One of Europe's most popular and respected actresses, Victoria Abril has made her mark in more than 60 films produced in France, Italy, and her native Spain. First introduced to American audiences through the work of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, who directed her in the controversial Atame! (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, 1990), the sensual, brown-eyed actress has gained a Stateside cult following, but remains thoroughly European in her choice of films and the roles she plays.
Abril first earned wide recognition in Spain as a 14-year-old model on the popular television shows Uno, dos, tres, responda otra vez and 625 lineas. Born Victoria Merida Rojas in Malaga on July 4, 1959, she began studying as a ballet dancer at the age of seven, but following her celebrated turn on TV, segued into acting in the mid-'70s. Abril made her major screen debut in Vincente Aranda's Cambio de Sexo, a 1976 drama that cast her as an effeminate young man who undergoes a sex change. That same year, the actress made her first English-language film, Robin and Marian, in which she played the relatively minor role of a Spanish queen. She went on to do prolific work for the rest of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, and in 1990 had her first collaboration with Almodóvar, for whom she starred as a drug-addicted porn actress taken hostage by an obsessive fan (Antonio Banderas) in Atame!. The film was a success in Spain -- where Abril earned a Goya Best Actress nomination for her performance -- and proved to be a controversial sensation in the States, where its plot outraged certain feminist groups. Abril collaborated with Almodóvar on two more films, Tacones Lejanos (1991) -- in which she played the estranged daughter of an actress (Marisa Paredes), and Kika (1993) -- in which she had a supporting role as an over-the-top tabloid TV program hostess.
Abril scored particular critical acclaim as a darkly amorous landlady in Vincente Aranda's Amantes (1991), winning a Best Actress Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival for her performance. Further acclaim came her way with Nadie Hablara de Nosotras Cuando Hayamos Muerto (1995), for which her portrayal of an alcoholic prostitute earned her a Goya and a Best Actress award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. A starring role in the French romantic comedy Gazon Maudit (1995), which cast her as a housewife torn between her unfaithful husband and a butch female truck driver, further increased Abril's popularity. She continued to star in films that emphasized her playful, flamboyant sexuality, maintaining her reputation as one of Europe's most colorful and vibrant performers.