For years, Hollywood tried to turn this Madrid-born beauty into a star (or at least, a star's girlfriend). But after a slew of big-budget flops (All the Pretty Horses, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Sahara) Cruz finally made her breakthrough stateside in her native tongue, with her turn as a strong and sexy mama in the 2006 Spanish dramedy Volver, her third collaboration with fellow countryman Pedro Almodóvar. Although U.S. audiences had long dismissed her as gamine window dressing, the director knew what Cruz was capable of from her spunky performances in his films Live Flesh and All About My Mother. Initially a dancer, Cruz was still a teen when she landed a pair of career-making roles in her homeland: a pregnant shop girl in the campy comedy Jamón, Jamón and a hopeless romantic in Belle Epoque. Throughout the '90s, Cruz worked consistently in Spain, but by the end of the decade she was ready to try her luck in the U.S. Unfortunately, she appeared in one bomb after another. Even her turn as a free-spirited looker in Vanilla Sky—the 2001 remake of the 1999 Spanish film Open Your Eyes, in which she played the same role—was a critical dud. Yet the film did thrust her into spotlight when she began dating costar Tom Cruise. For three years their relationship eclipsed her career, and when they split, her romance with her Sahara costar Matthew McConaughey continued the trend. After her Hollywood struggles, the chance to work with Almodóvar again must have seemed like a career-saving grace. Indeed, her turn in Volver deservedly earned her rave reviews and myriad accolades, including Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG nods. In 2008, the Academy honored Cruz when her fiesty role in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona gained her the Best Supporting Actress trophy; and her star continued to rise with Globe and Oscar nominations for her sensual turn in the 2009 musical adaptation of the Broadway hit Nine.