Penelope Cruz has said Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar inspired her to become an actress.
Penelope Cruz is one of Pedro Almodovar's favourite leading ladies
Cruz stars in Almodovar's new award-winning film Volver, which has also won plaudits from the critics.
The pair have worked together before and Cruz said they were already discussing future collaborations.
"For me [Almodovar] is a genius," Cruz says. "I don't like using that word a lot but with him I really think he is."
She described Almodovar as "the reason I decided to become an actress when I was a little girl".
"He really sees everything and is not afraid of exploring it and he never judges his characters. He's completely brave."
In Volver, Cruz plays Raimunda, a woman haunted by family secrets - a role she described as the most challenging character she has ever had to play.
Raimunda's husband has been murdered, her aunt is about to be buried, her best friend is dying and her late mother returns as a ghost.
Cruz also starred in Almodovar's All About My Mother and Live Flesh and she said there were plans to work together again.
"He knows I would love to do any movie that he's involved in if he thinks I'm the right person for that character," she said.
"I don't even need to read the script to say yes to him. I completely trust him. I respect him so much."
Cruz won the best actress award at Cannes for her role in Volver
Cruz got her break as a young beauty in 1992's Jamon Jamon but she said she was never worried of being typecast.
"That movie gave me a lot of opportunities because the character was really good and demanding in many ways," she said.
Once the offers started to pour in, Cruz said she looked to widen her acting experience and turned down several tempting yet facile roles.
"A lot of people said: 'You're crazy, how can you say no to that director? It can be the end of your career'.
"But I knew I was buying my freedom and a longer career by saying no to a lot of things."
As her career took off, Cruz moved to Hollywood in the late '90s, where she starred in her first English language movie, The Hi-Lo Country.
"It was very difficult because I couldn't understand anything they were saying in the table readings and the rehearsals," she said.
"I just kept studying and studying and I'm still doing that because there's always much more you can improve with an accent."