Last Updated Jan 18, 2010 4:30 AM EST
At 35, Spanish actress Penelope Cruz is one of the most sensual and photographed women in the world. She has won critical acclaim, not only in Europe, but now, also in Hollywood. Last year she took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress -- the first Spanish actress ever to win an Academy Award.
How did this versatile performer from a working class suburb of Madrid become this generation's Sophia Loren?
In part, it could be by turning in performances like the one she gives playing Carla, the seductive mistress, in the movie "Nine" - her first time singing and dancing in a film.
In an interview with Charlie Rose, Cruz said she trained for three months to do a number in the movie.
She told Rose, "I had so much fun."
And Cruz's enjoyment shows in her provocative performance.
Cruz loves what she does. She's a risk taker. She's also a tireless worker who's known for throwing herself into roles, pushing herself to the limit. And that's just what she does in "Nine" to make her character Carla a version of everyman's fantasy woman.
Cruz said playing Carla "really was a dream that came true."
In "Nine," Daniel Day Lewis plays the character Guido, just another in a string of men who fall hopelessly in love with the obsessed, sensual, unstable women Cruz loves to play.
"I saw something in Carla that's a little bit off," Cruz said. "I think she's a very insecure woman, and she's a little bit stuck on using her sexuality, because she's so obsessed with Guido that that's like one of her weapons."
However, perhaps the most extreme example of this kind of character is her portrayal of the suicidal painter Maria Elena in Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."
"I had so much fun playing that woman," Cruz said.
Cruz explained, "She thought she was too special to be happy -- that she was a genius."
She added, "(Maria Elena) would not allow herself to become more stable and more sane, because she thinks that if she does that, she's afraid that she will become somebody boring and mediocre."