Bigas Luna: acclaimed Spanish director dies at 67

Josep Joan Bigas Luna Bigas Luna was known for his knack of spotting acting talent

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Spanish film director Josep Joan Bigas Luna, who was best known for the 1992 film Jamon, Jamon, has died aged 67.

The director's family said he died after a long battle with cancer on Saturday at his home in Tarragona, northeast Spain.

Bigas Luna was considered one of the country's most influential film-makers, with an eye for spotting talent.

He discovered Oscar-winners Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, who married 18 years after meeting on Jamon, Jamon.

"I don't know where to begin," Bardem said, adding that he owed the director "the woman I love" and "a career that I never dreamed I could have".

The actor's first film role was in Bigas Luna's 1990 film, The Ages of Lulu.

After Jamon, Jamon, he worked with the director again in 1993's Golden Balls and 1994's Le teta y la luna.

He later went on to win a best supporting actor Oscar for his role as a psychopathic assassin in No Country for Old Men in 2008.

'Rascal's face'

In a statement, Cruz said an early casting for The Ages of Lulu changed her life.

"In walked a man with a rascal's face: Bigas Luna," she said.

Penelope Cruz and husband Javier Bardem The famous couple met on the set of the 1992 movie Jamon, Jamon

"The first thing he asked me was my age [she was 14]. I said I was 17 and he, always very gently and without making me feel too bad, laughed in my face and said: `Well, you won't make this movie, but I'll call for another when you're older."'

The actress said she was astonished when, three years later, Bigas Luna called asking her to try out for Jamon, Jamon.

"When I was with him, I felt time stood still. He was truly special," she added.

The actress also starred in the director's 1999 film, Volaverunt, and went on to win a best supporting Oscar in 2009 for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Spanish director and writer Guillermo Arriaga - who penned the films Amores Perros and Babel, paid tribute on Twitter: writing:"Keep on filming wherever you are, Bigas Luna."

After beginning his career as a conceptual artist, Bigas Lunas shot his first work, Tatuaje (Tattoo) in 1976.

But it was Jamon, Jamon that gave him his international recognition, earning him the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Jury Award at the San Sebastian film festival.

Other stars he gave early boosts to, in his often steamy films, include Leonor Watling, Angela Molina, Francesca Neri and Valeria Marini.

The director died while working on his latest film Second Origin - an adaptation of Manuel de Pedrolo's sci-fi novel, El manuscript del segon origen.

He is survived by his wife, Celia, and three daughters.

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