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Spanish Director Bigas Luna Dies at 67

Bigas Luna - P 2013
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Known for sparking on-screen chemistry, Bigas Luna discovered Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz and cast them together on the set of 'Jamon, Jamon' where they met.

MADRID - Acclaimed Spanish director, Josep Joan Bigas Luna, who discovered Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz and cast them opposite each other 20 years ago in Jamon, Jamon died over the weekend at age 67.

Bigas Luna, who died of cancer, was recognized as having an unfailing eye for discovering fresh talent.

He cast Bardem in 1990 in The Ages of Lulu, giving the future Oscar-winning actor his first break.

"I don't know where to begin," Bardem said, adding that he owes Bigas Luna "the woman I love," and "a career that I never dreamed I could have."

But, Bigas Luna rejected the talented and sexy Cruz for the same film during the casting because she was too young.

"The first thing he asked me was my age [14]. I said I was 17 and he, always very gently and without making me feel too bad, laughed in my face and said: `Well, you won't make this movie, but I'll call for another when you're older,'" Cruz said in a statement.

And he did.

Three years later, the director called Cruz to cast her in her first film in the sexy Spanish movie, opposite the man she would marry 18 years later.

While Jamon, Jamon was perhaps the director's most internationally acclaimed film--winning the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival--Bigas Luna shot 19 films and gave other young Spanish actors--like Leonor Watling and Veronica Echegui pushes in their careers.

Luna was in pre-production on his latest film Second Origin - an adaptation of Manuel de Pedrolo's sci-fi novel.