“We’ve always been obsessed with you,” musician Rosalía said as she took the stage at the Museum of Modern Art to celebrate the cinematic achievements of Oscar winner Penélope Cruz. It’s not hard to understand why the musician was giddy in the presence of the beloved film star. “You’re such an icon, you’re such a legend, and I don’t know how many times I named you as a reference,” she added. “Literally, I think, maybe a million.” The musician then went on to tell a story about how she and her sister used to make mood boards as kids. The constant presence on each one? That would be Cruz.
The Spanish pop star wasn’t the only one to sing the praises of Cruz (though at one point during her speech, Rosalía literally did sing—a riff on the song she and Cruz sang together in the 2019 film Dolor y Gloria). At the annual Film Benefit, sponsored by Chanel, plenty of Cruz’s collaborators and friends—from Rebecca Hall and Ricky Martin to Lupita Nyong’o and Pedro Almodóvar—shared memories of working with the actress in both filmic and philanthropic efforts.
They were also joined by Kristen Wiig, Diane Kruger, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow, and Riley Keough, who invited Grammy-nominated musician Giveon to perform Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” during the event.
Of course, notable guests, including Cruz herself, arrived wearing designs by the maison, which has sponsored the MoMA Film Benefit since 2011 and has a storied history with cinema dating back to 1930, when Coco Chanel designed gowns for Gloria Swanson at the request of Hollywood bigwig Samuel Goldwyn. This year, emphasis was placed on Cruz’s starring role in Almodóvar’s next film, Madres Paralelas (or Parallel Mothers). The director, who appeared virtually at the Film Benefit, told the crowd that he first saw Cruz in 1992 when she appeared in Bigas Luna’s Jamón Jamón, opposite her now-husband and frequent collaborator, Javier Bardem. “I ask a lot of actors in rehearsals,” he said, before adding his reason: “[But it’s because] I love you.”
Cruz has been an ambassador for Chanel since 2018, and was spotted wearing three looks by the couture label in less than 24 hours at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year. She also made her runway debut in 2019 at Karl Lagerfeld’s final Chanel show during Paris Fashion Week. At the Film Benefit, it was Cruz’s red v-neck Chanel Haute Couture gown adorned with a bow and embellished at the neckline that caught the eyes of everyone on the red carpet and inside the event. The bold color (a black version was presented during Chanel’s fall 2020 collection) matched the bold spirit of one of cinema’s most treasured performers.