Penelope Cruz is Poised for Breakout with Two New Films

You don't glimpse any of her fiery side in interviews, however. Cruz is thoughtful and focused.

She's obviously giddy about one thing: finally doing a big-budget musical —"Nine for Chicago" director Rob Marshall, which she starts rehearsing in August for an October shoot. "I'm very excited. All the years I studied dance — 17 years — I get to use it here with the wonderful numbers Rob Marshall put together," she says.

But otherwise, she's somewhat reserved. She doesn't pretend to be your friend or engage in idle banter about her favorite foods. She's an avid reader, about to start Yann Martel's "Life of Pi". She gets cold easily and wonders why, especially in Manhattan, so many office buildings pump out overzealous air conditioning. She hopes Democratic contender Barack Obama wins the presidency.

And she's serious about keeping her personal life under wraps. She will not discuss her relationship with her "Vicky Cristina" co-star Bardem. So undercover is Cruz that even Allen didn't notice sparks flying between the two.

"They're just very professional, always running their lines and practicing and practicing, something I never do," he says. "They didn't bother me. They'd sit in their makeup chairs and run their lines and practice scenes. All they did was work all the time."

Those who know Cruz say she's tremendously fun and loose in her personal life. "She loves karaoke. She's really good at singing Lenny Kravitz songs and rap and hip-hop; she's really good at P. Diddy songs," Coixet says. "She eats a lot. She's really skinny, but she eats a lot. There's nothing dirty about her — and that's dirty. She doesn't even drink! It's horrible."

But the actress won't divulge what she does for fun at home in Madrid. "I don't feel like people really care what I do in my time to relax," she says with a shrug. "It's true that I spend a lot of time working. I was a workaholic, but now I am more balanced."

She says she's working on kicking back more and plans to do only one movie a year going forward — two, at most — to focus more on her off-screen life.

"It takes discipline for me to stop worrying in general. It has been in my nature always," she says. "I'm as driven, or more, but about more specific things and appreciating the balance between the time for work and the time for yourself. You have to live."

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