Zeta-Jones at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.
25 September 1969
|Spouse(s)||Michael Douglas (m. 2000)|
Catherine Zeta-Jones, CBE (//; born 25 September 1969)[a] is a Welsh actress. Born and raised in Swansea, Zeta-Jones aspired to be an actress from a young age. As a child, she played roles in the West End productions of the musicals Annie and Bugsy Malone. She studied musical theatre at the Arts Educational Schools, London, and made her stage breakthrough with a leading role in a 1987 production of 42nd Street. Her screen debut came in the unsuccessful French-Italian film 1001 Nights (1990), and she went on to find greater success as a regular in the British television series The Darling Buds of May (1991–93). Dismayed at being typecast as the token pretty girl in British films, Zeta-Jones relocated to Los Angeles.
Zeta-Jones initially established herself in Hollywood with roles that highlighted her sex appeal such as in the action film The Mask of Zorro (1998) and the heist film Entrapment (1999). Critics praised her portrayal of a vengeful pregnant woman in Traffic (2000) and a murderous singer in the musical Chicago (2002). The latter won her Academy and BAFTA Awards for Best Supporting Actress, among other accolades. She starred in high-profile films for much of the decade, including the black comedy Intolerable Cruelty (2003), the heist film Ocean's Twelve (2004), the comedy The Terminal (2004), and the romantic comedy No Reservations (2007). Parts in smaller-scale features were followed by a decrease in workload, during which she returned to stage and portrayed an ageing actress in A Little Night Music (2009), winning a Tony Award. Zeta-Jones continued to work intermittently in the 2010s, starring in the psychological thriller Side Effects (2013) and the action film Red 2 (2013).
Zeta-Jones is the recipient of several accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award and a Tony Award, and in 2010 she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her film and humanitarian endeavours. She supports various charities and causes, and is a prominent celebrity endorser of brands. Her struggle with depression and bipolar II disorder has been well-documented by the media. She is married to the actor Michael Douglas with whom she has two children.
Zeta-Jones was born in Swansea, Wales, on 25 September 1969 to David Jones, the owner of a sweet factory, and his wife Patricia (née Fair), a seamstress. Her father is Welsh and her mother is of Irish Catholic descent. She was named after her grandmothers, Zeta Jones and Catherine Fair. She has an older brother, David, and a younger brother, Lyndon, who worked as a sales representative before venturing into film production. Zeta-Jones was raised in the suburban area of Mumbles. Because Zeta-Jones was a hyperactive child, her mother sent her to the Hazel Johnson School of Dance when she was four years old. She was educated at the Dumbarton House School, a private school in Swansea. The family came from a modest background, but their fortunes improved when they won £100,000 in a bingo competition, allowing them to pay for Zeta-Jones' dance and ballet lessons.
Zeta-Jones participated in school stage shows from a young age and gained local media attention when her rendition of a Shirley Bassey song won a Junior Star Trail talent competition. As part of a dance troupe, she routinely took trips to London, where she auditioned for roles in the theatre. At the age of nine, she was selected to play one of the orphan girls in a West End production of the musical Annie, and in her early teens, she became a national tap-dancing champion. In 1981 she played the lead role of Annie in a Swansea production of the musical, which was staged at the Swansea Grand Theatre. Two years later, she played the lead role of Tallulah in a West End production of Bugsy Malone. When she was 15, Zeta-Jones dropped out of school without obtaining O-levels and decided to live in London to pursue a full-time acting career; she was also engaged to perform in a touring production of The Pajama Game. Describing her teenage years in London, Zeta-Jones said, "I would queue up for auditions and then change my costume or put on a different leotard and audition again. It might take me two tries, but I always got the job. I figured out what they wanted". She went on to attend the independent Arts Educational Schools in Chiswick, London, for a three-year course in musical theatre.
