13 NOVEMBER 2007

It's the Hollywood romance that was destined to be - two of Spain's hottest actors, who have been friends for over 15 years and have already lit up the big screen as lovers, are now dating.

Volver actress Penelope Cruz has fallen for handsome Javier Bardem, the Adonis who wooed her on-screen in 1992 when they both starred in Jamon Jamon.

The pair - who share the honour of being the only two Spaniards ever to have been nominated for an Oscar in a leading role - were spotted leaving an LA restaurant this week. The lunch date is the latest in a string of intimate rendezvous the couple have shared since beginning their romance, which apparently sparked while they were lensing Woody Allen's upcoming comedy, shot in Barcelona over the summer.

Reports that co-star Scarlett Johansson was the real-life love of actor Javier - dubbed the 'Spanish Marlon Brando' - were quashed when her boyfriend Ryan Reynolds turned up on set. The nature of Javier's blossoming relationship with Penelope was finally confirmed when pictures of the two sharing passionate kisses in the surf on a sunkissed beach in the Maldives were published exclusively in HELLO! last month.

While Pen has dated her leading men in the past, including Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey, this time, it may just be the start of something that will last. "She just glows when she talks about Javier," a friend told a US newspaper. "And he just dotes on her."

Photo: ©
The lovers, who were spotted leaving an LA restaurant this week, have been on a string of intimate dates since beginning their unexpected romance on the set of Woody Allen's upcoming Barcelona-set comedyPhoto: © Rex
Photo: ©
Javier - dubbed the 'Spanish Marlon Brando' - first romanced Penelope on-screen in 1992 in Jamon Jamon