- This short biography was cannibalised from various publications and entertainment sources on the Internet, and my thanks goes to them. While not completely original, the paragraphing and editing is mine own.
Catherine Zeta-Jones : the Gallery
5 Sept 1998
Catherine Zeta-Jones : a Biography
- Early Life
- Privacy and Paparazzi
- Coming to America
- The Mask of Zorro
- The Entrapment
- Catherine Zeta-Jones ( pronounced ZEE-tah ) was born in Swansea, West Glamorgan, Wales, on September 25, 1969.
- "My mother's Irish and my father's Welsh," she says fo her family " But, we've tried to track our family back, and we're blocked. We're at a crossroads down there after my great-great-grandfather, and no one seems to know anything."
- Catherine's father ran the town confectionery, prompting her to recall, "It was like growing up in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory country."
- "I was 15 when I got my (professional actor's) card," recalls the Welsh actress. "I was born and raised in the small Welsh town of Swansea. It's such a small town that the school is really an old house, but it has the distinction of being the birthplace of (poet) Dylan Thomas."
- Though it was a very small town, Catherine was singing and dancing by the time she was four.
- "Our local Catholic church had a very active amateur drama group. We all learned singing, dancing and performing."
- As a child, she starred in Annie and at the tender age of 10, she played Talullah in a theatrical production of Bugsy Malone. When Catherine was 14, former Monkees star Mickey Dolenz was touring Britain in a musical that required the participation of local teens in each city it visited. She auditioned for the Welsh version of the show and won a chorus spot. She so impressed the producers that they whisked her off to London to star in a production of The Pyjama Game. Catherine moved to London from her native South Wales when she turned 15.
- By the time she was 17, Catherine had the lead in the British revival of 42nd Street. She was originally cast as the second understudy for the lead role in the musical 42nd Street, which entailed a grueling schedule. "I didn't know anybody," she says shrugging. "I trained in the morning, then went to the theater and did the show, went to bed and got up and did it again."
- Her diligence paid off when both the star and first understudy were absent the night the play's producer, David Merrick, was in the audience. "After that," Catherine recalls, "I was playing the lead, eight shows a week."
- "I never saw movies in my future so when 42nd Street closed, off I went to France. ( Where she made her film debut in French director Philip de Broca's 1990 film Scheherazade. ) I returned home a year later because I was offered a role in a TV series called The Darling Buds of May." This British comedy-drama from Yorkshire Television was based on the novel by H.E. Bates.
- While Catherine segued back to theater work in "Street Scenes" with the English National Opera after wrapping "The Darling Buds of May.", the hit 12-episodes series turned her into a major sex symbol.
- "Almost overnight, my life changed drastically. Every time I had coffee with a man, he became my latest boyfriend. Cameras followed me everywhere. I had absolutely no privacy."
- Catherine was usually linked with older men, such as British TV star John Leslie and American producer Jon Peters.
- "The intrusion into my life got so bad, I actually drove my car into a lamp post trying to get away from paparazzi one day. It was at that moment that I decided to flee Britain and live in America."
- She admits she took a chance, leaving stardom to try America. "I know a lot of actors in Britain who are big fish in our small sea and just haven't got the gumption to come over here and risk the rejection," she says. "I didn't care if I was rejected. I needed to know in the back of my mind that I gave it a go, and if it didn't work out, it didn't work out."
- And at first, it did seem as if things wouldn't be working out. Catherine thought she could parlay her TV success into feature films but her roles in The Phantom (1996) with Billy Zane, Splitting Heirs (1993) with Barbara Hershey and Rick Moranis, and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) with Marlon Brandowent unnoticed by viewers, casting agents and producers alike.
- She had much better luck with her American TV roles, including the lead role in Catherine the Great and Titanic.
The Mask of Zorro
- When she finally did come to the notice of a film-producer, it was none other than Steven Spielberg. Spielberg was in preproduction for The Mask of Zorro when he caught Catherine in "The Titanic" miniseries. He needed a fiery actress to play the aging Zorro's daughter and the new Zorro's lover. The next day, he called director Martin Campbell and suggested the director consider her for Elena. "Steven convinced me," said Campbell. "Few people outside England have seen her work, and it is exciting to think we are introducing this great new talent."
