Date of Birth: September 25, 1969
Good looks were certainly a boon to the meteoric ascent of Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. Her bracing breakout performance in 1998's The Mask of Zorro left many a critic anxiously rooting through his thesaurus to ferret out synonyms for "striking" and "gorgeous." But her sizzling chemistry with Antonio Banderas proved she was much more than just another pretty face. Zeta-Jones had actually been acting professionally for well over a decade, becoming equally reputed for her work in theater, television, and film, before Zorro made her an international sensation.
Born and raised in Swansea, Wales, Zeta-Jones is the only daughter of working-class parents. She became an accomplished singer and dancer at a young age, largely as a result of her involvement with the local Catholic congregation's amateur performing troupe. By the time she was 11, the talented youngster had also essayed the role of Talullah in Bugsy Malone. Just three years later, a touring musical featuring onetime Monkee Mickey Dolenz stopped in Swansea, and 14-year-old Catherine auditioned for a spot in the chorus. The show's producers took a shine to her poise and presence and recruited her for a touring production of The Pajama Game.
Acquiring her first actor's guild card at the age of 15, she subsequently relocated to London to pursue acting full-time. It took her just two years to wind up in the lead role of a West End production of the musical 42nd Street. Originally she was merely the second understudy to the show's star, but one fateful evening both the star and the first understudy bowed out and Zeta-Jones stepped up to deliver a show-stopping turn as chorus girl Peggy Sawyer. Coincidentally, that happened to be the first performance attended by the show's producer, who immediately insisted that she be made the star. For the rest of the musical's run, Zeta-Jones did eight shows a week; after it closed, she took a much-needed sabbatical and traveled to France. During the year that followed, she appeared in her debut feature film as the title character of French director Philippe De Broca's Scheherazade. Returning to England in 1991, the budding starlet signed to appear as the eldest daughter of a rowdy farm family in the Yorkshire TV series The Darling Buds of May, adapted from the novel by H.E. Bates. The series was a smash, and Zeta-Jones became a U.K. superstar and a favorite subject of the infamous British tabloids. She carried on an extended relationship with American producer Jon Peters, who eventually proposed marriage. Daunted by the prospect of finding her career identity subsumed in the label "Hollywood wife," she turned him down.
When the tabloid pressure ended up being too much, she decided it was time for a change of scenery, and moved to the States. She quickly discovered that her U.K. superstardom was not directly translatable into Hollywood fame and fortune. In 1994, she landed the lead role in CBS's Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of Return of the Native and the following year, she shone in the title role of the miniseries Catherine the Great. A certain viewer by the name of Steven Spielberg caught her in the 1996 mini-series Titanic and thought her performance was nothing short of stellar. He phoned director Martin Campbell to recommend her for the female lead in The Mask of Zorro, to which Spielberg was attached as producer. When Spielberg speaks, Hollywood listens, and Zeta-Jones took the role and ran with it. Zorro was a hit with critics and audiences alike.
In 1999, she co-starred in Entrapment, a romantic thriller in which she and Sean Connery played art thieves attempting to pull off the ultimate heist; and tackled a role opposite Liam Neeson and Lili Taylor in The Haunting. However, it was her return to musicals in the film version of the stage hit Chicago (2002) that has earned her the most attention to date, as well as an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
She made her Broadway debut in December 2009 in A Little Night Music, co-starring with Angela Lansbury. Three years later, she returned to the big screen but really didn't venture far from the theatre because the role was in Adam Shankman's Rock of Ages (2012), based on the wildly popular Broadway production of the same name. However, she did also play a sexy business exec in the romantic comedy Playing for Keeps (2012) opposite Gerard Butler and the wife of New York's mayor in Broken City (2013).
Zeta-Jones married Hollywood veteran Michael Douglas on November 18, 2000, so it looks like she has ended up a "Hollywood wife" after all, though not before making a name for herself. They have two children, Dylan Michael and Carys Zeta.
* 2002 Actress in a Supporting Oscar winner for Chicago.
Playing for Keeps
Rock of Ages
Death Defying Acts
The Legend of Zorro
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (voice) (2003)
Smoke & Mirrors (2002)
The Haunting (1999)
The Mask of Zorro
The Phantom (1996)
Blue Juice (1995)
Splitting Heirs (1993)
Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)
Out of the Blue (1991)
Les 1001 nuits (1990)