The sexy and electrifying Spanish star captured U.S. nationwide attention after her role as "Flor Moreno" in the 2004 movie "Spanglish". Born on January 2, 1976, in Seville Spain, the slender and athletic Paz first dreamed of being a sports star and later aspired to politics. But at age 15, all it took was a day at the theater to cement her ambitions; a performance of La Casa de Bernarda Alba set her sights on acting for good. At 16, Paz left school and patiently waited for the prestigious Centro Andaluz de Teatro acting school to accept her. The fact that she directed a Spanish play in the meantime certainly didn't hurt.After two years at the acting school and another two studying journalism, Paz moved to Madrid, where she sought fame. She changed her name to Paz Vega (her grandmother's last name) and worked in bars while auditioning for every gig she heard about. Her big break came on TV, where she appeared in three episodes of the Spanish series Menudo es mi padre. Two other series, Mas que amigos and Companeros, gained much from her energy and acting vim. Paz's efforts eventually paid off. In 1999, she got her first major movie role in Zapping, in which she played a hot sex-loving vixen who snagged another woman's husband. That same year, she also had a minor part in Sobrevivire (I Will Survive), which finally got her noticed. Paz then returned to television with the career-making role of Laura in the series, 7 vidas.
It was that role that endeared her to Spaniards nationwide. Filmmaker Mateo Gil liked Paz so much that he gave her a major part in his movie Nadie conoce a nadie (Nobody Knows Anybody, 1999). As she juggled TV and movies, she quickly learned the ins and outs of the film industry and soon became a pro. Movie director Julio Medem saw her potential and asked Vega to leave her TV role to dedicate herself to his new project. His film would be so provocative, steamy and sensual that it would either be a runaway hit or an embarrassing flop. He therefore needed the right actress.
In 2001, Lucia y el sexo (Sex and Lucia) hit theaters. It told the story, in graphic and lurid detail, of an innocent girl who slowly discovers her sexuality. Paz took it all off, acting with her whole body in a gush of sensuality. Sex and Lucia became an international hit and won Paz a Goya, Spain's biggest movie award, for Best New Actress.
With success guaranteed, Vega was courted by the biggest names in the film industry. Spain's most important director, Pedro Almodovar, gave her a part in his award-winning film Hable con ella (Talk to Her, 2002). Soon after, she was seen in the musical romantic comedy, El otro lado de la cama (The Other Side of the Bed, 2002). After two more movies, including a rendition of Carmen in 2003, Paz started being coveted abroad. James L. Brooks, of The Simpsons and As Good as It Gets fame, recently signed her for his new directing project, a comedy called Spanglish, with Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni. This movie will no doubt raise her profile in the U.S. and get her more movie roles, like fellow Spanish actress Penelope Cruz. She's already on the right track, with 2005's Un angel en la oscuridad in the pipeline. In the meantime, Paz Vega lives in Madrid with husband Orson Salazar.
Viva La Vega
Actress Paz Vega has a passion for dressing up. So, with Milan Fashion Week in full swing, we ask her to pick the show-stopping pieces from Armani, Gucci and Missoni's new spring collections
Paz Vega is an unapologetically glossy haired and sloe-eyed cliche of Southern European beauty. The 29-year-old Spanish actress - who made her name in Julio Medem's Sex and Lucia and who is on the brink of breaking through into the mainstream multiplexfriendly big time with a starring role in culture-clashy rom-com Spanglish - is decadently curved, long-lashed, extravagantly accented and the natural successor to Penelope Cruz's hot new Latina crown. And she's also an unabashed fan of a good frock.
'Big dress, cocktails, party - I love that. It is my work, but my work allow me to have glamour, to wear beautiful and amazing dresses, to go to big ceremonies.' Her constantly changing look (Vega does insouciant casual hip quite as well as she does structured glamour) has earned her style-icon status in Madrid's most fashionable circles, and access to the most cachet collections. 'For me, the best is John Galliano,' she says. 'I like Valentino, Armani, [Madridbased designer] Hannibal Laguna... all different. Armani is clear, cool, which I like very much; but for me, John Galliano is amazing. He doesn't have rules. I like for that. But what is my style? I can't describe. My style go with me. It depend how I feel, what is my state of mind.'