- "He wanted to meet me, just have a chat," Catherine recalls from her rented Los Angeles home. "I was like, 'I can't believe I'm sitting here with this dinosaur head and Steven Spielberg.' "
- The Mask of Zorro reunites the Welsh-born Catherine with Hopkins, who previously directed her in a 1992 theater production of the Dylan Thomas play "Under Milkwood."
- "Steven flew me down to screen-test with Anthony Hopkins in Mexico. Tony didn't remember right away but he had directed me in a Welsh production of Dylan Thomas's Under Milkwood. That other dark-skinned Welsh performer, Tom Jones, was also in the production."
- "I loved working with Catherine, both in the play and in The Mask Of Zorro," Hopkins says. "She is wonderful. I'm only sorry they didn't need her to sing in Zorro. She has a beautiful voice."
- Catherine impressed both Hopkins and director Martin Campbell, but had to further screen-test with Antonio Banderas, who was playing the young Zorro.
- "There was an important dance sequence with Antonio and they wanted to make certain I could carry it off. They didn't know I was a musical theatre actress."
- Catherine passed her second test with flying colors, so she stayed in Mexico to learn to fence and ride.
- "It was like Mexican boot camp," recalls Catherine of her preparations on location south of the border. Her sultry brown eyes flash mock horror as she outlines her typical preproduction day for the role of Elena Montero, the feisty and stunningly beautiful Mexican woman who captures the heart of Zorro: "Two hours of dancing, two hours of horseback riding, two hours of sword fighting and two hours of dialect classes-daily."
- All neccesary, she admits - "My character in Zorro is essentially Wonder Woman. She rides, dances and fences. The only thing we don't see her doing in Zorro is cook." "Elena isn't a damsel in distress," adds Catherine. "There was great physicality in the role. Elena is a strong woman, but vulnerable."
- Producer Foster said, "This is a huge opportunity for Catherine, starring opposite Hopkins and Banderas. She distinguishes herself both as an actress and as a true professional, having endured the physical aspects of her role."
- Her dance background was invaluable for her fencing training but she had nothing, except her backside to fall back on when it came to learning to ride. "I was so sore until I finally learned to fall into the rhythm of the horse."
- Like the rest of the cast members of Zorro, Catherine suffered her share of nicks and cuts from the swords. "Every time we'd shoot a fencing sequence, I'd check myself in the shower that night to see just how many war wounds I had. During the day, the makeup people kept covering them up."
- Though she's proud to say her sword never left a welt on Banderas, she has to admit she injured him during a rehearsal for their sensuous dance sequence. "Antonio is pretty physical so he really got into the dance. During one of the dips one day, I took a chunk out of his back with my watch. "
- "He's so Latin. He's so macho. I could see how much pain he was in but he refused even to wince."
- The actress will next be seen starring opposite Sean Connery in in Fox's $100 million The Entrapment. She'll have to learn sleight of hand--the pair are cat burglars in an action romance. "We play international art thieves, and it's a wonderful, romantic movie. It's similar to The Thomas Crown Affair. It's a really great character. "
- After the buzz about Catherine from The Mask of Zorro, Connery was keen for her to sign up in The Entrapment.
- "I met Sean in Rome... (and he had ) actually only saw Zorro, like, three weeks ago. We talked about the project and then we screen tested in New York. Sean's producing it and he really wanted me. I think it was more of a name thing, like, I'm not a name. I think they wanted Sean Connery and a whoever. But Sean really wanted me for it, and then I got it. "
- Already, there have been comments about the disparity between the ages of her co-star and her.
- As Catherine puts it " I've never done that before. But what's really interesting in the script, is it's discussed, that's part of the story. I keep telling him he's old enough to be my grandfather. They're business partners, and all of a sudden, it gets a bit... "Whoa... this is getting out of hand... we shouldn't be doing this. This is not the way we should be working together."
- Zeta-Jones tells Premiere magazine how she plans to ride off paparazzi while filming Entrapment in London ( and Hong Kong ): "I still have the sword that I used in Zorro next to my fireplace!"