WELSH actress Catherine Zeta Jones yesterday failed in a bid to delay the start of her courtroom battle against Hello magazine.
Swansea-born Zeta Jones, and her husband Michael Douglas, will miss the start of the case next week after a judge refused their application to postpone it.
The couple are expected to arrive together the following week to give evidence at the High Court in London about the stress suffered when the magazine published unauthorised pictures of their wedding in November 2000.
Michael Tugendhat, QC, representing the couple, asked Sir Andrew Morritt, Vice Chancellor of the chancery division, to postpone the trial from February 3 to February 10 because the two claimants had prior engagements in the first week.
Douglas will be carrying out work for the United Nations in Sierra Leone and his wife will be attending the Berlin premiere of her film Chicago.
He told the judge: "Mr Douglas wishes to be with his wife in London when she gives evidence, not simply because she is his wife and is seven months pregnant.
"There is another aspect - because a privacy trial is almost a contradiction in terms. This is a case which the Douglases will say they are bringing because of injury to their feelings, intrusion and other matters of a personal nature." He would call the couple as the first witnesses.
James Price QC, representing Hello, said there was no reason why the couple could not appear in court separately to give evidence during the first week or together the second week to avoid postponing the trial for a third time.
Sir Andrew said although Zeta Jones did not wish to give evidence "without the company of her husband", to delay again would cause too many difficulties for the running of the case.
He said the first week of the trial, expected to last 20 days, could be taken up by the judge hearing applications and reading documents.
It would then be possible for Douglas and Zeta Jones to come to the court together the following week.
The couple signed a £1m deal with Hello's rival magazine, OK, for exclusive pictures of their £1.2m wedding at the Plaza Hotel in New York.
But Hello hit the streets three days earlier than OK with its own "exclusive" photographs of the stars.
If successful at the trial on liability, the couple will make a claim for damages in excess of £1m.
They will argue their private lives were violated, causing them stress, and loss of income from syndication rights from the authorised photographs.
They will also claim their professional careers have been damaged because of the alleged poor quality of the Hello wedding photographs.