Catherine Zeta-Jones (born September 25, 1969) is a Welsh Actress. She has received critical acclaim and numerous accolades throughout her career, including one Academy Award, one BAFTA Award, and three Screen Actor Guild Awards. She was named Hasty Pudding’s Woman of the Year in 2005, and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.
Zeta-Jones began her acting career at age 12, with the lead role in the stage musical Annie, and subsequently pursued a career on theatre with appearances in productions, such as West End’s 42nd Street. She made her movie debut in the 1991 French fantasy feature Les 1001 nuits and continued her film work with supporting roles in Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) and Splitting Heirs (1993), while starring in the ITV series The Darling Buds of May from 1991 until 1993. She established her early film career in the United Kingdom and eventually transitioned into Hollywood mainstream movies, appearing in the action western The Mask of Zorro (1998) and the crime thriller Entrapment (1999), both of which were international commercial successes. Her performance in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000) earned her significant critical praise and her first Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture.
Zeta-Jones starred as Velma Kelly in the film adaptation of the musical Chicago (2002), another critical and commercial success. For the film, she received the Academy Award and the British Academy Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, plus two Screen Actors Guild Awards and her second Golden Globe Award nomination, for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. She then appeared in the romantic comedy Intolerable Cruelty (2003), the crime film Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and reprised her starring role in the sequel of the 1998 film, The Legend of Zorro (2005). Parts in the smaller-scale features Death Defying Acts (2008) and The Rebound (2009) were followed by a 3-year hiatus from screen acting. During that time, she returned to the stage and portrayed Desiree in A Little Night Music (2010), for which she won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She has since done further film work in the musical comedy Rock of Ages and the psychological thriller Side Effects (2013).
1980s–90s: Early acting credits
Zeta-Jones made her professional acting debut when she played the lead in Annie, a production at Swansea Grand Theatre. When she was 14, Zeta-Jones was cast as Tallulah in theatre production of Bugsy Malone, and at age 17, she had a part in the chorus of The Pajama Game at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester starring Paul Jones and Fiona Hendley. The show subsequently toured the United Kingdom, and in 1987, she starred in 42nd Street as Peggy Sawyer at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. She was cast in the leading role after both the Actress playing Peggy Sawyer and her understudy fell ill. She also played Mae Jones in the Kurt Weill opera Street Scene with the English National Opera at the London Coliseum Theatre in 1989. After the show closed, she travelled to France where she played the lead role in French director Philippe de Broca’s Les 1001 Nuits (1990), her feature film debut. Her singing and dancing ability suggested a promising future but it was in a straight acting role as Mariette in the popular ITV period drama The Darling Buds of May (1991–1993), an adaptation of H. E. Bates’ novel of the same name that brought her to public attention and made her a British tabloid darling; “Literally, with one hour of television my life completely changed. I couldn’t go anywhere”, she once told USA Weekend magazine about her celebrity status in the United Kingdom due to her part in the show.
She briefly flirted with a musical career, beginning with a part in the 1992 album Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of Spartacus, from which the single “For All Time” was released in 1992. It reached No. 36 in the UK charts. She went on to release the singles “In the Arms of Love”, “I Can’t Help Myself”, and a duet with David Essex “True Love Ways”, reaching No. 38 in the UK singles chart in 1994. Around that time, she starred in an episode of the American television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992–1993) as well as in the film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992). In 1990, Zeta-Jones participated in a television commercial for the German Deutsche Bahn at the age of 21, playing the part of a young woman eloping with her lover from a joyless marriage, a role which apparently helped in promoting her acting career. She continued to find moderate success with a number of television projects, including The Return of the Native (1994) based on the novel of the same name (1878) by Thomas Hardy and the miniseries Catherine the Great. She also appeared in Splitting Heirs (1993), a comedy film starring Eric Idle, Rick Moranis and John Cleese. In 1996, she was cast as the evil aviatrix Sala in the action film The Phantom, based on the comic by Lee Falk. The following year, she co-starred in the CBS miniseries Titanic (1996), which also starred Peter Gallagher, Tim Curry and George C. Scott.
