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Venice: Actors Wagner Moura, from right, Gael Garcia Bernal, Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz and director Olivier Assayas pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Wasp Network' at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, Venice, Italy, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Spanish star Penelope Cruz said Sunday that Cubans were not free to talk frankly when she was making a new film about the communist island’s biggest modern heroes.

In ‘Wasp Network’, the actress plays Olga Gonzalez, the wife of one of the intelligence officers known as the “Cuban Five” who pretended to defect from the country so they could infiltrate radical exile groups in Florida.

“The people there are fantastic,” she told reporters at the Venice film festival, where the thriller was premiered.

“They have values and a big heart and extraordinary humility.

“But it was difficult to get correct information from them... I didn’t feel a great freedom when they had to share their real feelings and that worried me,” she added.

“In 2019, people should be free to express their feelings.”

The Cuban authorities at first refused French director Olivier Assayas permission to shoot the extraordinary story of the men, known as the “Cuban Heroes” on the island.

And when they finally relented, he said the secret police were never far.

‘Completely free to make film’

“I won’t say we were not spied on, we were monitored to put it mildly,” said the maker of Golden Globe-winning ‘Carlos”, ‘Personal Shopper’ and ‘Irma Vep’.

Even so, Assayas said he was “completely free to make the film... there were no consequences on the film, they were faithful to their word, meaning we made the movie we wanted to make.”

Gael Garcia Bernal and Venezuelan star Edgar Ramirez play two of the five men who sacrificed everything including their families to go undercover in the US in the 1990s.