May 21, 2011

Penelope Cruz, the First Female Pirate in "On Stranger Tides"

Playing Angelica, the first-ever female pirate in Disney's “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” was just one of the lures for Penélope Cruz, an Academy Award®–winning actress of international repute and it didn’t hurt that Cruz was already an admirer of the entire franchise. “I’m a very big fan of the first three movies,” she confesses, “and of what Johnny Depp did in those movies. This is a great adventure for any actor to be a part of. It’s an adventure every day; you can never be bored.”

For Cruz, it was a reunion with both Depp and Rob Marshall, who directed her in “Nine,” for which she received another Oscar nomination. “Two of the greatest experiences I’ve had working with people in this industry were with Johnny and Rob,” says Cruz. “Rob can handle huge amounts of pressure and always be a gentleman to everybody. He’s a very special human being, and I think anyone you ask will tell you the same thing. Johnny and I really loved working together 10 years ago in `Blow,' and I’m so happy to be around him again. He’s so humble, smart and one of the funniest people I know. His talent is incredible, and he’s another gentleman, like Rob. The more you work in this business, you just want to be around nice people, and they are on the top of the list for that.”

Q. What is it about Rob Marshall as a director that you enjoy so much?

Cruz. Rob has brought a lot of new things [to the “Pirates” franchise]. 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.

Q. Tell me about your character, Angelica, and what she’s like.

Cruz. 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. And 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.

Q. She’s particularly good at tricking Jack. Tell me about the dynamics.

Cruz. 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 dialog 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.

Q. Why does she need him? What’s the mission? What’s going on?

Cruz. 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.

Q. What did you think when you first saw the ship; when you first stepped onto a pirate ship?

Cruz. 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.

Q. How do you prepare to be a female pirate?

Cruz. 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 and the studio and everybody.

Q. Can you comment on the new things that people get to see in the film? The mermaids and zombies, and how exciting those characters are?

Cruz. Everybody wants to see mermaids. We all fantasize about how mermaids would be if they were real. And the mermaids in this movie are beautiful, but they are dangerous. I remember on the set everybody wanted to see the girls, the mermaids, and to see the drawings of the pictures of how they would look at the end after all the special effects were finished. And now that I have seen it, it’s really beautiful. It’s very attractive and very sexy, and mysterious; really, really beautiful images that the filmmakers created.

(Opening across the Philippines on May 20 in IMAX 3D, Digital 3D and regular format, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.)

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