Byline: JANE GORDON
IF Penelope Cruz is suffering from a broken heart on the day we meet, she doesn't show it. The ravishing actress - who is probably marginally better known for the Hollywood men she has partnered than the Hollywood films she has starred in - is a week away from officially announcing that her two-year relationship with Matthew McConaughey is over. But today, apart from a slight prickliness when 'personal matters' are mentioned (more of which later) and the nervous way in which she picks at one of her nails (which are Coleen-style extensions), there is no initial indication of any underlying tension.
Charming, engaging and hugely impressive in the way she manages to switch instantly from Spanish through French (we meet in Cannes) to English, she is the consummate professional - anxious only to promote her new film, Volver.
Which is not, perhaps, surprising, because her performance as Raimunda in Pedro Almodvar's darkly comic movie will remind audiences why it was that Penelope, now 32, found her way to Hollywood in the first place.
She is mesmeric in her role as the hardworking mother of an adolescent girl, who has to cope with the demands of her sleazy, unemployed husband and the spectre of her own mother's return from the dead.
'This is the most complex character that anybody has given me and the biggest challenge of my career, because she changes her mood every 15 seconds. It was also the most enjoyable role I have played - even the very emotional scenes, when I was terrified the night before, …