The Last Showgirl
She doesn't avoid the paparazzi, and there's no secret sex tape. Actress Catherine Zeta-Jones would rather discuss what she does have: A movie-star husband, an Oscar, and absolutely nothing to hide. By Brooke Hauser
Before she was a movie star with four homes around the world, an Oscar, a Douglas, and a diamond engagement ring the size of a small glacier, Catherine Zeta-Jones was, believe it or not, a little girl; a little girl from the tiny fishing town of Mumbles, Wales, who dreamed of meeting the most beautiful woman in the world, Elizabeth Taylor. "My mother used to say to me, 'She has purple eyes and two sets -- two sets -- of eyelashes,'" recalls the actress, now 37, her own amber irises glinting in the sunlight coming through her New York City apartment. "All I wanted was to see them in real life." Catherine almost got her wish at age ten, when she was starring in a production of Annie at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. "The next show was The Little Foxes, and Elizabeth Taylor was in it. I knew the stage-door guy, and he said, 'She's going to be coming in shortly for the matinee.' So I ran across the road and got daffodils -- the Welsh national flower. Anyway, the car pulled up, and out stepped Elizabeth Taylor. She had these huge black glasses on...." At this point in the story, Zeta-Jones slips into acting mode, simulating both sides of the conversation with invisible props and bedtime-story exaggeration: YOUNG CATHERINE: [Pushing daffodils toward Taylor] These are from Wales. I'm from where Richard Burton comes from. ELIZABETH TAYLOR: Oh, dahling, oh, dah-ling! YOUNG CATHERINE: Would you take your glasses off? I want to see your purple eyes. ELIZABETH TAYLOR: [Flashing a pitying smile] It's far too early in the morning to do that, my love. And...scene. Zeta-Jones crashes backward into the soft velvet of her living room sofa and lets out a bracingly loud laugh: half raspy hiccup, half pterodactyl screech. "Well," she says dryly, "she took my daffodils, anyway." Some people are good at math. Catherine Zeta-Jones just happens to be good at being a movie star. It's evident in the languorous way that she moves through a room, as if there were a trail of servants behind her, eager to peel her a grape. She is the kind of woman who instantly upgrades a man's apartment -- even if that man is Michael Douglas, her husband of seven years, and that apartment features a shiny black grand piano, a mustard-yellow pool table, and a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. She is still the main attraction, this day wearing a charcoal Dolce & Gabbana pencil skirt to reveal her long, showgirl's legs and leaving the faintest scent of perfume and cigarettes in her wake.