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GOODNIGHT SWEETHEART; PROFILE PENELOPE CRUZ LOOKS FORWARD TO A BUSY NEW YEAR.

Byline: By JAMES MOTTRAM

It's no surprise that the ravishing Penelope Cruz once starred in a film called The Girl Of Your Dreams. Known outside her native country as the Spanish Enchantress, the 33-year-old face of L'Oreal has been bewitching men with her dark eyes and luscious lips since she became a fantasy figure with her 1992 debut, Jamon, Jamon.

And, coincidentally, she also plays a fantasy figure in her new film, The Good Night, which is released today. The man lucky enough to fall under her spell is British actor Martin Freeman, best known as Tim from The Office. In the New York-set romantic comedy, Freeman's faded pop star begins to dream of a mysterious model (played by Cruz) whom he then meets for real.

Freeman enjoyed making the film - which is directed by Jake Paltrow, Gwyneth's brother - and was evidently taken with his co-star.

"She's delightful," Martin admits. "All the more because she can act. It is depressing when you're working with someone who can't. But, fortunately, Penelope can rock the house."

Having dated the likes of Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey and Josh Hartnett, Cruz is currently stepping out with Javier Bardem, who last weekend won a Golden Globe for his performance as the terrifying villain in the Coen brothers' heartpounding new film, No Country For Old Men.

After recently collaborating with Bardem on Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen's forthcoming Spanishshot movie, the pair were snapped cuddling up together while on holiday in the Maldives.

There were also seen getting "very touchy-feely", according to one source, at the New York Film Festival in October, but Cruz has always denied romance, claiming that Javier is just "a friend and the best actor in the world".

Penelope is most celebrated for her Spanish language movies under the directorship of Pedro Almodovar and last year was nominated for an Oscar thanks to her stunning turn in his drama Volver. It is hoped that The Good Night will finally break what trade paper Variety calls her "so-called English language curse". Many of her Hollywood efforts to date have flopped, and trailer trash comedy Waking Up In Reno, the Bob Dylan-penned Masked And Anonymous and period story Head In The Clouds were not even released in the UK.

And if The Good Night represents a step forward in her English-language film career, then the forthcoming Manolete - the true story of a bullfighter from the 1940s - looks to be a giant leap for Cruz-kind.

Oscar-winning Adrien Brody plays the dashing Manolete while Penelope is his girlfriend Antonita 'Lupe' Sino.

"It's a love story," she explains. "But my character didn't like bullfighting and wanted him to quit."

Aside from this, Cruz is also cranking up a secondary career as a producer, having recently bought the rights to Javier Moro's novel, Indian Passion. It is the true story of a woman in Spain at the beginning of the last century who became a princess in India when she was just 18.

Admitting she's "maybe a little bit of a workaholic", Madrid-born Cruz says it's important to her that Spanish cinema is still high on her agenda.

"I don't want to stop working in my country," she insists.

No doubt much of this is inspired by her own arts-loving family, with sister Monica a flamenco dancer and TV star, while brother Eduardo is a musician. Penelope is clearly a family girl at heart and often gets homesick when she is in LA.

"I call them everyday and they come to visit me," she says. "I cannot bear going a long time without seeing them."

Although LA is now her home from home - where she hangs out with the likes of Mexican starlet Salma Hayek - the one thing you won't see is Penelope following the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton into a life of Hollywood excess.

"I don't smoke, I don't drink and I hate drugs," she smiles. "I try to eat well and I try to sleep at least seven or eight hours a night."

Down to earth Penelope even claims she will never have cosmetic surgery.

"I want to be 80 one day and celebrate that," she says. "I want to have the face of my grandmothers and have their wrinkles."

Even so, it's not hard to imagine Penelope still enchanting men well into her old age.

The Good Night is out today.

I don't smoke, I don't drink, I hate drugs and I try to get eight hours sleep a night

CAPTION(S):

FANTASY FIGURE: Penelope Cruz; CRUZ IN THE NEWS; ENCHANTRESS: Penelope with Tom Cruise (far left) whom she dated for three years, Josh Hartnett, Matthew McConaughey and new love Javier Bardem; THEN AND NOW: With Depp in Blow (top) and Freeman in The Good Night
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 18, 2008
Words:794
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