It wasn't the mindless pursuit of couture - and the other trimmings of a celebrity lifestyle - that inspired Vega to act in the first place. 'My grandfather was a bullfighter, my sister is flamenco dancer, so maybe my family have that energy. Art, creativity, it is always very important to us. But for me, I went to the theatre when I was 16, I saw a play by García Lorca, I thought: "Oh, that is what I want to be in my life!" It was like, "Ah! Revelation!" The atmosphere, the energy, the energy of all actors. This is what I want.' She began attending drama classes in her free time and, aged 20, she left her hometown of Seville for Madrid. 'In three months I got my first job in TV serial, in sitcom.' A starring role in Sex and Lucia in 2001 earned Vega a Goya award, and led to parts in several films including Pedro Almodóvar's Talk To Her. 'For that moment, for one hour, I felt very happy. But then after, nothing change. And really, sometime you can win for the situation, not for the work. So I would like an Oscar because it is the top, but I can't live just thinking: "I want that prize."'
Vega is, she admits, inherently glamorous, and an admirer of glamour. Her early experiences of LA disappointed her on this score. 'When I arrive there for Spanglish, I say: "This? This is Hollywood? Oh. Where is the glamour?"' She found it eventually. 'When you live there, in the end, you can feel the glamour.' But she wouldn't leave Madrid permanently for California. 'All my life is in Spain. I will stay. Anyway, my ambition is not Hollywood. My ambition is to not have to work any more. In 10 years I want to stop, and I want to be living with my family, taking care of my house. I want to be a housewife.'
But for the time being, does she feel like a movie star? 'A star? Like a star? No! No no no no no! I think never you can feel that. There are people that might see you like a star. But for yourself, it's not possible. No hecha rayas... There aren't rays coming from me. You always feel like you. I always feel like me.'
· Spanglish is released on 25 February
Paz Vega: Spanglish
“ At the end, everybody on the set was speaking Spanish! ”
Spanish actress Paz Vega has been on the rise ever since starring in racy romance Sex And Lucia for director and compatriot Julio Berdem. Soon afterwards she worked with acclaimed director Pedro Almodóvar in Talk To Her and now gets her Hollywood break opposite Adam Sandler in James L Brooks' romantic comedy Spanglish.
James L Brooks embarked on a worldwide search to cast Flor. What was the audition process like?
I read the script and I fell in love with it because the story is amazing. When I went to the audition, I knew a lot about the character Flor. I made a tape and sent the tape with one scene of the script. Then after Jim Brooks' office answered, they said he wants to know her in person. I had to travel to LA in a weekend and the audition was on a Sunday for five hours in the office. After that, I got the job.
You didn't know how to speak English, so how did you study the script?
Yeah, it was difficult, but I had a script in Spanish, of course, because it would be impossible for me. After, I had to learn to memorise my lines in English with a coach. I memorised them phonetically and that's it. I had classes in English, but only after.
You needed an interpreter to communicate with the director. Was it difficult for you, being an outsider like that?
Yeah, it was difficult, but it was like an adventure every day. Everybody on the set spoke a bit of Spanish too. It was very interesting to live with people every day like this, but if you couldn't understand something, or say something, you just mimic. Everybody tried to communicate without words sometimes. It was good.
Did you help the others with their Spanish just as they helped you with your English?
Yeah, at the end, everybody on the set was speaking Spanish! Adam Sandler doesn't speak too much, just some words like, "déme un beso" which means 'give me a kiss!' And that's it! That's all he knows! He is super funny.
Apart from kissing, what other ways did you use to communicate?
It was very easy, because when you don't have one sense, like the language, you still have other senses. If you are very open, sometimes you can understand and you don't know why you understand, but you can.
Is it true you used an accent coach, because of the differences between the Spanish and Mexican dialects?
