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Penélope Cruz: Mother, actress, and student of life

Penélope Cruz on "Parallel Mothers"
Penélope Cruz on "Parallel Mothers" 08:09

"I have always said to myself, I will never stop being the observer; I don't want to be the one observed," said actress Penélope Cruz. "How am I perceived? That doesn't matter."

She's a movie star who's spent three decades in the spotlight, but Cruz says she's not interested in her own image.

Correspondent Holly Williams asked, "Has that helped you hang on to your sanity as a celebrity?"

"Yes, and in terms of not believing either the great things that are said about you, [or] not believing the bad things, just going in your path, little by little, as a student of life, and that's what I consider myself."

Since making her film debut as a teenager, in 1992's "Jamón, Jamón," Cruz (now 47) has been dubbed a "screen goddess" by critics, with three Academy Award nominations, including one win. She's the only actress from Spain to take home an Oscar.

Actress Penélope Cruz. CBS News

Williams asked, "Over the last few years, you've made fewer Hollywood films and more films here in Spain. Is that a creative, artistic preference?"

"It's also because this is where I'm raising my kids," Cruz replied. "Of course, it makes me pass on a lot of things, and these years that are so important, I don't want to miss anything with them growing up."

Her new film, "Parallel Mothers," is all about motherhood, with some jarring twists. It's already won Cruz the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival.

It's Cruz's seventh collaboration with Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who wrote the role for her. "Even if one of them was a cameo, but I count all of them. And I hope many more," she said. 

Penélope Cruz and director Pedro Almodóvar filming "Parallel Mothers." El Deseo D.A. S.L.U./Photo by Iglesias Mas, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

He calls Cruz his muse. She told us it's the most important creative relationship of her career. Both of them, she said, are obsessive about their work.

"Is that part of what binds you together? You're obsessive about the work, both of you?" asked Williams.

"Yeah, I think so," Cruz replied. "You have to go all the way, and of course you have the safety net of knowing that it's a fiction, but have to really, really go there with no fear. But he's always there to pick me up, literally pick me up from the floor one time in one of these scenes, and I just could not come out of the scene. And when that happens, it is scary, but it's also a great feeling of, 'Okay, we really went to a place where we were supposed to go to tell this story.'"

To watch a trailer or "Parallel Mothers," click on the video player below:

PARALLEL MOTHERS | Official Trailer by Sony Pictures Classics on YouTube

Early on, Cruz's magnetic screen presence was also noticed in Hollywood, and she was lured across the Atlantic to star in big-budget features. She's one of a handful of non-native English speakers who've hit the big time, and is frequently compared to Sophia Loren.

Williams asked, "Do you feel that in Hollywood, because of your beauty, at times you've been typecast?"

Cruz said, "I feel like I've had great opportunities and that, of course I've said no to things, especially at the beginning, that maybe were, I don't know, maybe not interesting." 

"And not interesting because you were just the love interest?"

"No. It would be unfair for me to talk like that. Because I've been able to move back and forth, finding interesting things. But the most difficult lesson at the beginning for me was to learn that I had to say no to a lot of projects."

"And have you said no to some big parts and some big money in Hollywood?"

"Yes, yes. But I would never say which movies or with whom. I think that would be so, so rude of me to say, 'Oh, I said no to that or do that.' No, no, no."

Cruz is diplomatic about the industry, even when it comes to her name, which it turns out, we've been mispronouncing. Cruz told us she doesn't mind. For the record, the correct pronunciation of her name is Cruth, with a ceceo, a Spanish th.

Cruz won some of the best reviews of her career for her role in the film "Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen's sun-dappled love letter to Spain. Cruz played a troubled artist, co-starring with Javier Bardem, whom she later married.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (6/12) Movie CLIP - I Don't Trust Her (2008) HD by Movieclips on YouTube

It was an electrifying performance that earned Cruz an Oscar. "Has anybody ever fainted here?" she said, accepting the award in 2009. "Because I might be the first one!

"Thank you, Woody, for trusting me with this beautiful character. Thank you for having written over all these years some of the greatest characters for women."

But in 2014, controversy surrounding an old allegation of child sexual abuse against Allen was reignited. He vehemently denies the accusation.

Williams asked, "Some actors who have worked with Woody Allen have said, 'I regret working with him and I would never work with him again.'" 

"I don't want to talk about this, because I'm not the one to talk about it," Cruz said. 

"Everybody Knows (Todos Lo Saben)" & Opening Gala Red Carpet Arrivals - The 71st Annual Cannes Film Festival
Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem attend the opening night screening of "Everybody Knows (Todos Lo Saben)" at the 71st annual Cannes Film Festival, May 8, 2018, in Cannes, France. Toni Anne Barson/Getty Images

Speaking generally about the media, though, Cruz told us she has concerns about people being tried in the court of public opinion: "The speed of things nowadays is crazy, and it would take minutes to really alter the life of someone for the better or for the worse in a way that maybe could be no way back."

Cruz is now living nearly 6,000 miles from Hollywood, in her native Madrid ("This is truly, truly what feels like home"). She has two children with Bardem, who's also an Oscar-winner.

Williams asked, "What is that working relationship like?"

"Naturally, like, we don't look for projects to do constantly," Cruz said. "And in a way, it would be more comfortable, easier for schedules. But no, I think it's a way to also protect the relationship, not to be working all the time together." 

"Will you make more films together?"

"Once in a while," Cruz replied. "And he feels the same way – once every four or five years is OK for us." 

Actress Penélope Cruz with correspondent Holly Williams.  CBS News

Walking in the Spanish capital, Cruz said Madrid continues to be an inspiration for her as an artist: "Because it is so full of life. There is something in the atmosphere that is very – people are really warm, really affectionate."

Cruz is back home, right where she started. But her rare talent has won her global acclaim, and a life, she told us, beyond her wildest ambitions.

"It was like dreaming about going to the moon," she said. "So, if somebody would have told me at that age all those things are going to happen to you, you know, it was like science fiction. I could not even imagine."

WEB EXTRA: Penélope Cruz on protecting her children from social media     

Penélope Cruz on protecting her children from social media by CBS Sunday Morning on YouTube

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Story produced by Mikaela Bufano. Editor: Lauren Barnello. 

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