Penelope Cruz fell in love with movies when she was only 10 years old.

At 18, the Spanish actress made her feature debut, and then the movies fell in love with her.

Cruz’ first two films (in 1992) were Bigas Luna’s Jamon Jamon and Fernando Trueba’s Belle Epoque; she played a sexy, strong-minded woman in one and a total innocent in the other, quickly establishing her versatility.

Both movies won awards. (Jamon Jamon also introduced Cruz to co-star and future husband, Javier Bardem, with whom she has two children.)

Belle Epoque won a Best Foreign Language Oscar and was the first of Cruz’ movies with Trueba, who directed her again in The Girl of Your Dreams (1998); that movie won a slew of Goya Awards and helped launch Cruz’ international career.

Her movies include Open Your Eyes (later remade as Vanilla Sky), All About My Mother, Blow, Don’t Move, Volver and Vicky Cristina Barcelona — which earned Cruz an Oscar.

The actress, 43, continues to work both in big Hollywood movies (such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) and in smaller films such as Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited!

Her newest movie, The Queen of Spain (in select theatres this Friday), reunites her with Trueba. The Spanish-language comedy/drama is a sequel of sorts to The Girl of Your Dreams and concerns the filming of an American movie in 1950s Spain.

The country is still under Franco’s thumb and the actors and crew do their best to stay out of trouble — at least until they hatch a plot to save one of their own from a labour camp. Cruz’ character, Macarena Granada, is now a Hollywood star and has returned to film in her native Spain in triumph.

And defiance.

We spoke to Cruz on the telephone about The Queen of Spain.

The Queen of Spain is a love letter to cinema — and it’s your third movie with Fernando Trueba.

“He’s an important director for me and an important person to me. That was the beginning of my career, when I did Belle Epoque … and I’m grateful to him that he gave me one of my first opportunities. And he’s given me great characters … He’s very free, a very unique author. He’s really passionate about cinema. He knows so much about it. When you’re with him on set, it’s a constant lesson, a constant inspiration. He’s an easy person to be around. He just enjoys being on a set. You can see that’s where he’s happiest.”

Do you still enjoy being on a set?

“I do. It’s been such a big part of my life. I’ve done this since I was 15, 16, and I remember the feeling I experienced the first time. It was so addictive! I was crying on the last day, feeling like, ‘What if this is the last time somebody gives me a chance to do this? To be on a set?’ It was devastating to realize I depend so much on others to give me work. So I can say now, 26 years later, I’m so grateful that I’ve had these opportunities to continue to work and have interesting projects.”

You’ll be at the Toronto International Film Festival next month with Loving Pablo, a film about drug lord Pablo Escobar – which co-stars your husband. He’s also got Mother! at the festival.

“I just saw the Escobar movie finished — it’s about Escobar and Virginia Vallejo, the journalist who was with him for 10 years and who went through all kinds of crazy moments with him. I think it’s a very interesting film. I love the festival. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s really about a love for film, a respect for film. And I love to see all those people together, celebrating film. Every time I’ve been there I’ve seen great films. I feel privileged to be part of it and so happy Escobar will be shown there.

What do you learn making a movie such as The Queen of Spain?

“It gives a lot of information to other generations who have only heard their grandparents or parents talk about that era. Cinema can teach you so much. A good director like Fernando [Trueba] isn’t judging, they inspire interesting things and create a lot of debate. You can’t go in thinking you’ll change the world with film, but when you tackle subjects that are serious or affect humanity, I think there’s a responsibility that comes with the script, with the film.”

Will you continue to do both indie films and big Hollywood pictures?

“I work in all kinds of projects, the small independent films and the bigger studio films. To be able to combine all of this, to work in four languages, I feel very privileged to have all these opportunities. This year I’ve had so many great things: working with Kenneth Branagh [directing her in Murder on the Orient Express], that’s a big studio film but great material, and he’s great, and then, playing Donatella Versace [for season two of American Crime Story], The Queen of Spain and Escobar coming up and now we are shooting the Asghar Farhadi film [Everybody Knows]. All so different, and really interesting material. I feel very lucky, very privileged.”

Read more here.