Penelope Cruz

Dave Bjerke/NBC

Woody Allen's Vicki Cristina Barcelona is a comedy.

But when newly minted Oscar nominee Penélope Cruz was working on the film, she didn't find anything all that funny about her character. She plays Maria Elena, a gun-wielding, whack job who gets mixed up in a relationship with her ex-husband (Javier Bardem) and American tourist Cristina (Scarlett Johansson).

"When we were in the middle of shooting, I felt like I was doing the most intense and disturbing drama I ever did in my career," Cruz told me earlier today. "I never laughed until months later, when I saw the movie with an audience. At the beginning, I remember feeling like, 'Why are they laughing?' "

Cruz watched the Oscar nomination announcements this morning with best friend Salma Hayek. "I did work on myself not to expect it because everyone has been screaming, 'Yes, you will get the nomination,' " Cruz said. "There's thousands of people voting, so then it's more of a surprise if you get it."

Cruz is up for Best Supporting Actress with Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler), Taraji P. Henson (Benjamin Button) and Doubt's Amy Adams and Viola Davis.

Cruz, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2006 for Volver, recently wrapped her work on Rob Marshall's upcoming movie adaptation of the Broadway musical Nine opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Fergie, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren. (It hits theaters Nov. 27.)

"It was very scary because I had not danced in, like, 14 years, and I've never sang before in my life," Cruz said. "I had to train for many, many months, but it was incredible."

As Carla Albanese, Cruz sings and dances while hanging from a rope in the sexually charged number "Call From the Vatican." The routine may have caused painful blisters on her hands, but it was worth it.

"I had so much fun doing it," Cruz said. "I cried when it was all over because I had been doing it for months every day, and I don't get to do it anymore. I think I have to have some ropes in my house for everybody that comes by."

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