“I kept thinking 'Thank God I have long hair in this movie”
1. Catherine Zeta Jones
2. Real young Catherine
3. Aspiring actress
4. First acting job, first movie, first female lead as Scheherazade
5. As Mariette in “The Darling Buds of May”
6. With John Cleese in “Splitting Heirs”
7. Coming to the States in “Young Indiana Jones”
8. “Blue Juice” with a pre-”Trainspotting” Ewan McGregor
9. “The Phantom” with pre-"Titanic" Billy Zane
10. With Peter Gallagher in TVs “Titanic”
11. As Elena in “The Mask of Zorro” with Antonio Banderas & Anthony Hopkins
12. In “Entrapment” with Sean... oooppps, sorry
13. In “Entrapment” with Sean Connery
14. “The Haunting”
15. Glamour shot
16. Wedding picture
17. With Randy Quaid in “Traffic”
18. “America’s Sweethearts”
19. With Renee Zellweger and a Academy Award for “Chicago”
20. Working with Tom Hanks & that Spielberg guy in “The Terminal”
21. With that Pitt guy in “Ocean’s 12“
22. Publicity shot with Guy Pierce and Saoirse Ronan for “Death Defying Acts”
23. Dancing again in “Rock of Ages”
24. Captivating Gerard Butler in “Playing for Keeps”
25. Chilling in “Side Effects”
26. Working with Hopkins and Willis again in “Red 2“
27. With Michael last April
28. Out and about in Beijing last Sunday (9-21-20013)
It is my great pleasure and honor to give a great big happy birthday shout out this morning to one of my favorite actresses, Ms Catherine Zeta Jones!
Her husband, Michael Douglas, the famous actor, is also celebrating his birthday today. He’s 25 years older than his wife. Happy birthday to you as well Mike, and congratulations on your Emmy Award last Sunday, but we’re going to concentrate on Catherine today because frankly, she’s so much more prettier than you are, so please go away for a little while until we’re finished. Thank you for your cooperation... cradle robber.
Much like Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, and Christian Bale, and many others, Catherine was born in Wales, which is part of Great Britain, as well as England to the east, and Scotland to the north. Like the three actors mentioned above, she was born at a very early age as a small infant (at 2:40 PM (Middle European Time), but in the city of Swansea (pronounced “swan - sea”) specifically (I don’t know what cities those three guys were born in (Pontrhydyfen, Margam, and Haverfordwest respectively)), which lies on the southwest coast and was known for it’s copper, so much so that some people called it 'Copperopolis' behind it’s back.
The Germans liked to bomb it during World War II, but that was way before Catherine’s time.
One of my favorite poets, Dylan Thomas was also born in Swansea, on another shared birthday, mine! October 27th, but 41 years before me.
I once stagemanaged his radio play, adapted for the stage, “Under Milkwood,” when I was in college (one of the few classes I was able to get through).
Catherine was aware that Mr. Thomas was born in her home town and later honored him by naming her production company Milkwood Films, which is based in Swansea.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little. Let’s slow down and take a deep breath.
Okay, Catherine’s mom, Patricia, was a seamstress of Welsh-Irish descent, and her dad, David (“Dai") James Jones, a sweet-factory operator and/or owner, is pure Welsh. Catherine got her first name from her mother’s mom, whose name was also Catherine. She got her middle name Zeta from her dad’s mom, who was named after either the 6th letter of the Greek alphabet, or a company that makes high performance parts for dirt bikes. Or something else. Oh yes, here it is. Grandma was named after a boat seen in Swansea Harbor, that was itself named after the 6th letter of the Greek alphabet, or a company that makes high performance parts for dirt bikes. In any case that name would later help set her apart from other actresses who were named Catherine Jones (I remember seeing Catherine and Michael on television at a special taping of “Saturday Night Live,” where Bill Murray was doing a bit, singing a song while going through the celebrity filled audience. He would stop singing at points and speak to one audience member or another, and he came up to the couple, looking fondly down at them. “Oh Catherine,” he crooned. “That name...” Catherine smiling said “I know, Zeta...” “Jones,” Murray threw out while moving on).
