‘He’s Like Family to Me’

Penelope Cruz attends the premiere for “Parallel Mothers” during the 59th New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on October 08, 2021 in New York City.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

These two paths were clearly meant to cross.

Following years of critically acclaimed collaboration, Penélope Cruz had nothing but praise for Parallel Mothers writer and director Pedro Almodóvar as their movie closed out the 59th New York Film Festival on Friday.

“He’s like family to me. We’re really close. We understand each other. We can read each other’s minds. We can never lie to each other. We don’t even try. So, all of that — it just helps and makes it easy to work with each other,” she tells PEOPLE of her fellow Spaniard.

“However, on set we make sure to give each other space, so that we maintain respect for one another… It’s a good balance we have. It’s been like 30 years since I met him, and 25 years working together, and I hope many more. He’s really special,” Cruz adds.

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Almodóvar, 72, and Cruz, 47, have worked together on seven different films after she first saw his movie Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! in 1990 — Live Flesh (1997), All About My Mother (1999), Return (2006), Broken Embraces (2009), I’m So Excited! (2013), Pain and Glory (2019), and, most recently, Parallel Mothers (2021).

Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz attend the premiere for "Parallel Mothers" during the 59th New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on October 08, 2021 in New York City.

Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz attend the premiere for “Parallel Mothers” during the 59th New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center on October 08, 2021 in New York City.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

“I feel he’s one of the only people to give me a lot of opportunity to do things. He imagines me in things he hasn’t seen me do, he pushes me to be dynamic. He’s the reason I decided to become an actress. Every time, he gives me material that is new, that allows me to try something new. It’s always different for me. So many complex roles. This [Parallel Mothers] is the most challenging one, but I say that with a smile on my face,” the actress admits.

Luckily for Cruz and audiences around the world, her hard work and dedication paid off, famously resulting in a best supporting actress Oscar for Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2008, as well as two further nominations, including a best actress nod for Return. Almodóvar has also won two Academy Awards across five nominations.

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“I grew up watching his films, he was the reason I tried to go to a theater school, find an agent with the hope I could work for him and look,” she shares.

Parallel Mothers also stars Milena Smit, Israel Elejalde, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Julieta Serrano, and Rossy de Palma and had its world premiere in September at the 78th Venice International Film Festival.

While it was released in Spain this weekend, Parallel Mothers will be in U.S. theaters on Dec. 24.

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‘He’s Like Family to Me’