happy when Rob told me about the possibility of doing this together. We were in London finishing “Nine” and he asked me, ‘Would you like to be part of ‘Pirates 4′ with me and Johnny?’
And I said, ‘of course.’ I have never done a movie like that and to go back to work with them again was something that made me very happy. Of course, Johnny and I hadn’t worked together for ten years.
What did you like about reuniting with Johnny and working together?
When we were together in “Blow,” we got along really well. We became friends. Then I didn’t see him for a long time, but now that I’ve spent a lot of time with him again, after all these years, it just gets better and better every day.
When I met him, one of the things that I was most surprised about was how humble he is. He’s so kind to everyone and so sweet and he has a really brilliant mind – smart, really clever, fast, really funny. He’s one of the funniest people I know and he has a very big heart. When you work with somebody like that it’s special. He’s a very unique human being.
You mentioned reuniting with Rob as well. What is it about him as a director that you love?
I love Rob. I had a great experience working on “Nine.” I had always wanted to do a musical. He comes from the dance world. He’s a dancer and a choreographer, and I’ve been a student of dance. I’ve never been a professional dancer, but I danced for 17 years, so I know the discipline and the sacrifices that are required to become a professional dancer.
He was one, plus a choreographer, so the work ethic that he has, he brings to the movies. He brings it to the movie set and that affects the whole tone of the movie, affects the whole crew. He creates this beautiful family of people working in the same direction, and everybody wants to make him happy because of the way he is, the way he treats everyone.
Rob can really handle an enormous amount of pressure and he will never lose his temper. He will never be disrespectful to anybody. I’ve never seen that and I’ve done two very long movies with him. So I really respect him for that because I know how hard it is when you are in charge of such a huge movie like this one and you have 400 people every day asking you questions and driving you crazy. And he has this sweet, soft tone all the time with everyone, and even when he was just sleeping three hours a day, he’s a gentleman, and it’s real, what you see from him.
Rob has brought a lot of new things. He has brought more humor. Also, the movie is 3D for the first time and he’s brought romance for Sparrow for the first time. I play the first female pirate and that’s a tone that feels very fresh and very new, and very, very funny, and I’m very happy about that. I’m happy that I sat down to watch the movie and it really makes you laugh and it flies. It’s like a bullet. And then it’s over and really? That’s two hours? I don’t know exactly how long the movie is, but it goes by as if it was five minutes, and that’s all because of Rob.
You mentioned playing the first female pirate ever. What is she like?
Angelica is a pirate and she has the pirate mind – tricky, manipulative, dangerous when she has to be. She loves games, but she has a good heart and her motivation is always a good one. But she has a religious background and very strong values. So she’s full of contradictions and I think that’s what makes the character so interesting. She knows that to get what she wants, she has to be tricky and she has to manipulate, for example, Jack Sparrow.
She knows that to be his equal, she has to be a very good liar, a very good actress in life, a very good manipulator. So to get what she wants, she’s capable of tricking anybody, but at the end, what she wants is something good.
She's particularly good at tricking Jack. Tell me about their dynamic.
Angelica wants a type of personal revenge with Jack. But at the same time, she needs Jack because they are both on a mission where they need each other.
So the whole time they are tricking each other but at the same time, they are helping each other. They have this dance with dialogue that is very clever, very well written. I think we had a great script to work with. It was great to create that type of relationship with Johnny, but he and I are always fighting in the movies we do, because in “Blow,” where we were married, we fought in every single scene. And in “Pirates,” we fight a lot, too, so we have to find one someday where we are not enemies. But it’s always enemies that love each other, you know.
Why does she need him? Does he need her?
They are both trying to find The Fountain of Youth, and Angelica has information that he needs, and he has information that she needs. And for many different reasons, we need each other. So there they are, stuck on a boat, trying to play this card. And that was a lot of fun, very fun to do, to create that relationship.
What did you think when you first saw the ship?
It was incredible to shoot on that huge ship. It was so beautiful and we were shooting in the middle of the night sometimes until the sun came up. And it was really magical to shoot on that boat. But we were lucky we were in so many beautiful locations in Hawaii, in Puerto Rico, on that little island, Palominito, that was beautiful, in London, Los Angeles. We went to so many places with the movie.
What was it like to do that?
One of the beautiful privileges of our work is that we get to travel so much to discover beautiful places. All the places we saw in Hawaii were so beautiful. And sometimes they take you to places that you would never see if you didn’t have this job or places where it’s hard to get to, or places where you need a special permit, like all the buildings they shot in England. We also get to learn to do other strange things like sword fighting.
Tell me about learning the sword fighting while being pregnant. How do you prepare to be a pirate?
I trained for two months before we started shooting, so I knew all the choreography. I trained with all the specialists and all the stuntmen and with my double – she’s amazing. I couldn’t do anything that was dangerous, and I was very protected by Rob and Johnny and Jerry [Bruckheimer] and the studio and everybody.
Do you like the physicality?
Yes. We approached the fight scenes like a dance number. In “Nine” we had a couple of very big musical numbers, and the same way we trained for those is how we trained for the fight scenes. Rob choreographed the fights almost like a dance. So that helped all of us to get it quicker.
What do you think makes Blackbeard such an interesting villain?
Well, he’s really dangerous. I think it’s very clever to cast Ian McShane because he’s such a great actor and he brings something to the character that is completely anti-cliché; he brings truth to everything he does. There is something in the eyes of that character that really makes you feel real fear. It’s never, ‘Oh, there’s the bad guy.’
He created a very complicated personality and I love that and it’s very, very clever on Rob’s part to cast him for this. I think Ian’s great. I couldn’t imagine anybody better to play that because he’s really an amazing actor, and what a great voice he has.
Your character wants to save him, but he also has edginess about him. You don’t know where he stands.
Yes. Angelica doesn’t want to admit that she cannot trust her father. She wants to give him a chance to change and she keeps fighting for that, but it’s very hard.
What do you think about this film? What makes it so special?
Well, there are not a lot of movies like this being made and I think there will be maybe less and less because it’s such a big production to put together. As an actor, to be part of one of these is a big privilege. Because first of all, you get to see from the inside how these movies are made. I love working in Europe and most of the times when I’m working in America, I tend to choose smaller projects with less action because that’s where I find the most interesting characters, but I have to say that here I found both.
I found a very interesting character in a movie that is really big and it gave me the opportunity to see how those movies are made. And I love the pirate world because it’s so attractive and so interesting. So, for many reasons, it was great. I feel so lucky that I can be part of this movie.