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CATHERINE ZETA-JONES —Hollywood's Perfect Leading Lady by Kaya Morgan


This voluptuous Welsh beauty with her perfect face, sultry, dark looks, sexy accent, incredible figure, and intelligence is the envy of every woman, and the fantasy of many a man. Named by People magazine as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World," Catherine Zeta-Jones is considered so beautiful that she was deemed unsuitable to play the famed opera singer, Maria Callas because her goddess-like qualities wouldn't make her believable in such a role.

So, how did this seemingly overnight-star pop onto the big screen and take Hollywood by storm? Well, to begin with, we could never really consider Catherine an overnight star. The only daughter of a working-class family in the small fishing village of Swansea, West Glamorgan, South Whales, Catherine had to beg to join her friends in dance lessons at age four. Growing up with two brothers, she quickly learned to hold her own and speak her mind if she was to get her way. By age 11, she won the British national tap-dance championship, and earned her first paycheck by staring in the Victoria Palace Theatre's London production of Annie , and at 14, she played Tallulah , a pint-sized gangster's moll, in the stage production of Bugsy Malone .

Catherine became so bitten by the acting bug that at age 15, she quit school and moved to London, taking up quarters with a single mom who had formerly been one of her tutors. Able to concentrate on her acting career full time, within two years, she got her first big break when she won a part in the chorus of a West End production of the famed musical, 42 nd Street. Within a year, this chorus girl, second understudy had won the lead role of star, as Peggy Sawyer. At the end of a three-year run with eight shows a week, at age 19, she was ready to hang up her dancing shoes. Shortly after the closing of the play, she made her big screen debut in the title role of French director, Phillippe de Broca's Scheherazade .

In 1991, Catherine achieved star status in the United Kingdom in the most successful TV comedy series of all time, The Darling Buds of May, when she played Mariette Larkin, the eldest of six children raised in a rural farming community. Set in the nostalgic 50's, the show revolved around a larger-than-life family who didn't pay taxes, drank, had sex and regularly used the punchline that everything was always "perfick."

Attempting to make a name in Hollywood as well, Catherine appeared in a 1992 episode of TV's, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles , and in the made for TV epic, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery . Finding a measure of success with TV projects, she played a part in CBS's The Return of the Native in 1994, and with a remarkable performance as "Catherine" in the mini-series, Catherine the Great in 1995. Yet, she had less luck on the big screen with the slapstick comedy, Splitting Heirs in 1993 starring opposite funnymen Rick Moranis and John Cleese, then with the straight-to-video, Blue Juice in 1995, co-starring Ewan McGregor, and finally starring opposite Billy Zane in The Phantom in 1996.

But it was her voyage on the Titanic , in the 1996 TV docudrama with Peter Gallagher and George C. Scott that caught Steven Spielberg's eye. He recommended her to the director of his 1998, The Mask of Zorro film in which she played the heroine co-starring with Antonio Banderas and Sir Anthony Hopkins. This swashbuckling action-romance was a huge hit with both critics and at the box office. Catherine was clearly on her way to the top when shortly thereafter she was cast opposite Sean Connery in the 1999 thriller, Entrapment.

Later in 1999, Catherine starred alongside Liam Neeson and Lili Taylor in Dreamworks' horror film, The Haunting . The following year, she made a cameo appearance in the comedy hit, High Fidelity , starring John Cusack. In late 2000, she played the wife of a Mexican drug lord in the Oscar-winning drama, Traffic, co-starring with Michael Douglas, although they shared no scenes together. She next stared as a temperamental Hollywood movie diva in the 2001 hit comedy America's Sweethearts with Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal and John Cusack. But it was her 2003 role in the blockbuster hit, Chicago, that garnered her a SAG, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, a BAFTA Award, and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as the murderous vixen, Velma Kelly. In her most recent film, she continues to wow audiences in the romantic comedy, Intolerable Cruelty, co-starring with George Clooney.

Though most people believe that she and Michael Douglas met on the set of Traffic, that is not so. They met at the Deauville Film Festival in the fall of 1998, long before the film ever came along. Seated at the same table for dinner, they found out they were born on the very same day September 25th although not the same year, as Michael is 25 years her senior. Reportedly, on their first date, he told her that he wanted to father her children, almost as if a premonition. Their relationship went quite unnoticed until while on vacation at Douglas' home in Spain, they were photographed kissing Catherine topless, lying on top of Michael. The tabloids were abuzz! Their first child, Dylan Michael, was born in August 2000. Their marriage took place in New York's famed Plaza Hotel in November 2000, with the newest member of the Douglas clan, daughter Carys Zeta born in 2003.

Now the spokesperson for T-Mobile, and the face of Elizabeth Arden, this bewitching, classic beauty, unmatched by anyone in Hollywood, has proven that she can do it all: comedy, action, drama, musicals, marriage, and motherhood. Although, marrying into one of Hollywood's leading dynasties, probably didn't hurt either!

To find more about Catherine Zeta-Jones, go to www.zeta-jones.com

More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.

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