In 1987, when she was 17 years old, Zeta-Jones was picked as the second understudy to the lead actress in a West End production of 42nd Street. During one of the performances, both the star and the first understudy were unavailable, and Zeta-Jones was asked to play the role of Peggy Sawyer—a chorus girl who becomes a star. The producer was impressed by her acting ability and allowed her to play the role for the next two years. Her next stage appearance was with the English National Opera at the London Coliseum in 1989 where she played Mae Jones in Kurt Weill's Street Scene.
In 1990, Zeta-Jones made her film debut in the director Philippe de Broca's film 1001 Nights. An adaptation of the Persian fable One Thousand and One Nights, the French-Italian production recounts the tale from the perspective of Scheherazade (Zeta-Jones), one of the brides of King Sharir (Thierry Lhermitte). The film was not well received at the box office, and according to de Broca's obituary in The Daily Telegraph, the film "is best remembered for its enjoyable nude scenes". Greater success followed when she starred opposite David Jason and Pam Ferris in the British period comedy-drama television series The Darling Buds of May from 1991 to 1993. Adapted from H. E. Bates' novel of the same name, Zeta-Jones played the role of the eldest daughter of a family living in the countryside in 1950s Britain. The series was the highest-rated television show in the country at the time, and Zeta-Jones gained wide public recognition for it; she said, "Literally, with one hour of television my life completely changed. I couldn't go anywhere".
Following a brief appearance as Beatriz Enríquez de Arana in the unsuccessful adventure film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992), Zeta-Jones featured as a belly dancer in disguise in a 1992 episode of George Lucas' television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. She next took on the part of an aspiring duchess in Splitting Heirs (1993), a farcical period drama from the director Robert Young about two children (Eric Idle and Rick Moranis) who are separated at birth. Reviews for the film were negative, though the critic Vincent Canby of The New York Times found her to be "very funny". In 1994, Zeta-Jones played the melancholic Eustacia Vye in the television film The Return of the Native, an adaptation of the novel of the same name (1878) by Thomas Hardy, and the wife of Lloyd Owen's character in the television war drama The Cinder Path. She was then cast as the eponymous protagonist of the 1995 television biopic Catherine the Great. In a mixed review, critic Lisa Nesselson of Variety found the miniseries to be "brightly colored" but "wooden and hollow", though thought that Zeta-Jones "imparts a certain grace and resolve to her sovereign-in-the-making". Zeta-Jones next starred as the pragmatic girlfriend of Sean Pertwee's character in Blue Juice (1995), publicised as Britain's first surf film, which the critic Leonard Maltin described as a "superficial and predictable" production.
Dismayed at being typecast as the token pretty girl in British films, Zeta-Jones relocated to Los Angeles. She remarked, "There was all this fuss about who I was and wasn't dating. I was a pretty face and a big bust and nothing else. People in the business believed what they read about me. So I decided to move away and start again." She believed that the anonymity she faced in America helped her get roles on merit and not due to her public image. She earned the part of Sala, the hench-woman to the villainous Drax (Treat Williams) in the superhero film The Phantom (1996), starring Billy Zane in the titular role. A reviewer for Variety considered Zeta-Jones to be a standout in her part, but the film received a negative critical reception and earned little at the box office. The CBS television miniseries Titanic (1996), however, was better received. Starring opposite Peter Gallagher and George C. Scott, she portrayed the lead role of Isabella Paradine, a young mother engaged in an extramarital affair on the RMS Titanic.
Steven Spielberg took notice of Zeta-Jones in Titanic and recommended her to Martin Campbell, who was directing The Mask of Zorro (1998) for Spielberg's production company. Campbell cast her as the leading lady in favour of Izabella Scorupco, who was his original choice for the part. Co-starring Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, the film tells the story of Zorro (Hopkins), a Latin warrior who sets out to avenge the death of his wife and find his lost daughter Eléna (Zeta-Jones). She found similarities between her "volatile" Celtic personality and the temperament of the Latin warrior she played, and in preparation she studied dancing, riding, sword-fighting and took diction lessons in Spanish. Filming the action and dance sequences while wearing heavy corsets in the humid Mexican desert proved to be a challenge for Zeta-Jones, but she found the experience "worth suffering for". The Mask of Zorro was positively received by the critics and earned over US$250 million worldwide. The role proved to be a breakthrough for her and she was nominated for the MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance.