Yeah, it's different. It's the same between your British accent and the LA accent, for example. I can hear the differences very much. There are different sounds.
You have a very warm relationship with Shelbie Bruce who plays your daughter. Were you closer to her on set because she could speak Spanish?
Yes, she helped me a lot. When people were speaking to me in English, sometimes I needed her help. Shelbie translated for me when I couldn't understand what Jim was saying. It was good and good for the relationship in front of the camera.
In the film, the Latin culture is portrayed as having more of an emphasis on family values than modern America. What are your feelings about that?
Yeah, I think it's true that in Latin culture it's more important - the family, the children. In America it's more important to have personal fulfilment in work. I think it's different because in America, when you talk with women, it's a difficult thing when she says, "Oh, I want to be a mother. I want to have kids." It's not usual. Most women say, "I want to be director of my company." It's a different lifestyle.
How important is the balance of career and family in your own life?
For me, the family is more important, of course! I don't want to change my family, or situation, for work. But I think it is possible for these things not to fight each other.
In the film, you're shocked to see Adam Sandler crying. Do you think it's true that Latin men don't express their emotions well?
It all depends. My husband is from Venezuela and he cries when he needs to cry! He's not like what you think of Latin men who are very strong and don't cry.
Was going from Spain to Hollywood a culture shock, just as it is for your character moving from Mexico to America?
No, it's different, but not a strange culture. It is another mentality, but after you can understand everything and get to know people, then you understand them and it is good.
Would you like to work in America more?
There are more possibilities there for action movies and crazy movies, because it's easy for them, but I like also to make small movies. I like small stories. In Hollywood there also many interesting stories and scripts and even Italy and Australia have very good scripts. Why not work in Australia?
Are you being offered many roles?
Yeah, I have some offers. I have to decide what I want to do. Fortunately they are very different roles, not only housekeepers and Mexican women. I can't tell you what the offers are, because it's bad luck. I'm very open to proposals.
Paz Vega: Spanglish
Only a few short months ago Spanish beauty Paz Vega – making her English-language debut in James L.Brooks’s new film “Spanglish” – would’ve needed a translator to assist her in interviews. But because she’s done nothing but press in the last few months for the film, Vega has been able to ditch the translator – well, to the point where he sits in the foyer of the hotel where the interviews are taking place and is there, just in case – and speak English just as well, as – heck, even better – us.
“Since October I have been learning English, but not when I did the film”, the ravishing actress says of her part in the new romantic comedy. “We have done so much press and junkets since the film opened and I have talked to so many interviewers that I have picked it up a lot too – every interview I do, like the one with you now Clint, I’m learning”.
Vega hails from Spain where she made a name for herself starring in films like Sex and Lucia and Talk to Her. “Spanglish” is the first time she’s been involved in a Hollywood production. In it, she plays a Mexican woman (“they’re not that different from Spanish”) who, with her daughter, heads to America in search of work. She gets a job working for a cook (Adam Sandler) and his uptight wife (Tea Leoni). There, she forms a special bond with near each member of the household – including his children.
“I just auditioned, my husband put it on video tape, and I got it” she smiles, “I never intended to do a Hollywood film, I mean, I didn’t know English, so being in an English film wasn’t something I even considered, but there you go. And even when I started the film I still didn’t know English”.
Vega says she was rapt to be involved in such a big production though, having grown up watching “Glenn Close, Anthony Hopkins…oh, and Some like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon. I just loved it”.
Obviously, working in the states was a different kettle of chips than Spain. “It was quite a different experience. Some things are the same, but it was obvious that everything was bigger, like a bigger stage, and bigger crew. It was a great experience”, she says, “But it’s not that much difference I guess, I mean most places have a language barrier- I guess people from Australia and people from New York, or America, would speak the same, but still, have their differences too, no?”
Vega says she spent eight months working on the film. “And I only got to go home once, for like four days, so it was such a long time away. I didn’t hate America, but I missed home terribly”.
Vega says she had a blast working with her co-stars. “Adam [Sandler] was just funny, very funny, and so good, and Tea Leoni was great – I really liked the scene she did where she is on top of Adam and has the you-know-what without him, and the kids, they were all great. I loved those kids, they were great.”
