EW: Did you know each other before working on the movie?
Penélope Cruz No. We met at a lunch in New York to talk about the film. We really connected. I told him, ”I’ll play whichever part you want.”
Rob Marshall She’s actually the first person I met for this film. I remember leaving the lunch thinking, ”She will be in this movie.” I just didn’t know what part she would be.
EW: So how did you settle on Carla, the mistress of Daniel Day-Lewis’ character, a movie director?
Marshall I have to give this one to [producer] Harvey Weinstein. He’s the one who said, ”Have you seen this Italian movie Don’t Move?” Penélope plays [a mistress] in it, and I thought, ”Of course!” She auditioned for the role as well. She sent us a video…a scene where [Carla] wears only a sheet. Very sexy. No one looks better in a sheet than Penélope Cruz.
EW: Penélope, did you have any musical-theater experience?
Cruz I had training in classical ballet when I was a little girl. But this type of dance I had not done before. The first day I saw the choreography, I looked at everybody and I said, ”It’s impossible!”
EW: What about singing?
Cruz I sang a lot at home, but this was the first time I had to do it at work.
Marshall It was sort of the same track Renée [Zellweger] took on Chicago. They love to sing but had never done it professionally. Penélope is a natural singer. She’s so expressive.
Cruz The first day that I had to sing, I had to go to Abbey Road in London. I thought it would be more responsible and professional if I didn’t talk to anybody before I had to record. So I was lying on my bed like Dracula, looking at the ceiling and waiting to go to the studio. I got so tense from trying to protect myself too much!
Marshall I’ve never seen her tense. She doesn’t show it.
Cruz The second day I was much more relaxed, and the result was much better.
EW: How physically demanding was the role?
Marshall She does some rope work in one number, ”A Call From the Vatican.” And she didn’t want to wear gloves, so she was developing calluses and then they were bleeding. Daniel Day-Lewis called her a warrior, and she really is.
Cruz It’s a different kind of exhaustion. Little by little, you give shape to the number. When you get through the whole thing, it’s like you’re flying. It’s an amazing feeling.