Born Catherine Zeta Jones, on September 25, 1969, in Swansea, West Glamorgan, Wales. The only daughter (she has two brothers) of working-class parents, Zeta-Jones (she hyphenates her name professionally) had her eye on a stage career from an early age. At age 11, she starred in a London production of Annie; at 14, she played Tallulah, a pint-sized gangster’s moll, in a stage production of Bugsy Malone (Jodie Foster had previously filled the role in a 1976 film version).
Zeta-Jones moved to London at age 15 and lived with castmates while pursuing an acting career full time. Just two years later, she won a part in the chorus of a West End production of the musical 42nd Street. Within a year, Zeta-Jones won the lead role of chorus girl-turned-star Peggy Sawyer. Shortly after the play closed, she made her big screen debut in the title role in the French director Phillippe de Broca’s Shereherazade.
In 1991, Zeta-Jones achieved star status in the United Kingdom with the tremendous success of Darling Buds of May, a television comedy series in which she played the eldest daughter in a farming family. Attempting to make her name in Hollywood as well, Zeta-Jones appeared in a 1992 episode of TV’s The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and in the forgettable epic Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992). She had a certain measure of success with two TV projects—The Return of the Native (1994) and the miniseries Catherine the Great (1995)—but had less luck on the big screen, with disappointing projects like the slapstick comedy Splitting Heirs (1993), starring funnymen Eric Idle, Rick Moranis, and John Cleese, and the straight-to-video Blue Juice (1995), costarring Ewan McGregor. She also starred opposite Billy Zane in the high-profile but low-rated The Phantom (1996).
It was her voyage on the Titanic (as in the 1996 miniseries, costarring Peter Gallagher and George C. Scott) that brought Zeta-Jones to the attention of Steven Spielberg, who recommended her to the director of 1998’s The Mask of Zorro, which Spielberg produced. As the spirited heroine of the swashbuckling action-romance, costarring Antonio Banderas and Sir Anthony Hopkins, Zeta-Jones (and the film) was a hit with both critics and audiences. She scored another coup shortly thereafter, when she was cast opposite Sean Connery in the thriller Entrapment (1999).
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Catherine Zeta-Jones biography
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