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Penelope Cruz's Adventure

International action sensation Penelope Cruz, one of the most sought after actresses in the world, stars in "Sahara," an old-fashioned Hollywood action adventure, co-starring Matthew McConaughey.

The Spanish-born Cruz tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm she was very happy when director Breck Eisner offered her the part of Dr. Eva Rojas, a World Health Organization (WHO) doctor on the trail of a mysterious illness.

"I read the script and I felt it had something I was missing in a lot of movies, the magic of 'Indiana Jones,' and that kind of action adventure where you feel like anything can happen to you from any of the characters."

On location in Morocco, the company shot in several locations, including a lake near Marrakech, but most of the desert locations were filmed near Erfoud, a tiny town on the edge of the Sahara, near the Algerian border.

"I wasn't afraid of any of the places where we lived," Cruz says. "Sometimes, we had to sleep in tents and trailers because of the locations. They didn't have hotels. But I just went into the adventure. It was the personality of the character."

And as in any good action adventure, there is a little bit of romance. Rojas is the kind of woman who rescues Dirk (McConaughey) on more than one occasion, the kind of woman he would be interested in, Cruz says.

And it's been widely reported that after the filming wrapped, their relationship continued off screen.

Cruz, who dated co-star Tom Cruise after his highly publicized breakup from Nicole Kidman, was asked if keeping her private life private is hard to do, considering she and McConaughey are such high-profile personalities.

"At the beginning it's very confusing and you get defensive when somebody asks you. When I started in this business, I was 16. So I was very confused about people asking me. How can they be so brave? I just met you.

"But now, I deal with it in a different way. I don't talk about it. I never talk about anything private. Not only to protect not only myself, or that relationship, but to protect my family, the people around me. Once you open that door, it's very difficult to close," Cruz says.

Someone she loves talking about is Salma Hayek, one of her best buddies in Hollywood. In a recent episode of "Punk'd," Cruz played a prank on her friend in restaurant in L.A., where Hayek was being blamed for an overflowing toilet.

"I thought it was hilarious," Cruz says. "Ashton told me the story and he said, 'Women don't want to do it. But do you think it's funny with women?' And I said, 'Of course, you have to do this with women. And I'll help you. I have the perfect victim for this!' I knew that Salma was going to react in a very funny way because she's very strong and she was there in trying to bring justice to the table because they were blaming her. They were blaming us."

Now, Cruz says she has to be on alert because she knows Hayek will return the favor.

"She'll try to get me," Cruz says. "But it's not going to be easy because now every day I see something weird, I think that they're hiding somewhere behind the corner. So I'm looking out. But they can try. It's not going to be easy. She said she's going to try to get me back. We'll see."

About Penelope Cruz

  • Born in Madrid, Spain, on April 28, 1974
  • She began studying dance as a teenager. At age 15, she auditioned for a talent agent who signed her immediately. Within two years, she had segued to the big screen in "El Laberinto Griego/The Greek Labyrinth" in 1992 before her breakthrough in "Jamon Jamon". In the Bigas Lunas' American art-house hit she was the sexy ingenue.
  • In 1993, she played the part of the Virgin Mary in "Per Amore, Solo per amore/For Love, Only for Love." And attempting to broaden her employment opportunities, Cruz began acting in English in the British miniseries "Framed."
  • In 1994, she solidified her status as a rising star playing the virginal Luz in Ferdinand Trueba's Oscar-winning "Belle Epoch." And she went on to appear as the sweet charge of an Irish governess in the period drama "Talk of Angels" (shot in 1994; released theatrically in 1998)
  • In 1997, she was a medieval bride in "Celestina" and a pregnant prostitute in Pedro Almodovar's "Live Flesh."
  • In 1998, she portrayed the supportive girlfriend of a man disfigured in car accident in Alejandro Amenabar's "Open Your Eyes." Also in this year, she reteamed with Trueba and Almodovar. Purportedly based on a true incident, Trueba's "The Girl of My Dreams/La Nina de tus ojos" allowed the actress to pay homage to her grandmother in her portrayal of an Adalusian cabaret singer trapped in Nazi Germany who catches the attention of propaganda minister Josef Goebbels.
  • She played the Mexican girlfriend of Billy Crudup's cattle rancher in Stephen Frears' "The Hi-Lo Country."
  • And she played a bookish barmaid who catches the eye of Scotsman Douglas Henshall in the fantasy romantic comedy "Twice Upon a Yesterday/If Only/The Man with Rain in His Shoe."
  • In 1999, Almodovar, once again had her playing a woman with child in the Cannes favorite "Todo Sobre Mi Madre/All About My Mother."
  • In 2000, she worked as the female lead opposite Matt Damon in Billy Bob Thornton's screen version of "All The Pretty Horses," and the lead as a South American chef coping with her newfound success when she lands a TV show in the USA in the comedy "Woman on Top."
  • In 2001, she performed in "Blow" with Johnny Depp and "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" with Nicolas Cage. But it would be a role opposite Tom Cruise, both on screen and off, that would propel the actress to the forefront of Hollywood.
  • After being cast as Cruise's love interest Sofia in "Vanilla Sky," writer-director Cameron Crowe's Americanized reworking of "Open Your Eyes" (Cruz played the same role she did in the original), Cruz embarked on a highly publicized relationship with her world-famous leading man, shortly after his notoriously acrimonious split with Nicole Kidman. The couple was catapulted to the front of the headlines, and Cruz became a well-known personality.
  • In 2002, she appeared briefly in the comedy "Waking Up In Reno" and in 2003 she delivered a turn as Chloe - a mental patient who believes she consorts with demons and begins to suck her former therapist (Halle Berry) into her dark world in the thriller "Gothika."
  • In 2004, she played support to Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend in the wartime melodrama "Head in the Clouds" as a bohemian drawn into a strange menage.
  • Upcoming films for Cruz include "Don't Move," for which she won the Italian Academy Award; "Bandidas," opposite Salma Hayek; and a new film with Pedro Almodóvar.
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