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The first time Penelope Cruz met Pedro Almodovar, whose film “Pain and Glory” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this week, she was 18 and still living in her family house.

“I was at home drying my hair and somebody said Pedro is on the phone and I thought they were kidding, because all my childhood I was talking about him and wanting to meet him,” the Oscar winner told Variety’s Marc Malkin at Cannes.

“He was actually the reason why I decided to try and become an actress,” Cruz continued.

While the famous Spanish director was interested in working with her, he told her she was too young for “Kika,” the film he had been working on when they first met. It would be years after that initial phone call that he would invite her to play a role in “Live Flesh.”

“It was one of those moments where the perfect dream comes true and it’s, like, too good to be true,” she said. “He’s really the reason that I tried. I didn’t have anyone around me that was making a living out of acting or music or anything related to art. And it was because of him that I tried to take the risk.”

Cruz plays Almodovar’s own mother in “Pain and Glory,” which is roughly based off the director’s own life. She told Malkin that despite there being pressure, she has grown to know the Almodovar family as her own, making it possible to accurately portray such dynamics.

“After you meet [Almodovar’s mother], you understand his adoration for women and respect for women. A lot of that comes from that relationship and the sisters and the neighbors, surrounded by very strong women,” she said. “And that time I spent with his mom, I didn’t know that many years later that moment would be so important in my life. Because I needed that moment to understand that character to play her here.”

Cruz also told Malkin that she hopes to direct her own film one day, noting that she revealed such a desire to Almodovar at a bar when she was still a teenager in Madrid.

“He said, ‘You should do it. If you’re saying that now and you’re 16 then you should do it.’ One day I know I will probably make the decision.”

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