1998–2004: Mainstream success
Steven Spielberg, who noted her performance in the miniseries Titanic (1996), recommended her to Martin Campbell, the director of The Mask of Zorro (1998). Zeta-Jones subsequently landed a lead role in the film, alongside Welsh compatriot Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas. She studied dancing, riding, sword-Fighting and took part in dialect classes to play her role as Elena. The movie was released in the United States on 17 July 1998 to critical and financial success ( with a 83% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a US$250.2 million worldwide gross). For her part, the Actress was brought to a much wider recognition and earned critical and popular praise; commenting on her performance, Variety noted, “Zeta-Jones is bewitchingly lovely as the center of everyone’s attention, and she throws herself into the often physical demands of her role with impressive grace.” She nabbed the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Female Newcomer and was nominated for the Female Breakthrough Performance award at the 1999 MTV Movie Awards. She also scored Empire Award and Saturn Award nominations for The Mask of Zorro.
Her first release of 1999 was the caper film Entrapment, where she co-starred with Sean Connery, portraying an insurance agent named Virginia Baker, who is sent by her employer to track down and help capture an art thief. A box office success, the movie came out to moslty polarizing reviews, but Zeta-Jones rated favorably with critics. Roger Ebert noted that she played “a preposterous role absolutely straight”, and Washington Post called on viewers to “appreciate what she brings to the movie”. Despite the positive reaction towards Catherine, she later received a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actress. Later that year, she appeared alongside Liam Neeson and Lili Taylor in The Haunting. It was a remake of the classic 1963 movie of the same name about a team of paranormal experts who look into strange occurrences in an ill-fated mansion. Upon its release, the horror feature was generally critical panned but performed well commercially, with US$177.3 million made worldwide. She nabbed other Razzie Award nomination due to her role—for Worst Screen Couple (shared with Taylor).In 2000, Zeta-Jones starred in Steven Soderbergh’s critically acclaimed Traffic, where her role was Helena Ayala, the wife of a drug lord named Carlos Ayala (played by Steven Bauer). The picture also featured her real life husband Michael Douglas; through they were engaged when principal photography took place, none shared screen time. As she was pregnant at the time with her first child, her role in the movie was adjusted to suit her condition. Originally, her character was already a mother of two instead of an expecting one. Eager to work with director Soderbergh, she suggested to play her part pregnant as “it would give the character a vulnerability and would also up the stakes for her”. Traffic was highly profitable at the box office and earned praise from the press, with the critic for the Dallas Observer calling the movie “a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, a beautiful and brutal work”. Along with the cast, she won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and scored her first Golden Globe nomination, in the category of Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.
She then headlined America’s Sweethearts (2001), a romantic comedy film also starring Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal and John Cusack, where she portrayed a film star named Gwen Harrison. The film came out to moslty mediocre and average reviews, with Los Angeles Weekly stating that the film “isn’t just banal, it’s aggressively, arrogantly banal.” However, it was a hit at the box office grossing over US$138 million worldwide. The following year, Zeta-Jones played murderous vaudevillian Velma Kelly in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Chicago. It was commercial success, grossing more than US$306 million worldwide, and received universal acclaim. Her performance was widely praised by critics as well; Seattle Post-Intelligencer felt that the Actress “makes a wonderfully statuesque and bitchy saloon goddess”, and Slate wrote in its verdict 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”. The movie earned her the Best Supporting Actress award at the 75th Academy Awards and the 56th BAFTA Awards, plus two Screen Actors Guild Awards: for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role and as a cast member for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
She voiced Marina, opposite Brad Pitt as the title role in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, an animated film that premiered on 2 July 2003 theatrically. She was drawn to appear in the project, which marked her first voice-over work, as it meant “a great opportunity” for her children to “hear [her] and get a sense of [her] on film”. The movie debuted to mixed reviews, and despite recouping its US$60 million production budget, it was a box office bomb. Later that year, Zeta-Jones co-starred with George Clooney, portraying serial divorcee Marilyn Rexroth in the black comedy Intolerable Cruelty, which earned her further critical acclaim; while Empire magazine felt that she played her part with “admirable facility”, other reviews such as those for the Washington Post, Salon and Boston Globe showed approval of the psychical chemistry between her and Clooney. The film opened on 10 October 2003 and grossed US$120 million worldwide.