Zeta-Jones' first release of 1999 was the heist film Entrapment, in which she starred opposite Sean Connery as a seductive insurance agent on the lookout for an art thief. Despite a negative critical reception, the film was a commercial success; Janet Maslin of The New York Times thought that the film provided Zeta-Jones a platform to "show off her slithery skills" and Desson Howe of The Washington Post called on viewers to appreciate the sex appeal she brought to the role. Later that year, Zeta-Jones appeared alongside Liam Neeson and Lili Taylor in The Haunting, a remake of the 1963 film of the same name about a team of paranormal experts who look into strange occurrences in an ill-fated mansion. The horror feature received generally poor reviews but found a significant worldwide audience. In a scathing review, the critic Mick LaSalle wrote that "Zeta-Jones seems less an actress and more a pretty face, and not an interesting one at that".
After taking the supporting part of star John Cusack's romantic interest in the comedy-drama High Fidelity (2000), Zeta-Jones starred in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic (2000). In the ensemble thriller on drug abuse starring Michael Douglas and Benicio del Toro, she played Helena Ayala, the pregnant wife of a drug lord who takes over the business when her husband is arrested. Initially written by Soderbergh as a mother of two, he changed the part to that of a pregnant woman on Zeta-Jones' suggestion, to accommodate her own pregnancy. Highly profitable at the box office and critically acclaimed, Traffic was described by the Dallas Observer as "a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, a beautiful and brutal work". Edward Guthman of the San Francisco Chronicle found Zeta-Jones to be a standout among the ensemble and labelled her "sensational" in a scene in which she confronts a Tijuana dealer, adding that "through sheer conviction, she electrifies a moment that could have been absurd". The ensemble of Traffic won the SAG Award for Outstanding Cast and Zeta-Jones was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
The romantic comedy America's Sweethearts was Zeta-Jones' sole film project of 2001. She starred as a shrewd movie star, opposite Julia Roberts who featured as her character's under-confident sibling. The critic Roger Ebert compared the film unfavourably to the musical Singin' in the Rain (1952), but thought that Zeta-Jones was aptly "chilly and manipulative" in her part. The following year, Zeta-Jones starred alongside Renée Zellweger as the murderous nightclub singer Velma Kelly in Chicago (2002), a film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name from the director Rob Marshall. She based her character's look and mannerisms on the actress Louise Brooks, and as the script did not provide a backstory to Kelly, she worked to convey her character's "flamboyance" and "desperation" through "little looks and nuances". The film and her performance received critical acclaim. William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer felt that the actress made "a wonderfully statuesque and bitchy saloon goddess", and David Edelstein of Slate magazine wrote that she has "a smoldering confidence that takes your mind off her not-always-fluid dancing – although she's a perfectly fine hoofer, with majestic limbs and a commanding cleavage" and particularly praised her rendition of the song "All That Jazz". Chicago earned US$306 million worldwide, and was the recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture. For her performance, Zeta-Jones won the Academy Award, SAG Award, and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, among other awards and nominations.
Following the success of Chicago, Zeta-Jones voiced the part of Princess Marina in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003), an animated film featuring Brad Pitt as the voice of Sinbad the Sailor. She was drawn to the project to give her young children an opportunity to "hear [her] and get a sense of [her] on film", although the film proved to be a box office bomb. Also in 2003, Zeta-Jones starred alongside George Clooney in the Coen Brothers' black comedy Intolerable Cruelty. A commercial success, the film saw her play the role of a serial divorcée who is drawn towards a divorce attorney (Clooney). Writing for Empire magazine, the critic Damon Wise labelled the film a "dazzling screwball comedy" and felt that Zeta-Jones showed "an admirable facility for old-school quickfire patter". Other reviewers praised her onscreen chemistry with Clooney.
