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- January 20, 2003
- Vol. 59
- No. 2
Red Hot Mama
A Little Glam, a Lot of Family: Chicago Star and Mom-to-Be (Again) Catherine Zeta-Jones Happily Mixes Wales, Wails and Hollywood
Sorry, kid, but you'll have to wait your turn onstage—right now all eyes are on your mom. Zeta-Jones's sizzling turn in the movie version of the musical Chicago has critics thoroughly lathered—by her singing and dancing chops as well as her flashes of well-toned thigh. Already nominated for a Golden Globe, Zeta-Jones, 33, may get a chance at an Oscar to match her husband's two. But with their second child due in April she doesn't need a statuette to feel like a winner. "I never thought I'd have the kind of balance in my life that I have right now," says the Welsh-born actress, who wed Douglas, 58, two years ago. "I still have the same inhibitions, worries and insecurities I've always had, but now everything's in perspective. My cocoon, my life with my husband and my son, is so important. It's a bonus to have everything else."
These days she's happy to have swapped Chicago's punishing shoots for the relative peace of family time—and a new place in the sun. While she and Douglas (whose combined fortune is estimated at more than $200 million) have apartments in Los Angeles and New York City as well as lavish getaways in Mallorca and Aspen, they recently decided to make Bermuda their home base. Douglas's mother's family goes back 300 years on the island, where the two just finished renovating an 1821 estate (see box), and Dylan started at a nearby nursery school this month. "We have a nice big garden, and I have play dates there," says Zeta-Jones. "In Bermuda it's easy for us to have a normal life. No one follows you in and out of places."
Still, life is far from lonely. The family mingled with dozens of Douglas's local kin during a whirlwind holiday season highlighted by the Dec. 28 wedding of Douglas's mother, Diana Darrid, 79, to Donald Albert Webster, 72, a former U.S. Treasury official, in a candlelit island church. (Darrid was divorced from Kirk Douglas in 1950; her second husband, William Darrid, died in 1992.) Dylan backed out of his ring-bearer gig at the last minute. "When Catherine left him at the back of the church and walked to her pew, everyone suddenly heard this loud cry—'Mommy! Mommy!'" says guest and Douglas relative John Cox. "She flew back down the aisle and scooped him up." Cameron, 24, Douglas's son from his 22-year first marriage to Diandra, 46, also spent Christmas with the couple, attending family parties. "We've got wacky traditions, like swimming off the dock on Christmas Day and everyone gathering around the piano to sing carols, even those of us who can't sing," says Douglas's cousin Jennifer Stobo, 35. "Catherine and Michael just join in."
They'll soon have to make more room around the piano. Zeta-Jones says she first suspected she was pregnant toward the end of filming Intolerable Cruelty, an upcoming comedy with George Clooney that she wrapped in September. "I didn't want to know until I finished it," she says. "The day after, I went to my doctor. I came home and told Michael. He let out a whoop. I never wanted Dylan to be an only child. Because of my amazing relationship with my siblings [brothers David, 35, and Lyndon, 30, who both work for her production company], I couldn't see him being the Little Lord Dylan on his own."
While she filmed 2000's Traffic during her first pregnancy, Zeta-Jones is grateful to have a hiatus this time around. She confesses to breakfasts of bread with Branston pickle—a British delicacy she calls her sole pregnancy-related craving. ("It's terrible," declares Douglas. He also calls Marmite, another homeland treat his wife devours, "the next most disgusting thing I've ever tasted.") With awards season's red carpets approaching, Zeta-Jones has commissioned gowns from the likes of Valentino and Narciso Rodriguez to accommodate her growing girth. "My energy level is up and down," she says. "If I'm up and moving I'm fine. Sit me in a chair and I'll sleep." But she probably won't wait long to get back to work after the baby's birth (the two haven't yet found out its gender). "Catherine will want to make up for some lost time," says her husband. "So I will probably not work much and be Mr. Mom, which I thoroughly enjoy."