The following year, she played air hostess Amelia Warren in The Terminal alongside Tom Hanks. It was a romantic comedy directed by Steven Spielberg and revolves around a man who becomes trapped in JFK International Airport terminal when he is denied entry into the United States and at the same time cannot return to his native country due to a Revolution. The movie rated reasonably favorable with critics, and meant yet another box office success for Zeta-Jones. Her next film appearance in the year was in Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Twelve, the sequel to Ocean’s Eleven (2001), where she reunited with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, playing Europol agent Isabel Lahiri. The sequel earned dividing comments from reviewers and was highly profitable with $362.7 million made globally. The cast members were nominated for the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast.
2005–11: Career hiatus and theatre
Following her Oscar win for Chicago and her starring roles in mostly acclaimed and commercially successful movies, Zeta-Jones’ career trajectory the subsequent years had been less noteworthy, as she withdrew from screen acting several years to focus on her family life, and her less frequent acting appearances were in smaller-scale and less successful features. Her only film release of 2005 was The Legend of Zorro, the sequel to The Mask of Zorro, where she repraised her role of Elena opposite Antonio Banderas. According to an IGN interview with Zeta-Jones, the follow-up was always “in the conversation” between her, Banderas and the movie’s director, recalling that the 1998 original installment “wasn’t just professionally important, but personally” for her, as Michael Douglas, who would later become her husband, first noticed her through that movie. The Legend of Zorro received negative reviews from critics, with Zeta-Jones and Banderas’ on-screen attraction garnering mixed reactions. James Berardinelli felt the chemistry between the two leads had “evaporated during the intervening years” but Variety and Slate magazine praised it in particular while reviewing the movie. The movie’s opening weekend at the North American and foreign box office was “decisively unspectacular”, according to Box Office Mojo, and eventually grossed US$142 million internationally, on a production budget of US$75 million. She later received a People’s Choice Award nomination for her role.She did not appear in any feature film in 2006, and come back to the big screen when she starred opposite Aaron Eckhart and Abigail Breslin in 2007’s romantic comedy-drama No Reservations, an American remake of the German film Mostly Martha (2001). She played a hard-edged chef named Kate, whose life is turned upside down when she decides to take in her young niece following a tragic accident that killed her sister. The film garnered mixed or average reviews, but Roger Ebert found Catherine “convincing” in her role, and Claudia Puig of USA Today newspaper wrote that she “shines as a character that finely balances off-putting reserve with sympathetic appeal”. It performed decently at the box office (grossing US$92 million worldwide) and marked Zeta-Jones’ last commercially successful movie of the decade.
She starred alongside Guy Pearce and Saoirse Ronan in Death Defying Acts, a biography about legendary escapologist Harry Houdini at the height of his career in the 1920s. The movie had its premiere screening at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and received mixed reviews from critics, who moslty concluded that it was “pretty but dull, with unconvincing turns” from leads Zeta-Jones and Pearce. However, she was singled out for her portrayal by ViewLondon, noting that “Zeta Jones also pulls off an extremely impressive Edinburgh accent and it’s great to see her in a decent role for once”. Acquired primarily for the home video market, the Weinstein Co. eventually gave the movie a 2008 release in just two theaters in the U.S. It grossed US$8 million around the globe on a budget of US$20 million. She followed with the starring role in the romantic comedy The Rebound, in which she played a 40-year-old mother of two, who falls in love with a younger man, played by Justin Bartha. The movie premiered theatrically in a number of countries throughout 2009–10, and was originally scheduled to be released in the United States on 25 December 2010 but was cancelled due to the film’s distributor shutting down. It ended up going direct-to-video on 7 February 2012.
She made her Broadway debut in Trevor Nunn’s revival of A Little Night Music with Angela Lansbury, beginning December 2009. Set in Sweden at the turn of the twentieth century, It Follows three Lovestruck couples as they lose, and find, each other during a long midsummer night on a country estate. Reviews towards the play were polarizing, with Zeta-Jones earning a very similar response; The Telegraph remarked that she “loads every word, gesture and facial expression with a knowing sassiness”. However, The New York Times observed, “swapping arch banter, sung or spoken, doesn’t come naturally to Ms Zeta-Jones”. For her performance, she received an Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award, as well as a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Meanwhile, she took a 3 year-break from film roles to focus on her husband, who was suffering from throat cancer at the time, and seek treatment for bipolar disorder.
