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Spanish director who gave Penelope Cruz big break dies at 67

MADRID (Reuters) - One of Spain's best known film directors, Juan Jose Bigas Luna, who shot actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem to fame in the 1990s with his celebrated film "Jamon, Jamon", has died of cancer at the age of 67.

Bigas Luna was known in Spain for his erotically charged films like Bilbao (1978) and had more recent success again outside his home country with "My Name Is Juani", a 2006 movie about a young woman ditching her small town for Madrid.

Spain's Academy for Cinematography Arts and Sciences said on its Twitter account on Saturday:

"The Academy is sorry about the passing away of Bigas Luna yesterday ... The 67-year-old film director was working on his next film."

Bigas Luna died at his home in Tarragona, near the northeastern city of Barcelona.

His 1992 film, "Jamon, Jamon" (Ham, Ham), not only gave Bardem and Cruz, now married, their big break, but Bigas Luna also won a Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival for the comedy drama.

Spain's Culture Minister, Jose Ignacio Wert, said most internationally famous Spanish actors had worked with the director.

"Bigas Luna's films were always characterized by a very fresh vision, although sometimes with a touch of acidity about our environment," Wert said in a statement.

Bigas Luna's latest film was Di Di Hollywood, released in 2010. He was working on a film adaptation of a novel by Catalan author Manuel de Pedrolo.

(Reporting by Leticia Nunez and Inmaculada Sanz; Writing by Clare Kane, edited by Richard Meares)

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