Dylan was just 14 months old when Zeta-Jones started her grueling rehearsals for Chicago. Although Zeta-Jones had a hoofer's credentials—she performed in musicals on London's West End from age 11 to her early 20s—"I hadn't danced for years and years," she says. "I couldn't even touch my toes." But she had long coveted the part of murderous nightclub singer Velma Kelly—a role producers had discussed with Madonna before the project stalled. Then, at a 1998 party at Douglas's Manhattan home, veteran Broadway producer Marty Richards heard his pal's new girlfriend singing at the piano. He would eventually recommend her to Chicago director Rob Marshall. Says Richards: "She has a sexuality that she just can't lose."
Regaining the knack for splits and cartwheels was another matter. "I realized after the first day of rehearsal—when I couldn't physically walk down the stairs—that I either had to go for this or go home," she says. "There was no way we could fake it." Not that she wanted to. Zeta-Jones bristled at suggestions she wear her hair long instead of bobbed, says Richards. "She said, 'If you think I'm going to have long hair over my face so anyone is going to think that I'm being doubled and not doing every darn step, you're crazy.'" Douglas remembers Zeta-Jones being "black and blue up and down her thighs" from a dance sequence atop a chair. "She was plopped down with dancers who do this stuff eight times a week, and she rose to the occasion," says associate choreographer Joey Pizzi. "She could have easily gone to doing this show live on Broadway."
Zeta-Jones has never been a slacker. "My earliest memories are of her tap-dancing in the kitchen," says her brother David. "It used to drive us crazy, but you couldn't stop her." Born in working-class Swansea, Wales, to father Dai, 56, a retired candy-company salesman, and mother Pat, 58, a homemaker, Catherine Jones (she created her stage moniker by annexing her paternal grandmother's first name) gravitated to showbiz from the get-go. By 4 she was studying tap; a few years later she won a local talent contest with a medley of songs from—but of course—Chicago. She made her West End debut at 11 starring in Annie and left school at 16 to dance full-time. When a star of 42nd Street was injured, Zeta-Jones was promoted from the chorus line—and soon leapt to TV fame as a sexy farm girl in the 1991-93 British series The Darling Buds of May.
Zeta-Jones became a tabloid favorite, with a string of boyfriends including director Nick Hamm, 44, and actors John Leslie, 37, and Angus MacFadyen, 39, who broke off their 15-month engagement in 1996. With her career stalling after Buds' finale—a series of pop singles she recorded failed to catch on—Zeta-Jones decided to try her luck in the U.S. Her sultry turn in 1998's The Mask of Zorro left Hollywood smitten. That same year Danny DeVito introduced his pal Douglas to Zeta-Jones, who was freshly split from Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall. "I knew this was something special," she says, but with work keeping them apart, "we never even kissed until nine months later." Douglas proposed on New Year's Eve 1999 in Aspen. The 25-year age gap? "It's nothing," Zeta-Jones says. "He never ever makes me feel inferior or says something like, 'You were just being born when I was learning this.'" And he's willing to share power. At night "he lets me hold the TV remote until he starts to get tired, then he gives me carte blanche to turn everything off."
Zeta-Jones gave birth to Dylan—inheriting his father and grandfather's famous chin, "this little thing came out with a big old dimple, which made me laugh," she says—three months before their November 2000 wedding, which filled Manhattan's Plaza Hotel with 20,000 roses, a 40-person Welsh choir and celebrity A-listers. "On the outside it looked like a huge Hollywood wedding," Zeta-Jones says. "But it was so personal and intimate. Between Kirk's family, Diana's family and my Welsh family, it was 175 family members."
And counting. Fortunately for her, her husband is ready to focus on home life. He wasn't always that way. "My priorities are my marriage and my children, whereas earlier my priority was my career," says Douglas. Mr. Mom? Sounds good to Zeta-Jones. "I know when I come home," she says, "there's something special waiting for me."
Todd Gold and Rachel Biermann in Los Angeles, Sharon Cotliar and Liza Hamm in New York City and Rosemary Jones in Bermuda
- Todd Gold,
- Rachel Biermann,
- Sharon Cotliar,
- Liza Hamm,
- Rosemary Jones.
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