In 2004, Spielberg approached her to play an insecure air hostess in his comedy The Terminal, a film about a man (Tom Hanks) who is trapped at the JFK International Airport when he is denied entry into the United States. Spielberg was intent on her playing against type as a strong-willed woman, with a vulnerability in her character, but the critic A. O. Scott felt that it came across as using her for "her looks rather than for the arch, self-mocking wit that is her secret weapon as a comic actress". Commercially, The Terminal performed well. She next worked with Soderbergh to film Ocean's Twelve, a sequel to the heist film Ocean's Eleven (2001), which also reunited her with stars Clooney, Pitt, and Roberts. The production, which was filmed in several countries across Europe, saw Zeta-Jones play Isabel Lahiri, a Europol agent, and the love-interest of Pitt's character. Paul Clinton of CNN noted that her sex appeal benefited the film. Conversely, Ken Tucker of New York magazine argued that her character was redundant to the film's plot. Despite dividing critics, the sequel earned over US$360 million globally.
The Legend of Zorro (2005), a sequel to The Mask of Zorro, saw Zeta-Jones reprise her role of Eléna opposite Banderas. Set 10 years after the first film, the sequel follows Eléna struggling with married life. Unlike the original, the film was disliked by critics and was a commercial disappointment. She did not have any film releases in 2006. A biopic of Harry Houdini, entitled Death Defying Acts (2007), starring Guy Pearce as the escapologist Houdini, featured Zeta-Jones as a Scottish con-artist. The unsuccessful production was only given a limited theatrical release.
In 2007, Zeta-Jones starred alongside Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin in the romantic comedy No Reservations, a remake of the German film Mostly Martha (2001). No Reservations tells the story of an ambitious chef (Zeta-Jones) whose life changes for the better when she takes in her young niece (Breslin) after her sister's death. In preparation for her part, she worked in the kitchen and waited on tables at the Fiamma Osteria restaurant in New York. Claudia Puig of USA Today thought that Zeta-Jones "shines as a character that finely balances off-putting reserve with sympathetic appeal", and Ebert, despite disliking the film, found her to be "convincing" in her role. With a global gross of US$92 million, the film marked Zeta-Jones' final commercial success of the decade.
Following No Reservations, Zeta-Jones significantly decreased her workload in the next five years. She instead chose to focus on her family and health, having been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, and her infrequent acting appearances were in smaller-scale and less successful productions. She took on the role of a 40-year-old mother attracted to a younger man (Justin Bartha) in the romantic comedy The Rebound. The production was released theatrically in markets outside of the United States in 2009–10, but due to financial troubles of its distributor, The Film Development, the film failed to release theatrically in America.
Zeta-Jones returned to stage in 2009 with a revival of the musical A Little Night Music, which marked her Broadway debut. Set in Sweden during the early twentieth century, the musical follows the relationship between three people (Zeta-Jones, Angela Lansbury and Alexander Hanson) during the course of an evening. She played Desirée Armfeldt, an ageing actress, and was particularly drawn to the complexities of the play, saying, "There's no jazzy hands, no high kicks, no fishnet stockings, ... It's not one of those shows where you can dig about three inches and come out the other end. You can keep digging and digging and digging". She did not listen to past recordings of the songs in the play so she could bring her own interpretation to them. The critic Claire Prentice of The Daily Telegraph wrote that Zeta-Jones brought in a "quiet, reflective poignancy" in her rendition of the song "Send in the Clowns", but Emma Brocks of The Guardian was more critical, remarking that "with her pretty voice, head wresting this way and that, [she] seems to be auditioning for stage school". For her performance, Zeta-Jones won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical and the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
Following a three-year sabbatical from acting, Zeta-Jones made her screen comeback in Lay the Favorite (2012), a comedy co-starring Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall, in which she played the jealous wife of a gambler (Willis). Reviews for the film were negative, and the critic Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times found Zeta-Jones to be "far too shrill to amuse". In the ensemble musical comedy Rock of Ages, co-starring Tom Cruise and Bryan Cranston, Zeta-Jones played the part of a religiously conservative wife of a mayor. She was attracted to the idea of playing a "nightmare of a woman" and based the role on the politician Michele Bachmann; the film received mixed reviews and failed commercially. Her final release of 2012 was Playing for Keeps, a romantic comedy with Gerard Butler, which proved to be her third box office failure of the year.
