Penelope Cruz wins first Oscar for Spanish actress

Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:38am EST
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Penelope Cruz became the first Spanish-born actress to win an Oscar by taking the best supporting actress award on Sunday for her role as tempestuous artist Maria Elena in Woody Allen's romantic comedy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Cruz, 34, thanked both Allen and Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar for their roles in shaping her career and dedicated the gold statuette to the actors from her country.

"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," she said.

With her Oscar win, Cruz, joins fellow actresses Dianne Wiest and Mira Sorvino in scoring best supporting-actress Oscars for their performances in Woody Allen films.

"I grew up in a place called Alcobendas, where this was not a very realistic dream," said Cruz.

Dressed in a 60-year-old ivory Pierre Balmain vintage gown and fighting back tears, Cruz asked anyone had ever fainted while accepting an Oscar. "I might be the first one."

Born in Madrid to a hairdresser and an auto mechanic, Cruz got her big break in the Spanish film industry in 1992 with "Jamon Jamon."

She captured the attention of the Oscar-winning Almodovar, who cast her in various movies including the 2006 film "Volver," which earned her a best actress Oscar nomination for her turn as a woman who kills her abusive husband.   Continued...

<p>Penelope Cruz holds the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in "Vicky Christina Barcelona" during the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2009. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>