Ms Jones has two brothers. Her younger brother, Lyndon, is a film producer working at Milkwood Films and acts as Catherine’s personal manager, and her older brother David is either a stuntman or a development executive depending on what source is used. Maybe he’s both.
Or neither. It’s only important to David, so let’s move on.
Catherine was born in Swansea but grew up in the nearby seaside town of Mumbles, which was named after a character in the Dick Tracy comics.
Wales has it’s very own language other than English, just like the Irish (Gaelic), and Scotland (Scottish Gaelic). In Wales the language is called Welsh, which is, oddly enough, named after an American grape drink.
Catherine knows how to speak Welsh of course, as well as English, and just for good measure Spanish and French too.
Catherine began taking dancing lessons when she was four years old, displaying a natural talent to perform, and by the time she was ten was participating regularly with her church sponsored theater group. She dreamed of being a professional dancer.
She attended Dumbarton House School in Swansea, which no longer exists. It was torn down in 1993 to make way for new apartments. While at that school however, one of her classmates, Rob Brydon, who would later become a successful actor and comedian, stole poor little Catherine’s lunch money! How rude. He even admitted to the deed on national television!
This monster would in time be rewarded by the Queen of England by being given the title of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Son of a bitch!
Catherine would exact her revenge by being awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her accomplishments in film and television, which is two orders senior to Brydon’s MBE, but one shy of earning the title “Dame.”
“As a British subject, I feel incredibly proud, at the same time it is overwhelming and humbling. And my mum and dad are delighted beyond belief,” Catherine would later say.
If I were her I’d charge Brydon the principle, plus interest, which according to my calculations comes to about, let’s see... 476,345 pounds and 43 pence. Pay up Brydon!
Catherine unfortunately was exposed to a viral infection as a child which impaired her breathing, and caused her to receive a tracheotomy. Her illness caused her to miss quite a bit of school, and upon her recovery her parents, who had won a local lottery to help pay for it, enrolled her in a private school to help her catch up on her studies.
Nothing kept Catherine from pursuing her dreams. She began acting when she was eleven. She was cast in the lead in “Annie,” in a production at the Swansea Grand Theatre, which marked her professional acting career, and at age thirteen, starred in a West End production of the musical "Bugsy Malone,” which was based on a 1976 British musical gangster film, a genre Catherine would explore again a few years later in the film “Chicago.”
Every Sunday morning for 15 years, Catherine’s dad woke her up to Elvis Presley singing "American Trilogy" or Van Morrison's "Moondance," which of course prompted her to move to London, where she got her Actor’s Guild card. In 1986, at age seventeen she got a part in the chorus of “The Pajama Game,” at the Haymarket Theatre, in Leicester. The show subsequently toured throughout the United Kingdom. The very next year she suspiciously won the lead role of Peggy Sawyer in the musical “42nd Street,” after both the original actress cast in that role, and her understudy, mysteriously fell ill. What a fortuitous coincidence.
Anyway, Catherine continued to develop her craft.
“I didn't even think about movies where I came from. I wanted to be on the stage. When I was ten, I did Annie in the West End. I did Bugsy Malone when I was eleven and twelve. And then at sixteen, David Merrick saw me in “42nd Street.” I took over the lead and he cast me. I was there for two and a half years. Right now, these young kids are going crazy. I never had that because I had a work ethic. I had to turn up and be there six nights a week.”
She also played Mae Jones in the Kurt Weill opera “Street Scene” with the English National Opera at the London Coliseum Theatre in 1989.
And like most actresses, Catherine was spotted working in a production by a famous film director and offered the female lead in their next film.
In Catherine’s case the film director was Philippe de Broca, who had been making movies in France since 1959. He saw Catherine working in the West End Theatre and offered her not only her first film role, but also the female lead.