In 2013, Zeta-Jones took on a leading role in the crime thriller Broken City, co-starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. The film tells the story of a private detective (Wahlberg) who is hired by the mayor of New York (Crowe) to spy on his wife (Zeta-Jones). Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter thought that Zeta-Jones "looks like class itself and nicely underplays", and Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail observed that the actress "does a fair, if incongruous, impersonation of a forties vamp". However, as with Zeta-Jones' previous few projects, the film was not widely seen, and received poor reviews. This changed when Zeta-Jones collaborated with Soderbergh for the third time to film the critically acclaimed thriller Side Effects (2013). Co-starring with Channing Tatum, Jude Law and Rooney Mara, the film saw her play a mysterious psychiatrist who recommends an antidepressant drug with serious side effects. Peter Travers found the film to be a "hell of a thriller, twisty, terrific and packed with surprises" and considered Zeta-Jones to be "dynamite" in it.
In the action-comedy film Red 2 (2013), which served as a sequel to the 2010 film Red, Zeta-Jones played a seductive Russian double agent, alongside Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and Mary-Louise Parker. She was drawn to the project, which follows the comic adventures of retired spies, for "the action, the humour, [and] the tongue-in-cheek quality of it". Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Justin Lowe remarked that Zeta-Jones "nicely pulls off Russian spy Katja's mix of allure and menace", and with a worldwide gross of US$148 million, Red 2 emerged as her most widely seen film since No Reservations.
Following Red 2, Zeta-Jones took another sabbatical from acting, saying: "If I'm going to leave my family for any length of time it had better be for a role that I haven't played before, [otherwise] I would prefer to stay at home". She found the role opposite Bill Nighy and Toby Jones in the British war comedy film Dad's Army (2016), based on the television sitcom of the same name. She was cast as a glamorous journalist reporting on a British Home Guard platoon based in Walmington-on-Sea. Catherine Bray of Variety found the film to be an "amiable but creaky resurrection" of the popular sitcom, and thought that while Zeta-Jones "hits the required single note with some spirit" she was "generally underused" in it. Zeta-Jones returned to television the following year by portraying the actress Olivia de Havilland in the first season of Ryan Murphy's anthology drama series Feud, subtitled Bette and Joan, about the rivalry between the actresses Joan Crawford and Bette Davis (played by Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, respectively). Dominic Patten of Deadline.com found Zeta-Jones to be "wonderfully cast" and Sonia Saraiya of Variety praised her for providing "the best turn in the show".
In addition to her acting career, Zeta-Jones supports various charities and causes. She is a patron of Swansea's Longfields Day Centre for the disabled, and has made sizeable donations to the centre. In 2001, she auctioned an outfit she wore in The Mask of Zorro (1998) to raise funds for AIDS patients in Africa. In 2005, she became the ambassador of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children charity, and launched the Full Stop appeal in Wales to raise awareness on child abuse. She has also given her support to other charitable organisations for children such as the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and the Noah's Ark Appeal, among others. Zeta-Jones is also the founding host for A Fine Romance, an annual charitable program that helps raise funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, and is one of the members of the Cinema for Peace Foundation.
Zeta-Jones briefly dabbled with a singing career in the early 1990s. In 1992, she provided her voice to the character of Jean Simmons in Jeff Wayne's musical retelling of Spartacus, entitled Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of Spartacus. Three years later, she released her first single, "In The Arms Of Love", on Wayne's Wow! Records. She later sang "True Love Ways", a duet with David Essex in 1994.
Zeta-Jones has featured as an advertising spokeswoman for several brands and products. She was named the global ambassador for the cosmetics company Elizabeth Arden, Inc. in 2002. Also that year, she was signed on by the phone company T-Mobile for an estimated US$10 million per year, making her the highest-paid celebrity endorser at the time.
