Penélope and Javier

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Is there a more glamorous real-life couple on the world’s cinema screens (and stage) today than Spanish superstars Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem? At this year’s edition of the legendary Cannes Film Festival, the married actors walked up the steps of the historic red carpet where their newest film, Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) had the honored distinction of Opening Night Film, and their fairytale-like charisma carried echoes of enchanting on-screen/real-life movie couples … Bogart & Bacall … Bening & Beatty … a rarefied list.

The terrific US distributor Focus Features acquired Everybody Knows at Cannes and is planning a release in the coming months, which means soon all moviegoers will have a chance to see Cruz and Bardem’s sparks igniting in 2-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s first-ever Spanish language film. The wait will be more than worth it – although before then, there’s plenty of other chances for Penélope & Javier fans to see the couple’s famous chemistry at work.

The couple stars in Loving Pablo, the true story of the world’s most notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar (played by Bardem) and Colombia’s most famous TV journalist Virginia Vallejo (played by Cruz), who escaped the country in 2006 to re-establish her life in Miami, where she has lived ever since.  Directed with pulpy skill by Fernando León de Aranoa (Mondays in the Sun, Amador) and based on Vallejo’s own book about her experiences, Loving Pablo is a tremendously entertaining, full-blown embrace of ‘70s nostalgia and is kinetically boosted by the chemistry of its stars – Barden was nominated for Best Actor and Cruz was nominated for Best Actress at the 2018 Goya Awards in Spain.[/fusion_text][fusion_text]This summer also marks the 10 year anniversary of the release of Woody Allen’s only Spanish film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, for which Penélope Cruz won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (a nice bookend for Javier Bardem’s Oscar win the previous year, as Best Supporting Actor for No Country for Old Men). In the film, Cruz plays the ex-lover of Javier Bardem’s character, and it’s clear the chemistry between the two is far from over. Watching the heat between the two actors in this film, it’s not hard to imagine how real-life sparks must have re-ignited for the pair, who announced their surprise marriage to the world in 2010.

Those sparks are most palpably on display in the great Spanish director Bigas Luna’s classic 1992 sex comedy Jamón Jamón, which introduced Penélope Cruz in her first movie role, at the tender young age of 17. Jamón Jamón was only Bardem’s second movie role – he’s only 22 in the film. Playing “el chorizo”, a sexed-up macho who gets erect by having toros chase him in the nude at night, Bardem is hired by the domineering head of a male underwear empire to seduce Cruz, who works in the factory, but is now pregnant by the empire’s young scion. Watch the chemistry from the very earliest days of their adult lives, and you’ll see how completely Cruz and Bardem seemed to have been destined for each other!

Jaie Laplante

Jaie Laplante is the Miami Film Festival's executive director and director of programming. Learn more about Jaie on Programmers.