Both exotic and classic, Wales-born actress Catherine Zeta-Jones began acting as a child. By ten she was part of the Catholic congregation's performing troupe, and by 18 she was performing professionally in the West End. It was in there that she caught the eye of French director Philippe de Broca, who offered her the lead in his film Les 1001 Nuits in 1989. After traveling to France to film the movie, she returned to Britain, where she landed a starring role in the Yorkshire Television comedy drama series The Darling Buds of May, based on a series of novels by H.E. Bates. The show was a huge hit, and made Zeta-Jones one of the U.K.'s most popular TV actresses. After the series ended in 1993, she steadily found work playing lead roles in TV movies and miniseries such as Catherine the Great and The Cinder Path. She also played supporting roles small films, including Christopher Columbus: The Discovery and Splitting Heirs.
The big screen role that undoubtedly put Zeta-Jones on the map, however, came in 1998 when she was cast opposite Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas in 1998's The Mask of Zorro. America was enchanted by the dark-haired actress' charisma and beauty, and she began to be offered better and better roles in American film. She starred in films like Entrapment, The Haunting, and High Fidelity, before taking the prominent role of a white-collar drug kingpin's wife in 2000, in Steven Soderbergh's treatise on the drug war, Traffic. Her performance was impressive to critics and audiences, many of whom felt that she deserved an Oscar nomination.
The actress had no time to quibble over awards, however, as she married actor Michael Douglas in November that year, and gave birth to their son Dylan Michael nine months later. Zeta-Jones' took it easy during the next year, appearing only in the romantic comedy America's Sweethearts, but her next project would be the one to cement her as Hollywood royalty: a starring role in the Broadway adaptation Chicago. Few fans were aware of the singing and dancing skills that she'd honed on the musical stage at the beginning of her career, much less that she had sometimes performed with the English National Opera. Her performance blew audiences away, and won her the 2002 Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Zeta-Jones lightened things up in 2003, making audiences laugh alongside George Clooney in the Cohen Brothers' movie Intolerable Cruelty, then as an airport employee who falls for stranded immigrant Tom Hanks in The Terminal (2004).
The actress' screen time, however, began to diminish at about that point, given her decision to shift priorities and hone in on raising a family with Douglas; her film appearances grew decidedly less frequent, and she thus found time to give birth to a baby girl named Carys Zeta Douglas in April of 2003. On the side, however, she continued to appear in occasional commercials, and the paparazzi often published candid photos of the actress in public, baby-in-arms, which held her in the limelight. The motion pictures in which Zeta-Jones appeared during this period took fewer chances by banking off of recent successes (gone, at least temporarily, were the challenges of such films as Chicago and Traffic). Efforts during this period included the blockbuster sequel Ocean's Twelve (with Clooney, 2004), the onscreen reunion with Antonio Banderas The Legend of Zorro and even the musical concert film Tony Bennett: An American Classic, which reunited Zeta-Jones and Chicago wunderkind Rob Marshall.
Zeta-Jones then essayed a trio of roles in 2007. She first teamed with Shine director Scott Hicks for an Americanized remake of the German-language comedy Mostly Martha. Retitled No Reservations and issued in July of 2007, the picture casts Zeta-Jones as Kate Armstrong a chef suddenly appointed guardian her niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin). Kate's blossoming romance with another culinary maestro (Aaron Eckhart) puts the guardianship into much needed perspective. Zeta-Jones then starred in Australian director Gillian Armstrong's period piece Death Defying Acts -- a cinematization of Harry Houdini's 1926 tour of Britain, co-starring Timothy Spall and Guy Pearce, and scripted by Brian Ward and Tony Grisoni. The Weinstein company slated that picture for release in mid- to late 2007. ~ Cammila Collar, Rovi