The film was 1990's “Les 1001 Nuits,” which for all of us who speak French know translates to “One Thousand and One Nights.” or “Kitāb alf laylah wa-laylah,” in Arabic. The film is loosely based on a story from the “Arabian Nights,” specifically the tale of Scheherazade.
Catherine plays Scheherazade, the wife of an Arabian king who likes virgin wives, one at a time. After he deviginizes one wife he has her executed at sunrise, and then goes on to the next. One would wonder why any woman would accept this king’s proposal for marriage. Yet it’s good to be king I guess, and women in the Middle East have little personal power. Anyway, Scheherazade marries the king, but delays the usual fate of his brides by putting off the connubial event for a thousand and one nights, telling irresistible stories that are unfinished when the sun rises.
As I said, it’s loosely based, as there’s a contemporary genie involved, who helps Scheherazade by giving her modern technological stuff like parachutes, on and on. A montage of Catherine in this film is right here.
“Les 1001 Nuits,” was shot in France, Morocco, and Tunisia, and production ended on August 1, 1989. The film was released in Paris in 1990 and sold 29,340 tickets in its first week. At the end of its theatrical run in Paris, it sold a total of 72,409 tickets, then it was released on VHS.
The film did not propel Catherine to instant stardom, still Catherine was now a bonafide movie actress.
She returned to England and won the role of Mariette Larkin, the eldest daughter of a rural family in the British television series “The Darling Buds of May.” Here’s a clip.
The show ran for three seasons (1991 through1993), and made Catherine one of the most popular actresses in Britain.
Now Catherine was a bonafide, successful television actress.
She worked on other projects during the “The Darling Buds of May,” years. As a singer she portrayed Palene, the beautiful Thracian prophetess and woman of Spartacus, in Jeff Wayne's 1992 musical version of "Spartacus." This project would mark the first time she would work with fellow Welsh person Anthony Hopkins (fresh off of his Academy Award winning portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, in ”Silence of the Lambs”).
Catherine more than likely didn’t know it at the time but her future father-in-law had some success in a film version of “Spartacus” some 32 years prior to this performance.
She worked with 1/3 of Monty Python... John Cleese and Eric Idle, as well as Rick Moranis, and the lovely Barbara Hershey, in “Splitting Heirs.” I just happen to have a clip right here.
And the American historical production of “Christopher Columbus: The Discovery,” in which she appeared with Marlon Brando, Tom Selleck, and a young Benicio del Toro, in his fourth film. Catherine and Benicio would later work together again in something called “Traffic.”
The film was a big flop at the box office costing $45 million to make, and bringing in $8.25 mill. Maybe it had something to do with that title.
In 1994 she made the move to right here where I live, Los Angeles, because that’s where the work was, although later she would say, “ I could never see myself living in Hollywood unless I really had to, it's not really my kind of place.”
We here at Joyce’s Take love her anyway.
Of course she soon got more work in films. 1995‘s “Blue Juice,” with Ewan McGregor, whose next film would include his breakout performance in “Trainspotting” (as well as director Danny Boyle, who would go on to make “Slumdog Millionaire”), and “The Phantom,” with Billy Zane, who would later appear in James Cameron’s “Titanic,” and another favorite actress of mine, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kristy Swanson.
Interestingly, Catherine’s next project was a two part American mini series, “Titanic,” in which she played opposite Peter Gallagher (who would later appear in “American Beauty”) and one of my favorite actors, George Campbell Scott, better known perhaps as George C Scott, who played the ill fated Capt. Edward J. Smith.
I remember seeing this movie, although I don’t remember Catherine in it (sorry, I was probably drinking heavily at the time). The only thing I do remember is George C. Scott in character, after accessing the damage the ice burg had made and determining the ship was going to sink, saying, “We should have ran straight into it. There would have been less damage.”
I believe that is true.
