Penélope Cruz covers ELLE’s February 2024 issue, on newsstands February 6. The noted empath, devoted mother, and mesmerizing star of Ferrari is hard not to fall in love with. In the February cover story penned by Sloane Crosley, Cruz opens up about preparing for her role as Laura Ferrari: “Some called her crazy. The word that has been used for every woman in history to justify suppression”; how she develops empathy for every character she plays: “Sometimes [the characters I play] can be uncomfortable and painful. It’s hard to let them go, but at the end, I always feel they made me a little bit more compassionate than I was two months ago. And with the safety net that you know this is not your reality. It creates less judging and more compassion in every area of my life”; and how she feels about turning 50: “It’s a huge, beautiful thing, and I really want to celebrate that with all my friends. It means I’m here and I’m healthy, and it’s a reason to have a party.”
Cruz on her latest role of Laura Ferrari, the hardened wife of Enzo Ferrari (played by Adam Driver) in Michael Mann’s breakneck biopic Ferrari: It’s not her first time playing a biographical figure and certainly not her first “homage to a woman in a difficult situation.” She embodied her friend Donatella Versace in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. But Laura is different. For one thing, she is not an internationally recognized name, so Cruz felt the weight of “giving her a voice for the first time.” For another, she arrives on screen bereaved, already grieving the loss of her son. “Every day is a question of how she makes it through the day. She has this tragedy that she will never recover from, and it’s also what made their marriage break because they both feel they failed to save him.”
On Cruz’s research for the role of Laura and common misconceptions about her: One can sense the depth of Cruz’s research as a battery of emotions make their way across her face in Ferrari’s early scenes. “I found all these letters between them, these real love letters where, even after everything was deteriorating for them as a couple, the love and respect was very strong, even if later there was a lot of betrayal. They built this company together. When we were filming in Modena, there’s so much other people didn’t know. Or didn’t want to know. I went to the factory and met people who knew Laura, and it’s like they didn’t want to mention how much power she had. You know she slept with the tires? The night before races, she would sleep with the tires so that no one would sabotage them. But people would say no, no, she was a difficult woman. Very sour and unpredictable. Some called her crazy. The word that has been used for every woman in history to justify suppression.”
On why she has a fear of driving: “My sister was run over by a car in front of me when I was eight or nine. I remember she was wearing a red coat. Speaking of red! And for me, time stopped. It’s a great trauma, because I saw her losing consciousness. And I was numb in the hospital, telling people, ‘Oh, my sister just got run over by a car.’” Her sister survived, but adult Cruz suspects she “would have been hysterical” if she had witnessed such a severe accident now.
On how she has difficulty regulating the degree of empathy she feels and how much seeps into her personal root system while playing roles: There’s a “back-and-forth dance between fiction and reality,” which she realizes “plays into a certain stereotype” of actors, but that doesn’t make it any less true. “I’m lucky to have it, but maybe it makes me feel or suffer things more. I can feel it; it’s like a hypersensitivity in every way—visually, to sound, to people’s feelings. It’s been one of the main things I deal with in therapy: how to work a balance so I can keep feeling those things without making those feelings my own… Sometimes [the characters I play] can be uncomfortable and painful. It’s hard to let them go, but at the end, I always feel they made me a little bit more compassionate than I was two months ago. And with the safety net that you know this is not your reality. It creates less judging and more compassion in every area of my life.”
On how she is private about and protective of her children with Javier Bardem, Luna, 10, and Leo, 12 and how they do not have social media accounts or phones: “It’s for them to decide if they are going to have a job that is more exposed to the public or not. They can talk about that when they’re ready.” … It should come as no surprise that Cruz’s children do not have social media accounts, but they also “don’t even have phones. It’s so easy to be manipulated, especially if you have a brain that is still forming. And who pays the price? Not us, not our generation, who, maybe at 25, learned how a BlackBerry worked. It’s a cruel experiment on children, on teenagers.”
On how much is made in Hollywood about her age, or agelessness: “But you know why I don’t worry about that?” she asks, smiling. “Because people have been asking me about age since I was twentysomething. I was more bothered then than now. Now it makes more sense, to discuss turning 50. It’s a huge, beautiful thing, and I really want to celebrate that with all my friends. It means I’m here and I’m healthy, and it’s a reason to have a party. But when I was 25, they would ask me these psychotic questions, things you would not believe, and the only weapon I would have was not to answer. Even now, on the red carpet, when they shout to ‘Turn around,’ I always pretend I didn’t hear what they said.”
On a story that is emblematic of the experience of fame: “Let me tell you a story,” she continues, gesturing at the muted horizon. “All of that is the area where I was born and grew up, where I went to school, where my mother had her hair salon. Somewhere in that neighborhood, I was walking with my dad after my two first movies had come out at the same time, Jamón Jamón and Belle Epoque, and a car passed by and a guy screamed, ‘I love you!’ and I swear to you, five minutes later, another car came by and another guy screamed, ‘F**k you!’ And I looked at my dad and we didn’t say anything. But it was like, Okay. Here, in this moment, is a condensed preview of the nature of fame. And all that love and all that anger, I don’t think one is more dangerous than the other.”
On how she’s found an ability to insulate herself by doing fewer films and corresponding press than she used to: “I don’t have the ambition of my twenties and thirties, shooting nonstop; I did that for 20 years.”
[Photo Credit: Zoey Grossman for ELLE Magazine]
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