As a child, Catherine Zeta-Jones, the middle child of David, who dealt in candy, and Patricia Jones, a seamstress and homemaker, has a love for movie-musicals. "I was really hyperactive as a kid and no one knew how or where I got all this energy," Zeta-Jones tells Newsday in 1999. "Anyway, they had to harness all this craziness, so I started taking lessons when I was four. And by the time I was 11, I was doing musicals on stage." By 12, she's a British national tap dance champ, and her parents let her live in London with a tutor and perform in shows like Annie and 42nd Street (left).
Zeta-Jones, 15, quits school and leaves home for London. "I remember growing up knowing I wanted to be on the stage," she tells the Ottawa Sun in 2002. "I wanted to get to London as soon as possible and start auditioning for theater." Zeta-Jones (pictured with her parents) adds to Harper's Bazaar in 2000, "My life was my work. I was 15 going on 25. [My parents] didn't want me turning around and pointing my finger saying, 'if only you'd let me go, maybe this or maybe that would have happened'. I always knew I could go back. But I never went back."
Zeta-Jones plays a sexpot farm girl on the TV show The Darling Buds of May. "Within one hour of television, my whole life changed," she tells the Sunday Times in 1998. "After that, every person I had a cup of coffee with was the 'new love of my life.'" Some of her high-profile loves include: director Nick Hamm, actors John Leslie and Angus Macfadyen (who broke off their 15-month engagement in 1996), and Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall. Sick of the media hoopla surrounding her in the U.K., she packs up and moves to L.A. at 24.
Zeta-Jones appears in the American TV movie, Titanic, catching the attention of Steven Spielberg. "She was so pretty," he tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "I have a crummy TV set, but she looked so good on it, I decided to keep it." He casts her in The Mask of Zorro, with Antonio Banderas. When the film opens in 1998, it grosses more than $250 million worldwide. In 1999, Zeta-Jones, 29, plays 68-year-old Sean Connery's love interest in the box-office hit, Entrapment.
Zeta-Jones makes her first of five appearances in PEOPLE's 50 Most Beautiful issue. "She has one of the most beautiful close-ups in cinematography today," Banderas tells Variety. "But her big secret is her sense of humor, and that's equaled only by her sense of irony." In 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004, she makes the list again. "Well, I may be the first actress to admit that beauty doesn't hold you back," she tells PEOPLE. "I think beauty is a gift that you have to make the most of. I've worked hard at trying to look my best."
After seeing the actress in a private screening of Zorro, actor Michael Douglas (right) asks Antonio Banderas to introduce him to Zeta-Jones. "It's nothing," Zeta-Jones tells PEOPLE of their 25-year age difference. On New Year's Eve in 1999, Douglas proposes to Zeta-Jones in Aspen, where he gives her a 10-carat diamond ring. "As soon as I met Catherine, I told her I wanted to have babies with her," Douglas tells the Sunday Telegraph, "and the moment I found out she had the same birthday as me – ta dah! Then, when I discovered she loved golf, I realized all my fantasies had come true."
After appearing alongside John Cusack in High Fidelity, Zeta-Jones welcomes her first child with Douglas, Dylan Michael (left). Of gaining 50lbs. while carrying Dylan, Zeta-Jones tells The Herald in Scotland, "I ate for Wales." She works hard to return to a size six for her upcoming wedding.
Zeta-Jones weds Douglas in a $1.5 million bash at The Plaza Hotel in New York with 350 guests, including Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan and Jack Nicholson. The bride, who wears a Christian Lacroix gown, says it was "everything I wanted." Although the couple sells their photos to OK! for $1.6 million, HELLO! runs blurred shots of the night. The newlyweds sue in a case that lasts three years. "This is absolutely not about money," she tells the Daily Mail. "It's about the fact that a very special harmonious time was spun out of control because a gatecrasher came in and took photographs."
Zeta-Jones plays a ruthless, pregnant wife of a drug lord who stops at nothing to maintain her standard of living after her husband is jailed in Traffic. New husband Michael Douglas is also in the film, but they do not share scenes together. The movie earns more than $207 million worldwide, with Zeta-Jones nabbing a Golden Globe nod for Best Actress.
After more than a decade away from her tapping shoes, Zeta-Jones plays Velma Kelly in the movie-musical Chicago, with Queen Latifah and Renée Zellweger. A bit self-conscious, Zeta-Jones requests to reshoot her "All That Jazz" number, but director Rob Marshall refuses: "Every look, every kick, every note was so dead on that I didn't reshoot a frame of it," he tells the Chicago Sun- Times.
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