Penelope Cruz is terrified of driving after witnessing her sister get run over.

The Ferrari actress experienced a "great trauma" when she was just 9 years old after her younger sibling Mónica Cruz was hit by a car and lost consciousness, resulting in the 49-year-old star developing a reluctance to ever get behind the wheel.

She told Elle magazine: "I have a fear of driving. My sister was run over by a car in front of me when I was 8 or 9. I remember she was wearing a red coat.

"And for me, time stopped. It’s a great trauma, because I saw her losing consciousness. And I was numb in the hospital, telling people, ‘Oh, my sister just got run over by a car.’”

Monica, now 46, made a full recovery, but Penelope suspects she "would have been hysterical" if she witnessed such a severe accident in adulthood.

The Vanilla Sky actress, who has Leo, 12, and Luna, 10, with husband Javier Bardem, revealed she has therapy to find a "balance" to deal with the level of empathy she feels.

Explaining she experiences a "back-and-forth dance between fiction and reality" which "plays into a certain stereotype" of actors, she added: “I’m lucky to have it, but maybe it makes me feel or suffer things more.

"I can feel it; it’s like a hypersensitivity in every way: visually, to sound, to people’s feelings.

"It’s been one of the main things I deal with in therapy: how to work a balance so I can keep feeling those things without making those feelings my own.”

But while Penelope finds some of her roles "uncomfortable and painful" as a result, she thinks they always make her a better person by the end of a shoot.

She said: "Sometimes [the characters I play] can be uncomfortable and painful. It’s hard to let them go, but at the end, I always feel they made me a little bit more compassionate than I was two months ago.

"And with the safety net that you know this is not your reality. It creates less judging and more compassion in every area of my life.”

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Gallery Credit: Natasha Reda