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Catherine and Clooney: Partners in 'Cruelty'

October 5, 2003


NEW YORK -- It's not often that the very plot of a film offers a rare glimpse into the personal lives of two major celebrities.

Such is the case with "Intolerable Cruelty," opening Friday, which revolves around a sleazy divorce lawyer played by George Clooney, who fights the prenup of a woman who marries for the divorce settlement. The shark swims in in the form of Catherine Zeta-Jones.

It's interesting to ask both Zeta-Jones and Clooney how they feel about prenuptial agreements -- because, after all, they are here to talk about the movie, right, and certain particulars of the plot? Uh, huh.

"Prenups? I'll take that question," says Clooney, who sits next to Zeta-Jones in the ballroom at the Regency Hotel. Looking dapper as ever in a steel gray suit, he smiles and fesses up. "Why, yes, I think a prenup is very important. I have a prenup and I'm not even married."

"He has one with his dog," Zeta-Jones interjects.

Clooney sets the record straight. "I have a prenup with anyone I take out to dinner."

Spoken like a confirmed bachelor.

Clooney laughs and Zeta-Jones tosses back her thick mane of silky black hair. For a second, they look like the most dazzling couple in Hollywood, but she is married to Michael Douglas. And Clooney has a $1 million dollar bet with friend Michelle Pfeiffer that he will never marry. In the end, we'll have to settle for this duo only on the big screen.

In Joel and Ethan Coen's new film "Intolerable Cruelty," Clooney's hip divorce attorney tries to resist Zeta-Jones' female barracuda because he knows she's a "show me the money" type. It turns into a star-crossed match.

Even more interesting than the plot is asking the screen pair who they modeled their characters after.

"Ben and Jen," Clooney says.

Score one for the Y chromosome.

Ah, the bickering, the banter, the blinding beauty of this big bucks duo. Sadly, someone has to be the grownup, and that's Oscar winner Zeta-Jones, who states, "People keep asking me if I modeled this money-grubbing woman after anyone I know in Hollywood. The answer is no. I mean, poor Hollywood. These women exist all over the world!

"I know a lot of people who have been divorced a lot, yet I didn't model her after anyone, and if I did I'd never tell," she concludes.

Zeta-Jones signed on for the black comedy for the chance to work with the three Cs -- the two Coens and Clooney. "It took about four seconds for the three of them, who worked together before [in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"] to induct me into the club. They really made me feel comfortable," she says.

Clooney jokes that he tried to block the hiring of Zeta-Jones. "You know, she has an Oscar, and I believe all I've ever been nominated for is a People's Choice Award. I did win a Saturn Award once."

Clooney sobers and admits that he wanted some "Cruelty" in his life because he always wanted to reteam with the Coens, who gave him a hit in "O Brother." Clooney also wanted to bring a modern-day Cary Grant type of man to the big screen, which he found in this lawyer character.

"These romantic comedies, if done right, are really fun to do," he says. "In fact, I've done a few recently. I thought 'Solaris' was pretty funny. 'Batman and Robin' was a hoot."

Clooney can get serious for a moment and talk about his career. "I'm lucky in a backwards way," he says. "I did a lot of films early on that weren't particularly successful. So I didn't get pigeonholed as an actor. I'm not the action guy. Therefore, I've been free to try a bunch of different things on the screen. That's why the Coens tipped me for 'O Brother.' It was an odd choice. Now I'd do anything for those guys."

Anything includes making fun of his good looks. In "O Brother," the running joke was Clooney's obsession with his hair. In this film, his whiter than white teeth are his preoccupation.

"If I do another film with the Coens, I'm afraid because I'm running out of body parts to mock," he says. "Maybe I'll have to wax my back."

For Zeta-Jones, her body was also in question because she found out she was pregnant with her baby daughter Carys. "At the end of the shoot, I got pregnant," she says, looking mischievously at Clooney.

"God, I'm in trouble now," she cries.

"There was a sparkle in her eyes when she was first pregnant, and I thought it was just for me," Clooney jokes, faking a cry. "Now, I feel a little hurt."

These two stars can joke because neither is an uptight type who worries about his or her every word being misquoted. Both have learned how to almost effortlessly deal with fame.

"Fame is a tradeoff. I know if I walk to the market, it will be a public event," Clooney says. "Sometimes, I'm prepared and sometimes I'm not."

"The only time it upsets me is when I'm with my children," Zeta-Jones says.

Career-wise, she's flying high with her Oscar win for "Chicago." Clooney has faced some career disappointments, with "Solaris" tanking at the box office, followed by similar disappointment for his directorial debut, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind."

"You win some, you lose some," he says. "You just have to do good work and not take it personally. I'm really proud of 'Confessions,' and I hope people will check it out someday."

Clooney took the summer off to live in his new villa in Italy.

"It was a life-altering time for me," he says. "On one hand, it was hard for me to stop working. I still have that 'stop and you'll be unemployed forever' mentality. So this was my first vacation in years.

"I spent three months doing nothing, and it was the best thing I could have done in my life," he says. "Everyone should have a villa in Italy."

Now the vacation is over for Clooney, who is producing the new HBO political series "K Street." He's also prepping an "Oceans Eleven" sequel called "Oceans Twelve" and might star in a football film called "Leatherheads."

On the other hand, Zeta-Jones mentions that her big project is being a mom to 3-year-old Dylan and infant Carys. So far, the reviews are excellent. "My little boy will wake up in the morning and say, 'Mommy, you have the prettiest eyes I've ever seen.' All I need is a 3-year-old to make me feel special," she coos.

It doesn't hurt that she curls up with Douglas every night. "Our marriage works because we take it one day at a time," she says. "We're also kind to each other. People spend so much time being nice to strangers. Why not be nice to the special person in your life? That's all the marital advice I can give."

Clooney nods like he's taking mental notes. "If only I was married to Michael Douglas," he jokes.

As for her future, Zeta-Jones is looking to do a sequel to "Zorro" and hopes to find another big-budget screen musical.

"What about 'Hair' or 'Oh, Calcutta?'" Clooney offers.

"'Brigadoon,'" she replies.

Then she confesses. "I have a real ambition to do a tacky show in Vegas with drag queens," she says.

Clooney's eyes pop. "You'll be invited," she informs him.

Now that sounds like intolerable cruelty.

"No, cruel is a bikini wax," says Clooney, and now it's Zeta-Jones' turn to get a bit wide-eyed.

"Think about it," Clooney teases.

Distributed by Big Picture News


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