Penelope Cruz says motherhood has made her ''rediscover life''.

The 38-year-old actress - who gave birth to Leo, her son with husband Javier Bardem, in January 2011 - understood her character in 'Twice Born' better when she had a child of her own and admits the character's tribulations resonated with her more once she'd had her son.

Penelope - who plays a mother who visits Sarajevo with her son 16 years after they fled the city to try and repair their fractured relationship - told Spanish newspaper La Razon: ''I joined the project when I hadn't had my kid, but I understood the character. Although it's true that when you live it you can understand it much better. Now I understand what this woman looks up, what she fights for.

''Becoming a mother makes you rediscover life, your relationship with nature and it gives you the chance to live your childhood again.

''The most difficult scene I've ever shot is one in this film, when the mother thinks she's going to have her child taken away. I was horrified. The night before I couldn't sleep, I just wanted to disappear.''

The Spanish beauty has also admitted she doesn't enjoy having to spend time in Los Angeles for her career, and prefers to be based in Europe whenever she can.

She told Spain's Vanity Fair magazine: ''I've never felt Los Angeles is my city. I've always felt that Madrid was my city, although I don't live there full-time, but my house and my family are here. Los Angeles is a place full of good things but let's say that it's not my favourite city. Everything is about the industry. It's not that everything's bad, but it's not the city of my dreams. I prefer Madrid, Paris, New York, Rome and London before Los Angeles.''