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Catherine Zeta-Jones - Goddesses of the Silver Screen
522    Dibyendu Banerjee    23/04/2023

Catherine Zeta-Jones was born on 25 September 1969 in Swansea, Wales, to David Jones, the owner of a sweet factory and his wife Patricia and was raised in the nearby town of Mumbles. She was born simply Catherine Jones, but to stand out from several other young women with the same name, she later added her paternal grandmother's name Zeta with a hyphen to her name. At the early age of four, she was sent to the Hazel Johnson School of Dance by her mother, as she was a hyperactive child and was educated at the Dumbarton House School, a private school in Swansea. From a young age, she showed interest in acting, participated in school stage shows and gained local media attention when she won a Junior Star Trail talent competition.

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She became a regular performer in the amateur theatre group of her church and at the age of nine, she secured and played the starring role in the troupe’s production of Annie, which was staged at the Swansea Grand Theatre. To pursue her career in acting, she quit school before obtaining O-levels and moved to London at age 15 and two years later, she was picked as the second understudy to the lead actress in a West End production of the musical 42nd Street.

catherine zeta jones

However, her first major onstage role came two years later, when during one of the performances, both the star and the first understudy were unavailable, as they fell sick and Zeta-Jones was instructed to play the lead role of Peggy Sawyer.

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Impressed by her performance in the show, the producer gave her the golden opportunity to play the role for the rest of the musical's production. But it was not until she landed the role of Mariette Larkin in the popular British television comedy-drama series The Darling Buds of May (1991), that Zeta-Jones became a well known figure in England.

catherine zeta jones
In 1001 Nights with Stéphane Freiss

Catherine Zeta-Jones made her film debut in the French-Italian production 1001 Nuits (1990), an adaptation of the Persian fable One Thousand and One Nights, which is best remembered for its enjoyable nude scenes, but did not perform well at the box office. Following a brief appearance in the unsuccessful adventure film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992), the role of pragmatic Chloe in Blue Juice (1995) and a prominent role of the seductive Sala in The Phantom (1996), she got her breakthrough role of the fiery Elena in The Mask of Zorro (1998), opposite Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.

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In preparation for the role, she had to learn dancing, riding and sword-fighting and also took diction lessons in Spanish. Filming the action and dance sequences while wearing heavy corsets in the dry Mexican desert proved challenging for Zeta-Jones, but the role won her Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favourite Female Newcomer and a nomination for the MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance, while the film was positively received by the critics and grossed over $250 million worldwide.

catherine zeta jones
In The Mask of Zorro 1998

After her success in The Mask of Zorro, Zeta-Jones appeared opposite Sean Connery, as a seductive insurance agent on the lookout for an art thief in the big-budget blockbuster thriller Entrapment (1999), which proved to be a commercial success, despite a negative critical reception. Later in the same year, she appeared as Theo, one of the members of a team of paranormal experts who look into strange occurrences in an ill-fated mansion, in The Haunting (1999), a remake of the 1963 horror film of the same name. Although the film found a significant worldwide audience, it also earned poor reviews.

catherine zeta jones
In Entrapment (1999) with Sean Connery

Catherine Zeta-Jones started the new millennium with her appearance in the romantic comedy High Fidelity (2000), in which she played the supporting part of the lead John Cusack’s former romantic interest and also appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar winning thriller Traffic (2000) on drug abuse, in which she portrayed the pregnant wife of a drug lord who takes over the business when her husband is arrested. While the film was critically acclaimed and was a box office hit, Zeta-Jones was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, although many believed she was robbed of an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.

catherine zeta jones
In Traffic (2000)
catherine zeta jones
In America’s Sweethearts (2001)

During the next year, Zeta-Jones starred as a shrewd movie star in the romantic comedy America’s Sweethearts (2001), along with Julia Roberts, which was her only film released in that year and in the following year, she starred as the homicidal entertainer Velma Kelly in the film adaptation of the popular Broadway musical hit Chicago (2002). While the film received widespread critical acclaim and grossed $306 million worldwide, Catherine Zeta-Jones impressed critics and audiences alike with her singing and dancing and won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress, apart from other awards and nominations.

catherine zeta jones
In Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

Following the success of Chicago, Zeta-Jones starred opposite George Clooney in the Coen brother’s black comedy Intolerable Cruelty (2003), in which she played the role of Marylin, a serial divorcée, who is drawn towards a divorce lawyer, played by Clooney. After that, she appeared as Amelia Warren, an insecure air hostess, in Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal (2004), a film about a man, played by Tom Hanks, who is stranded at the JFK International Airport, when he is denied entry into the United States or return home, as his papers are no longer valid, since a coup d'état has occurred back home and the United States does not recognize the new government of the country concerned. During the same year she also worked with Steven Soderbergh again to film Ocean’s Twelve (2004), a sequel to the blockbuster Ocean’s Eleven, which also reunited her with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Her other important films during the decade include The Legend of Zorro (2005), a sequel to The Mask of Zorro and the romantic comedy No Reservations (2007).

catherine zeta jones

Zeta-Jones significantly decreased her workload in the subsequent years and after an extended period away from work, she made her screen comeback in Lay the Favorite (2012), a comedy, in which she played the jealous wife of a gambler and a musical comedy, Rock of Ages (2012), co-starring Tom Cruise, portraying the role of a religiously conservative wife of a mayor. She collaborated with Soderbergh for the third time to film the critically acclaimed thriller Side Effects (2013), playing a mysterious psychiatrist who recommends an antidepressant drug with serious side effects and also played a seductive Russian double agent in the action comedy Red 2 (2013), a sequel to the 2010 film Red.

catherine zeta jones
Side Effects 2013 with Rooney Mara

It was widely reported by the British press that in the early 1990s, Zeta-Jones was in relationship with television personality John Leslie, singer David Essex and pop star Mick Hucknall. Even, she was engaged to Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen for a short time in the mid-1990s. But things changed, when she met American actor Michael Douglas at the Deauville American Film Festival in France in August 1998, with whom she shares her birthday and who is 25 years her senior. Though their relationship raised a lot of eyebrows, they became engaged on 31 December 1999 and after Douglas's divorce was finalised, they became married at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on 18 November 2000. The couple has two children and they are one of Hollywood's rare success stories.

catherine zeta jones
With Michael Douglas

Known for her beauty and sex appeal, People magazine placed Zeta-Jones at number one on the list of the Most Beautiful People in 1998. She was also labelled as the most beautiful woman on the planet by Esquire in 2003. She was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her services to drama and in 2019, she was honoured with the Freedom of the city of Swansea, the highest civil honour reserved for the very finest people associated with the city.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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