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Paz Vega is a Spanish star with a growing business in fashion and nightlife, she tells Andrew L. Urban, and with her first English language role in Spanglish, opposite Adam Sandler, she is on the verge of a growing Hollywood career. 

Paz Vega arrives for our interview looking a million dollars in a crisp white, man’s dress shirt, unbuttoned at the top, cuffs uncuffed, the shirt untucked over wide cut dark blue pinstripe pants, with her red toe nails smiling from expensive open sandals. Her hair looks carelessly tossed, in contrast to her outfit, as if she’d just jumped out of bed, and her make up is invisible. The natural look on someone as naturally attractive as Paz Vega is, no doubt, the natural choice. 

Her handshake is feminine and she smiles warmly, pointing to the interpreter shadowing her. “My English is not so good,” she says with a strong Spanish accent and a shy smile. In her first English language film, Spanglish, she plays Flor, a Mexican single mother learning English while working as a housemaid for the middle class Clasky family, which is in crisis. 

“I didn’t know any English at the beginning of making the movie. I learnt my lines phonetic…” she explains as we discuss her prowess in English. Well, she’s come a long way since then, as you can see and hear if you catch our interview on World Movies, just before the screening of her latest film, Carmen, on March 14, 8.25 pm. (Carmen, this film based on the book, not the opera and directed by the talented Vincente Aranda, is also screening in the Spanish Film Festival in May, at Palace Cinemas in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.) 

"Australian cinematographer John Seale is 'one of the best and nicest' she’s ever worked with"

The week after Carmen, you can see her again on World Movies in the sex comedy, Novo, her first French language film. “I don’t speak any French, so I learn my lines phonetic…like Spanglish,” she smiles. She’s not making a habit of foreign language [to her] films, but she does want to expand her range, her choices. In Spain, where she has appeared in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk To Her and Emilio Lazaros’ The Other Side of The Bed among others, she is recognised as one of the country’s most talented young actresses. Indeed, she’s already building on that fame through the Paz Vega brand; she runs several businesses with her husband, ranging from a restaurant to a nightclub and a boutique - and soon, she says, her own fashion label. No wonder she looks a million dollars…

On Spanglish she got to work with an outstanding cast, led by Adam Sandler, whom she describes as “very funny … he was comedy and jokes all the time.” Director James L. Brooks “is a genius” and Australian cinematographer John Seale is “one of the best and nicest” she’s ever worked with. 

The film, she says, “is a comedy, but at the same time you can cry…” Vega plays Flor, a Mexican single mum who takes her daughter Cristina (Shelbie Bruce) to Los Angeles in search of better opportunities for her daughter. When she gets a job as housekeeper at the Clasky family home, Flor walks into a troubled marriage, in which John (Adam Sandler) is a successful chef and a loving, patient father to their two young children, while Deborah (Tea Leoni) has lost her job and is going through a personal crisis; they’re not managing. Deborah’s mother (Cloris Leachman) observes in knowing silence…for most of the time. When the Claskys rent a Malibu beach house for the summer, Deborah assumes Flor will move in for the period, and bring her daughter. Flor, reluctantly agrees, but Deborah’s behaviour causes friction, Flor and John find an unstated understanding and the household begins to spiral out of control.

“Flor is very strong and independent,” says Vega, “and passionate too…” 

Paz Vega’s career milestone so far has been Sex and Lucia (2001) for which she was voted Best New Actress at the European Film Awards –as well as being nominated for the Best Lead Actress category. She has won several other awards, including Best Actress Awards for her role as Flor in Spanglish. It’s sobering to think she was winning ‘best newcomer’ awards just over two years ago, and is now making her Hollywood debut.

"acting is still a passion"

In the next year, as well as making more films, she wants to become a mother, and sometime in the future, to direct (“I have some ideas…”). But acting is still a passion, yet it is something she regards as simple game playing. “It’s just play…play like a child. I don’t have a method…I like enjoy making a role…when you’re a child and you say, you’re the policeman, and you’re the … how you say… the crook. And that’s it.”

Published February 17, 2005

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Paz Vega


... on the set of Spanglish with Adam Sandler and director James L. Brookes

... in Sex and Lucia

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