2012–present: Further film work
Her next movie appearance was in Stephen Frears’ comedy Lay the Favorite, which also starred Bruce Willis and Rebecca Hall. It premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and received a release in selected theaters on 7 December 2012. Her role was the sharp-tongued wife of Willis’ character, named Tulip Heimowitz, who was jelous of an aspiring Las Vegas cocktail waitress (played by Hall), when she falls in with her husband. The movie received mainly negative reviews, and was a commercial disappointment with only US$1.5 million grossed, based on a US$20 million production budget. ViewLondon felt she “manages to make Tulip a more layered and interesting character than you first suspect”, while Los Angeles Times concluded that the Actress was “far too shrill to amuse”.
Zeta-Jones was cast to appear as a supporting character in the musical film Rock of Ages, co-starring Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin. In the picture, she portrayed Patricia Whitmore, the main antagonist and a religiously conservative wife of a mayor. Her role was solely based on US Republican candidate Michele Bachmann, and Catherine once recalled: “I even put my hair like hers. She was trying to run for president when I was shooting and I used to watch her on TV and go, ‘Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me’”. The movie was released on 15 June 2012, receiving mixed reviews and underperforming at the box office. Later that year, she also appeared in the comedy Playing for Keeps, with Gerard Butler. As with Zeta-Jones’ previous projects, the film bombed commercially with a total gross of US$24 million, and received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics who, according to aggregate-site Rotten Tomatoes, called it “a dispiriting, lowest-common-denominator Hollywood rom-com”.
Her first 2013 release was the crime thriller Broken City, directed by Allen Hughes and where she co-starred with Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. The film centers on a private detective (played by Wahlberg) who is hired by the mayor of New York (Crowe) to uncover the identity of the lover of his wife (who is played by Zeta-Jones). Going largely unnoticed at the box office, the movie also garnered negative reviews. However, the Actress was singled out for her part. The Hollywood Reporter noted that she “looks like class itself and nicely underplays”, and Globe and Mail observed that the Actress “does a fair, if incongruous, impersonation of a forties vamp”. She subsequently appeared in Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects (their third collaboration), opposite Channing Tatum, Jude Law and Rooney Mara.The film, where she played Dr. Victoria Siebert, concerns the ramifications of an event following a young woman being prescribed antidepressant drugs, in particular the fictional new drug Ablixa (alipazone). Critical reaction towards the movie was unanimously positive. Toronto Star found her performance to be “electric”, and Express.co.uk concluded that “there was an enjoyably silky turn” from her. It was released on 8 February 2013 and was a moderate commercial success, with a gross total of US$63 million on a production budget of US$30 million.
She next appeared as Russian agent Katya in the action comedy sequel RED 2, which opened on 19 July 2013. In the film, she co-starred with Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, and Bruce Willis. Zeta-Jones was drawn to appear in the project as she was initially attracted to its “concept […] the action, the humour, the tongue-in-cheek quality of it”, as she once described it to The Telegraph. The movie also gave her the chance to work for the third time with Willis, with whom she had always loved working. “When I watched the [movie] the other day for the first time, it just kind of jumps from the screen how much fun we’re having and the audience will have a lot of fun watching it.” The movie received mixed reviews. Daily Mail found the Actress “over-the-top” and “unfunny” as her character, but USA Today positively pointed out her and co-star Parker calling them “terrific”. Upon its release, the crime caper feature grossed US$148 million worldwide, from a budget of US$84 million.
Zeta-Jones is set to star in Dad’s Army, an upcoming British war comedy film slated to be released on 5 February 2016. She will play a glamorous journalist named Rose Winters, who is sent to report on the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon. She also stars in the crime biopic The Godmother, about former drug lord Griselda Blanco, known as the Cocaine Godmother. Principal photography began on 29 June 2015, and a theatrical release is scheduled for 2016.