IF MICHAEL Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones ever make a movie about their court case, the Marquesa de Varela will doubtless be cast as the hot-blooded South American villain.
Yesterday the first witness to give evidence against the couple in their battle for $1.5 million damages from Hello! magazine, derided as "childish" their efforts to keep their wedding private.
The Uruguayan-born Marquesa, who also goes under the name of Maria Julia Marin of Montevideo, was the pioneer "fixer" of Hello!'s celebrity interviews.
The magazine had hoped to win the couple's contract to give it an exclusive wedding deal in November 2000. But instead, after falling out with Hello!'s Spanish owner Eduardo Sanchez-Junco, who insisted on taking over negotiations himself, the Douglases plumped for a $3 million deal with rival OK!
The Marquesa laughed in the witness box at the High Court yesterday at how the wedding in New York's five-star Plaza Hotel had been infiltrated by paparazzo photographer Rupert Thorpe. He had snatched pictures to sell to Hello! in a deal worth $450,000.
"If I want a private wedding I would not do it in the Plaza Hotel," she said.
"It's a hotel. Come on, it's not a private place. It was almost childish of them. That's my honest opinion. There are 1000 South American waiters. It was easy, easy, easy. It did not surprise me."
The Marquesa said the Douglases should have taken a leaf out of Sir Paul McCartney's book and married on a private estate instead of leaving themselves exposed to the cunning of the paparazzi.
"It was childish to think that in the Plaza Hotel they would get 100 per cent exclusive pictures."
She also criticised the quality of the pictures which eventually appeared in Hello!
"If I had seen the pictures before acquiring them I would have immediately told Eduardo not to buy them as it is my opinion that the pictures are not worth a penny."
The Marquesa revealed that as the magazine entered negotiations for the Douglas/Zeta-Jones wedding it was already at a disadvantage.
Hola!, its Spanish stablemate, had agreed to pay nearly $1.2 million to the couple for a picture exclusive in Majorca.
"But the photographers turned up without a cheque and Michael Douglas angrily turned the photographers away," she said.
The Marquesa and her British Virgin Islands company Neneta Overseas Ltd are two of the six defendants in the case being sued for breach of privacy and confidence. She told the court she had been removed from negotiations on the wedding deal and had nothing to do with the photographs until she saw them in Hello!.
She will continue being cross-examined on her evidence today.
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