Penélope Cruz is probably the best known (current) Spanish actress worldwide. She’s also done a significant number of costume films! I think she’s very talented, and I like her slightly quirky look. Let’s take a wander through her historical costume filmography, shall we?
Softly From Paris (1991)
Some kind of French TV series involving lots of softcore erotica and fontange headdresses (which makes me think late 17th/early 18th century?).
Belle Epoque (1992)
During the Spanish Civil War in 1931, a military deserter stays with a family. There are five daughters, and he hooks up with each. Cruz plays the youngest daughter. I remember finding this charming at the time, but I wonder if that sexist plot has aged well?
La Celestina (1996)
A young nobleman falls in love and enlists a sorceress to help things along; Cruz plays the love interest.
The Girl of Your Dreams (1998)
A movie production leaves Franco’s Spain for Hitler’s Germany. Cruz is the lead actress.
Don Juan (1998)
Mid-17th century, the classic womanizer Don Juan pits two village girls (one of which is played by Cruz) against each other as they vie for his love.
Talk of Angels (1998)
An Irish woman (Polly Walker) moves to 1930s Spain to escape political issues, become a governess, gets the hots for Vincent Perez (well wouldn’t you?), finds more political issues … Cruz plays one of the governess’ charges.
The Hi-Lo Country (1998)
Two cowboys fall in love with the same girl; Cruz plays supporting character “Josepha.”
Spain, 1802, the Duchess of Alba gives a party and then is found dead the next morning. Cruz plays Pepita Tudo, the model of Goya’s famous painting “The Nude Maja.”
All the Pretty Horses (2000)
Set in the 1950s, two Texas cowboys go to Mexico and fall in love with the same woman. I have to include it so I can tell you this story: director Billy Bob Thornton gave an interview to Premiere magazine where he talked about casting this film. There was all kinds of pressure to cast various Anglo actresses in the lead, and he kept repeating in the article, “three words: [Anglo actress] ain’t Mexican.” He finally won out and was able to cast Cruz. I, being pedantic, wrote a letter to the editor (which got published in the next issue!) that simply said, “Five words for Billy Bob Thornton: Penélope Cruz ain’t Mexican either.”
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
Greece, World War II, Nicolas Cage stars and it looks shmaltzy, which is enough to make me skip it.
A deeply, DEEPLY bad movie that I have tried to watch at least twice and may someday get through for Snark Week. It’s a remake of a 1952 movie about a swashbuckler (Vincent Perez again) who is tricked into joining the army. There’s waaaaay too many buckles being swashed and tragic costumes.
Head in the Clouds (2004)
Per IMDB: “From the roaring 1920s to the ruinous Spanish Civil War and Adolf Hitler’s rise into power, the lives of an Irish schoolteacher, a provocative heiress and her Spanish muse are intricately interlaced, sharing the same destiny and passion.” Cruz must be the Spanish muse.
Cruz joins Salma Hayek as a team of bank robbers in turn-of-the-century Mexico.
A Matador’s Mistress (2008)
The real-life story of famed bullfighter Manolete (Adrien Brody) and his love with actress Lupe Sino. Despite how good that sounds, it’s snooze-er-iffic.
Every time we do one of these lists, somebody pipes up to say “What about Nine?! It’s period!” I guess so (1960s?). It just seems like The Patriarchy in action (a film director struggles with his wife, mistress, muse, mother, etc., all of whom seem to spend the film in Sexy Lingerie [puke]).
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Will this vaguely 18th-century franchise ever die? Probably not! Cruz plays the daughter of Blackbeard.
The Queen of Spain (2016)
A sequel to The Girl of Your Dreams, now Cruz’s team is filming a movie about Isabella of Castile.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
The Branagh version of the Agatha Christie classic. Cruz plays Pilar, whose connection to the murdered I don’t want to give away.
Which is your favorite of Penélope Cruz’s historical roles?