As fortune would have it a young director (50 is kind of young, isn’t it? It is to me), whose last film at the time was something called “Schindler's List,” and whose next films would be “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” and “Amistad,” saw Catherine in “Titanic,” and noticed her (he probably hadn’t been drinking).
Steven Spielberg recommended her to director Martin Campbell (whose last film had been “GoldenEye,” Pierce Brosnan’s first try as James Bond), who was in pre-production of an action film featuring Don Diego de la Vega, better known perhaps as Zorro (Spanish for “Fox”). Campbell cast Catherine as Elena Montero, the female lead, alongside the Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, and Anthony Hopkins, in his second appearance with Catherine.
The movie was called “The Mask of Zorro.” Catherine learned dancing, riding, sword-fighting and took part in dialect classes, and she was a big success.
Variety magazine 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 won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Female Newcomer and received an Empire Award nomination for Best British Actress and a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actress.
This was her breakout film. She had arrived. She was a full blown movie star.
Variety noted she was the center of everyone’s attention, well she certainly got mine, as this was the first time that I became aware of her and took note.
Someone else took note of her as well. The actor Michael Douglas, who was married at the time, but seeking a divorce, after seeing Catherine in Mask turned to a friend sitting next to him and said, "I don't know who she is, but I'm gonna marry that woman."
I say that all of the time but nothing ever comes of it.
That was in 1998. Now she started getting leading parts in big productions like the next year’s “Entrapment,” with Sean Connery, a film that kinda makes me cringe each time I see it because Sean and Catherine fool around on the outside of the Petronas Towers, in Kuala Lumpu, which at the time were the tallest buildings in the world, and I’m afraid of heights (they’re still the tallest twin buildings in the world). You can find a clip from this film right here.
The next film I have to take issue with. Not with Catherine’s performance, she was great, as usual. But with the writing and directing, and production.
As a kid one of the few films that genuinely scared the hell out of me was Robert Wise’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece, “The Haunting of Hill House.” The film was called “The Haunting,” and starred Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, the lovely Claire Bloom, and the lovely Julia Harris, who just passed away last August, and who was memorialized last Sunday during the Emmy Awards.
It was simple. There was no gratuitous violence. But it was scary as hell (for the time. I showed it to case managers Paul and Lovely Erin one time during Movie Day, and they kind of shrugged their shoulders, not very impressed. Of course they grew up with “The Exorcist,” and Freddy Kruger). In 2010, The Guardian newspaper ranked it as the 13th best horror film of all time. Director Martin Scorsese has placed “The Haunting” first on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time.
Director Jan de Bont’s ( of “Speed 2: Cruise Control” fame) 1999 effort, however, was quite a different thing. The film had a great cast with Catherine, Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson, and the lovely Lili Taylor.
The movie was not well received.
“The Haunting had a negative reception, with most critics citing its weak screenplay, its overuse of horror clichés, and its overdone CGI effects. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a "Rotten" rating of 17%, with the critical consensus stating "Sophisticated visual effects fail to offset awkward performances and an uneven script." Roger Ebert was one of few critics to give the film a positive review, praising the production design in particular. As a result of the negative reviews, it was nominated for five Razzie Awards. However, the film was a financial success, earning $91.2 million domestically and $177.3 million worldwide, with a budget of $80 million.” -Wikipedia
“The Haunting,” probably broke about even after marketing and distribution costs were factored in, but rentals, and other forms of distribution most likely made it financially successful.
Yet I have I have to agree with the writing (Lili screaming, “It’s all about family! It’a always been about family!”) and the CGI. I mean all I thought about while watching it was that was terrible CGI.
Alright. Enough. The only other thing I have to say about this movie is this. See the picture above with Catherine and the rest of “The Haunting” cast? Well I think that’s what most audiences looked like while watching it.
