From rear to maternity...

by BAZ BAMIGBOYE, Daily Mail

Last updated at 11:38 26 May 2006

Penelope Cruz received a couple of telling pointers from her director Pedro Almodovar on how to 'find' the essence of the earthy woman she plays in Volver, their latest movie together.

"He told me the emphasis had to be less on these," she said, pointing to her chest, while clutching her Dolce & Gabbana jacket tightly closed with her other hand because a spaghetti strap on her top had broken, "and more on on this" - pointing to her derriere.

We were sitting alone in a hideaway corner of the Martinez Hotel's sprawling lobby, so heaven knows what passers-by thought we were up to!

Almodovar explained to me later that Penelope's bosom is "one of the visual virtues of cinema" - but the bottom of Penelope's character Raimunda "represents a glorious maternity".

The actress noted that her behind was rather smaller than required. "We had to work on it," she said, laughing.

"I put on three kilos and Pedro asked me to stay at that weight level during the filming. He said a big bottom would push me down closer to the earth.

"And it was necessary to do those things - otherwise how could anyone believe that I was the working mother of a teenage girl.

"I had to learn to cut, slice, chop and prepare food as if I had been doing it every day for years. 'It had to look natural, not fake. I had to take on the soul of Raimunda, a real woman of La Mancha."

The three months of preparation, taking the script apart six hours a day, going for long walks with Almodovar to establish exactly who Raimunda is, has clearly paid off.

Her Raimunda's in touch with the elements in the way the great Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren were in the days of Italian neo-realism cinema.

Penelope's certainly the favourite to win the best actress award in Cannes - there are at least two contenders from other movies, but hers is the 'interpretation feminine' that everybody is talking about.

As I observed in this space last week, Volver is concerned with death, mourning, the nature of women and the undependability of men.

The 32-year-old actress has been in Cannes for several days (she has to return to southern Spain to resume shooting a movie opposite Adrien Brody) and has wowed the crowds with several sweeping gowns.

But, she said, when she's at home she's "like a monkey, because I am always barefoot and sometimes I leave the house barefoot because I've forgotten my shoes".

"Going to premieres and promoting films, it's part of the deal. I don't wear Dolce & Gabbana to bed," she told me, as she toyed with an aquamarine, diamond and platinum ring from Chopard and another sapphire and diamond number she found in an antique jewellers in London. Seems to me her future's as bright as her gems. Volver opens in the UK in late August.

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