The success of the television series The Darling Buds of May (1991–93) made Zeta-Jones a popular celebrity in Britain, and her personal life has since been chronicled by the media. Her relationships in the early 1990s with the television personality John Leslie, the singer David Essex, and the pop star Mick Hucknall were widely reported by the British press. In the mid-1990s she was briefly engaged to the Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen. In an interview with the Daily Mirror in 1995, she described her lifestyle: "I drink, I swear, I like sex".
Zeta-Jones met the actor Michael Douglas, with whom she shares a birthday and who is 25 years her senior, at the Deauville Film Festival in France in August 1998, after being introduced by Danny DeVito. They became engaged on 31 December 1999, and were married at the Plaza Hotel in New York on 18 November 2000 after Douglas' divorce was finalised. The high-profile ceremony, which cost an estimated £1.5 million, was labelled as the "wedding of the year" by the BBC. The couple signed a £1 million deal with OK! magazine to release pictures of the event, and the rest of the press were not permitted to enter. Despite this, journalists of the Hello! magazine surreptitiously took pictures of the ceremony, and the couple successfully sued the magazine for invasion of privacy.
Douglas and Zeta-Jones have two children, a son Dylan Michael (born August 2000) and a daughter Carys Zeta (born April 2003). The family lived in Bermuda until 2009, and as of 2016, live in rural New York State. In 2010, Douglas was diagnosed with tongue cancer, and Zeta-Jones faced an emotionally turbulent time; she said, "When you get sideswiped like that [with the illness] it's an obvious trigger for your balance to be a little bit off – not sleeping, worry, stress." This trigger led to Zeta-Jones suffering from depression, and despite initial apprehension, she spoke publicly about suffering from bipolar II disorder. She sought treatment by checking herself into hospital in 2011, and again in 2013. Owing to the stress of both their illnesses, the couple decided to live separately in 2013, though without taking legal action towards separation or divorce. They reconciled in 2014, with Douglas stating that they were "stronger than ever".
Zeta-Jones' beauty and sex appeal has been picked up by several sources, including People magazine, who ranked her first in their listing of the "Most Beautiful People" in 1998. She continued to feature in the list from 2000–04. In 2003, the magazine Esquire labelled her the most beautiful woman on the planet. In 2011, she was named the most beautiful British woman by a poll conducted by the television network QVC.
The journalist Sheila Johnston of The Daily Telegraph, in 2010, described Zeta-Jones as "the ultimate self-made success" who "constantly made bold decisions, and scrubbed up very nicely into a luscious star who radiates a classic […] brand of big-screen glamour." Guy Adams of The Independent considers her personality to be "self-effacing and energetic" but takes note of her "steely core" in her off-screen persona. Zeta-Jones' success in her early Hollywood films The Mask of Zorro (1998) and Entrapment (1999) relied predominantly on her sex appeal, but she was later appreciated for her versatility.
Zeta-Jones' career graph and marriage to Douglas has been a subject of satire. A 2006 episode of the satirical British television show Star Stories (2006–2008) was entitled Catherine Zeta-Jones — Her Quest To Prove Herself ... And Also Find Love, about a fictitious life story of Zeta-Jones. Addressing her perceived media image, Zeta-Jones remarked in a 2004 interview to USA Weekend: "The biggest misconception of me is that I'm some die-hard, ambitious, do-anything-to-get-anything kind of person, I'm not. I'm very shy socially." Zeta-Jones is protective of her public image, and the use of her likeness is carefully controlled. As well as taking legal action against Hello! magazine, she sued a Nevada-based topless club for including her image on their advertising. In 2003, the celebrity biographer Cliff Goodwin wrote an unauthorised biography of the actress, entitled Catherine Zeta Jones: The Biography, but the publication was indefinitely postponed when she issued a legal notice prohibiting its release.
For her role in Chicago (2002), Zeta-Jones was awarded the Academy Award, SAG Award, and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has received two Golden Globe Award nominations: Best Supporting Actress for Traffic (2000) and Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for Chicago (2002). She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the Monarchy of the United Kingdom in 2010 for her film and charity work.
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