Danny DeVito introduced Catherine to his past co-star Michael Douglas, at the Deauville Film Festival in France in August of 1998. How Danny knew Catherine I have no idea. Apparently Michael said this to her, "I'd like to father your children." Oooh Yuck.
They began dating in March of 1999. They became engaged in Aspen, Colorado, on the last day of 1999, just as Y2K was about to kick in. Catherine gave birth to their son Dylan Michael in August of 2000, and were married at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on the 18th of November in 2000. I’ll bet you almost anything that that is Dylan Michael Michael is holding in the wedding picture above.
Catherine‘s advice for married people, “For marriage to be a success, every woman and every man should have her and his own bathroom. The end.”
Okay, personal business done, let’s get back to work.
Before they got married Catherine and Michael were engaged. Don’t take my word for it, just look at the paragraph above the one directly above this one. So they might as well make a movie together, which they did. It was called “Traffic,” and they never appeared in the same scene. Catherine worked with Benicio Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sánchez, perhaps better known as Benicio del Toro again as well, but they never shared a scene either.
The film was directed by Steven Soderbergh and won critical acclaim. Soderbergh even won an Academy Award for his efforts, as well as Benicio for Best Supporting Actor.
Many think Catherine was robbed for not even being nominated for an Academy Award, including myself (she did win her her first Golden Globe nomination, as Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, as well as many other nominations and acclaim). I mean she faked being pregnant so well... oh wait a second, she was pregnant. Little Dylan Michael was inside her throughout that movie. As a matter of fact they had to rewrite her part to account for her pregnancy. Here’s a short clip.
Just four months after delivering Dylan, Catherine got back to work making “America’s Sweethearts,” with Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal and John Cusack. Catherine and Julia played sisters because they look so much alike. Here’s a little montage from the film.
Many of you know I don’t care for musicals, at least movie musicals. Rarely do I see folks walking down the street and spontaneously break out into song and choreographed dance. It can happen, but it’s very rare (flash mobs notwithstanding).
I have one exception and that is Bob Fosse musical’s. Give me “All That Jazz,” “Sweet Charity,” and “Cabaret,” all day and I’d be happy.
Fosse also directed a musical adaptation of the 1926 play “Chicago,” written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, which was based on two unrelated 1924 cases of two women, Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, who were both suspected and later acquitted for murder. Well of course Bob wanted to make a musical out of that, wouldn’t you (actually he was bullied by his lovely wife, dancer/actress Gwen Verdon into making it)?
And he did. “Chicago” opened in 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre, and ran for 936 performances until 1977. Bob also choreographed the original production, and his distinctive, sexy, style is strongly identified with the show.
FYI My father was born in Chicago.
Many people are.
Anyway, Fosse wanted to make a movie out of his stage production of “Chicago,” and it was to be his next project after making “Star 80“ in 1983. Unfortunately for all of us he passed away in 1987.
However, Miramax Films took up the project and the result was 2002‘s “Chicago,” starring Catherine, the lovely Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, the lovely John C. Reilly, Christine Baranski, Mýa Marie Harrison, and Queen Latifah (all lovely), and directed and choreographed (Bob Fosse’s distinctive jazz choreography style is evident throughout the film. In particular, the parallels to “Cabaret,” are numerous and distinct. He is thanked in the film's credits) by Rob (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”) Marshall.
Catherine (and everyone else in the movie) sang and danced. Until I saw this I had no idea she came from a musical background, and I was suitably impressed.
Catherine was originally approached to play the part of Roxie, but wanted to play Velma Kelly instead because she liked the song "All That Jazz," which Velma sang, so Renee ended up winning the role of Roxie (and top billing).
Here’s Catherine singing “All That Jazz.”
“Chicago,” cost $45 million to make, and made $306,776,732 worldwide, so it was immensely successful (and profitable). The film won six Academy Awards in 2003, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta Jones.
Her old “Entrapment” friend, Sean Connery, presented her with the award.
