Wed, Feb 04, 2009 - Page 15 News List

Cruz control

By Helen Pidd  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

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She insists she wasn’t deterred from doing Vicky Cristina Barcelona by the poor reviews and equally poor performances of Allen’s recent cinematic adventures. She is shocked to hear that Scoop, the director’s second outing with Johansson, never even got a UK release. “Really?” she says, her voice going up with a tinkle on the second syllable.

Cruz has kept parallel careers running in Hollywood and Spain, taking often uncertain roles in misfiring English-language films, which contrasted with huge European successes such as Volver. She found Allen most unlike the other American directors she has worked with. “He has a great lack of social veneer, and you see so little of that sometimes in places like LA. He speaks only when he has something to say and is really honest.”

She will not hear a bad word about his films, and even says the excruciating Match Point is one of her favorites. She is horrified when I tell her it is the only film I have ever walked out of. Her affection may have something to do with the fact that Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the first English-language film in which she really shines.

To illustrate how unsleazy Allen is, she offers the following anecdote: when it came to the day to shoot the kiss between Cruz and Johansson, rather than spend hours rehearsing the moment of passion and observing it from every angle, Allen announced that he was off to see his dermatologist instead. “He had a spot on his hand, and he was very worried. I was saying to Woody, ‘How do you want us to do this? How do you want to shoot this?’ But he said he had to go for two hours. He didn’t want to wait until the end of the day to go to the doctor, which I thought was brilliant,”

says Cruz.

The spot turned out to be nothing, and Allen galloped through the scene with as little preparation and angst as the rest of the film: “We didn’t rehearse at all, which gives you a lot of vertigo as an actor,” says Cruz. “Often the scenes were done in two takes.” She thinks it is all part of Allen’s strategy to keep the actors — who, as a breed, are prone to “self-analysis and self-destruction,” she says — on their toes.

She admits that she can be especially hard on herself at times. Allen has said that she doesn’t appreciate how terrific she is: “She’s slightly insecure and thinks she’s not going to be able to do something well or that she needs extra takes to do it, which isn’t true at all.”

It may come as some comfort to the rest of the world’s women to hear that she says she doesn’t believe it when people tell her how gorgeous she is. Surely she doesn’t wake up in the mornings, look in the mirror and think “urgh” like the rest of us? Apparently so. It is not soothing to be told that you are beautiful, she says. “Maybe all actors are insecure ... It doesn’t mean you need more compliments, it just means your ego doesn’t really get affected when you hear them, because you don’t believe them.”

I ask her if she ever wishes she were more plain-looking so she could get different parts, but she cuts me off. “I don’t want to talk about that because you make a big deal by talking about it, you know?” Her fluent but accented English meanders a little as she tries to explain herself. “My attention is not there, on the advantages or disadvantages or anything like that. My attention is not there, so by talking about those things you make them a big monster.”

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