Penelope Cruz Q&A: My Dancer Background Helped with 'Pirates' Swordfights

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The actress talks in the new THR magazine about preparing for the film's stuntwork, meeting Mother Theresa and the unique scale of the 'Pirate' films.

When did Rob Marshall first mention the movie to you?

We were doing [dialogue work] for Nine. We were in a restaurant in London, and he waited until the dessert and said in a very casual way, "Oh, would you like to do Pirates with me and Johnny?" I jumped from the chair! I said, "Why didn't you tell me the first second we sat down?"

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Did your pregnancy affect working?

It helped that I was a dancer for so many years and worked on the fight choreography for two months before I was pregnant. I really knew all the fights because Rob put them together almost as a dance, the way we had trained for Nine. That helped, and when we shot, I never did anything dangerous.

What kind of preparation did you do?

I trained with a master of sword fights; I would go in for three or four hours a day for two months. I researched books and movies and had time to think about my character's contradictions: She has a pirate's mentality, but she also has a religious background. She says she was in a convent, and that was very interesting.

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Is that because you've spent time in Mother Teresa's convent yourself?

Not in a convent, just in a house she had in Calcutta when I was 21 or 22 years old. I always wanted to go there and meet her, and somebody invited me to work as a volunteer. I spent a week with her. She was a force of nature, a really strong woman. In some of her houses, you could see the poorest of the poor. It was really a life-changing trip.

How has being a mother changed your life?

When you have children, you plan things differently. I haven't been working for a while. I want to work in the summer for a couple of weeks with Woody Allen and then take some more free time. And after, I will work again with [Don't Move director] Sergio Castellitto on Venuto al Mondo.

Now that Pirates is over, what's your fondest memory?

We shot in the most beautiful locations, and the studio where they built the Fountain of Youth in London was the biggest in the world. There are not so many movies like this being made anymore. But you are dealing with different energies every day, and there's not a lot you can control; you have to be really prepared to improvise. It was a very long shoot -- six months. Sometimes I had two weeks free, here and there, that's all. But I loved it.

Read THR's review of On Stranger Tides