“ A Scotsman giving a Welsh girl an Oscar - oh my God!”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer stated, "Zeta-Jones makes a wonderfully statuesque and bitchy saloon goddess." Slate magazine also praised her performance, saying 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.”
Majestic limbs and a commanding cleavage? Somebody’s mind is in the gutter.
Catherine also won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role and as a member of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
Having won an Academy Award now there was only one thing left to do.
Carys Zeta Jones was born in April of 2003.
In 2004, Catherine became the first T-Mobile Girl, making commercials for Deutsche Telekom AG, a German telecommunications company that is attempting to take over the world. The lovely Canadian model and actress Carly Foulkes would take over in 2010, until the company gave her the boot and replaced her with SNL’s Bill Hader.
BRING BACK CATHERINE AND CARLY!
Anyway, Catherine’s next film project was 2004's “The Terminal,” along with Tom Hanks, and directed by the guy who got her the Zorro gig, Steven Spielberg.
Tom’s character Viktor Navorski fell in love with Catherine’s Amelia Warren, but like with most women, they just don’t know what’s best for them, and she went with the wrong guy. It’s very sad.
Best line of the movie, “He sure does love that goat.”
That year she also reunited with director Steven Soderbergh ( and actors Julia Roberts and Don Cheadle) in “Ocean's Twelve,” the sequel to 2001‘s “Ocean's Eleven,” which was a remake of 1960‘s “Ocean’s 11,” starring Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joey Bishop. “Ocean’s Twelve,” also had some other notable actors in it, namely George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Carl Reiner, among others.
In 2005 she made a sequel to “The Mask of Zorro.” This time it was “The Legend of Zorro,” reuniting with Antonio Banderas.
In 2007 she starred opposite Aaron Eckhart and the lovely Abigail Breslin in “No Reservations.” She promoted the film on the Letterman Show in which Dave pervs out on her hair here.
That year she also made “Death Defying Acts,” along with Guy Pearce and the lovely Saoirse Ronan, a tale of the last days of escape artist Harry Houdini, sort of, a film I saw just last Saturday. Very good.
Back on the stage Catherine won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical in 2010 for her portrayal of Desiree in "A Little Night Music".
She appeared in another musical film, along with Tom Cruise, “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti, Julianne Hough, and a whole bunch of other fine individuals in “Rock of Ages,” just last year.
Another bout with Soderbergh in 2013's “Side Effects,” a psychological, murder mystery also starring “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s” Rooney Mara, Jude Law, and Channing Tatum.
And another turn with Anthony Hopkins in this years “Red 2,” along with Bruce Willis, Brian Cox, and the lovely Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich.
“In August 2010, Michael Douglas publicly revealed that he had been diagnosed with a dangerously advanced stage of throat cancer. Over the course of the next year, Douglas battled the disease aggressively - at one point losing as much as 32 pounds as a side-effect - and by early 2011 he announced that the tumor had been eliminated, much to the obvious relief of Zeta-Jones, who had foregone career opportunities in order to remain by her husband's side during the ordeal.Adding to the stress of the previous year was the incarceration of Douglas' long-troubled son, Cameron, who was sentenced to five years in prison for the possession of heroin and intended sale of methamphetamines.”
Catherine admitted herself into Silver Hills Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut on April 6, 2011 for a five-day treatment for Bipolar II Disorder before leaving the hospital on April 11, 2011.
"I'm not the kind of person who likes to shout out my personal issues from the rooftops but, with my biopolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it is completely controllable."
Who knows what kind of strain Michael’s illness and recovery, and Catherine’s, places on a marriage? I don’t, that’s for sure.
As of now the couple have announced they have separated, but no mention of divorce has been made.
Last Sunday Michael thanked his wife and children for their support while accepting an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, for his portrayal of the musician Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra.”
The movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh.
And Catherine seems to be doing well as evidenced in the last picture above.
And all of us here wish her and her family continued good health and fortune, and of course a very happy birthday.
Happy birthday Catherine!