Since she gets served up a nice looking meal from Cook Adam Sandler in the film, one has to ask : did she get to eat it? “Oh yes, it was nice, it was like little meat and vegetables. But Adam didn’t cook it”. No? “No, it was his hands you saw but he didn’t actually do the meal”.
As for what’s next, Vega is keeping mum. “I’m reading scripts, a lot of interesting scripts, but I don’t want to…” Jinx it? “Jinx, what does the mean?”…Once told, Vega responds, “Yes, that’s it, I don’t want to jinx it. We will have to wait and see”.
That hush-hush next project could be an Australian project funnily enough. Vega is in talks to star in "December Boys", Rod Hardy's new coming-of-age drama that starts shooting in Adelaide in April. As for a confirmation from Vega? Her smile speaks volumes.
Paz Vega: Sexy and Spanish
This award-winning actress is the best reason to learn a second language and hit artsy foreign film theaters. Her performance is as electrifying as her generous screen nudity. An A-list celebrity in Spain, Vega earned international renown after her stunning work in the sex-filled Sex and Lucia. She was later cast by Pedro Almodovar in Talk to Her and will soon make her American big-screen debut in James L. Brooks' Spanglish.
Spain is a consistent exporter of female talent that has the fortunate coincidence of being gorgeous (Penelope Cruz and Ines Sastre come to mind). Paz Vega seems set to be the next big name from the Iberian Peninsula to splash our screens with the warmth and sensuality of her country.
A determined actress, Vega was a television star before making it in movies. All her projects have solidified her career and brought her closer to fame. Today, she boasts over 10 movies and three TV series (as a regular character), and has several more projects on the way. Many moviegoers will no doubt feel Vega's charm, beauty and onscreen glow in the near future.
Paz is a hometown girl from the Spanish city of Seville, which is known for its charm and good times. She's as friendly as they come, exceptionally open-minded and worry free. You have to be all these things in order to be so overtly sexual in a movie seen by millions. It's this carefree approach that makes her so compelling.
Paz loves acting and it shows. While waiting to get into acting school, she directed a play. Once in the market, getting a TV gig took little time. And once on TV, getting noticed by the big leagues was a cinch. Few make the leap from obscurity to stardom as quickly and confidently as Vega.
Paz Vega is undeniably sexy; her eyes alone brim with sensuality. She faces the camera head on, dominating it and the viewer. Her gaze is strong and feminine in a way that's hard to fake. It's obvious that Paz Vega knows how gorgeous she is, and she isn't afraid to show it. And what a body -- just do a Google image search for her and enjoy the top results.
Once out of acting school, Paz Vega took off to Madrid, where success came naturally. On Spanish TV, she appeared in three different series before landing her first lead role in a film. But even in small roles, she was hard to ignore. Viewers wanted more of the girl with the strong eyebrows and sparkly eyes.
In 1999, Vega worked on no less than three films: Zapping, I Will Survive and Nobody Knows Anybody. She returned to TV, where her career finally took off in 7 vidas. After gaining fame across Spain, Paz became globally celebrated thanks to the super spicy sex drama, Sex and Lucia. She was so convincing and forthright that she no longer had to grovel for work.
Filmmakers came to her instead, including Pedro Almodovar, who cast her in his Oscar-winning Talk to Her. Recently, American director and producer James L. Brooks courted her for her first Hollywood project, the Adam Sandler comedy Spanglish, set for a December 2004 release. While still only truly known in foreign film circles, it shouldn't take long for Vega to capture American audiences.
She's not quite as purely beautiful as Penelope Cruz, but she's still very attractive thanks to her long, slender face, dark eyes and eyebrows, and plump lips. Hats off to Spain for producing another stunner. Paz Vega mixes modest with provocative, opting for loose, elegant formal wear on certain occasions and tight see-through dresses on others. She's no fashion pioneer, but no boring trend follower either. She simply looks amazing in every photo op.