by Sarah Hall
Jan 23, 2004, 11:15 PM PT
The duo had struck an exclusive deal with rival pub OK!, agreeing to a $1.8 million kickback for the rights to their wedding pics.
But Hello! jumped the queue, having its shutterbugs infiltrate the party and then rushing the covertly snapped shots into publication fully three days before OK! put out the Zeta-Jones-endorsed edition.
Those who dared to cross the Intolerable Cruelty star soon felt her wrath. Feeling that she looked portly in the spy cam shots, Zeta-Jones resolved to take Hello! to task.
Particularly odious to Zeta-Jones was a shot that showed Douglas feeding her wedding cake.
"I did not want my husband shoving a spoon down my throat to be photographed," she griped from the stand. "It is offensive."
Zeta-Jones and Douglas sought $815,000 from the magazine but were ultimately awarded only $26,000. OK! did better, collecting from Hello! the full amount of the $1.8 million paid for the photos in the first place.
Now, however, the really big bills are coming home to roost.
A London High Court judge ruled Friday that the mag was responsible for 75 percent of the legal fees for the first hearing and 85 percent of the fees for the damages hearing. The total cost of the two hearings is estimated at $7.4 million.
Hello!'s legal team refuses to write the battle off entirely as a loss.
Christopher Hutchings, lawyer for the magazine, pointed out that the damages awarded Zeta-Jones and Douglas will by no means cover even the limited portion of their legal costs that they must still pay.
"Hello! obviously faces a massive bill, but when these figures are finally settled, the Douglases and OK! will also be hugely out of pocket," he said, per BBC News.
It's questionable what "hugely out of pocket" would mean for the Traffic team.
After all, this is a couple for whom a million dollars and change is piggy-bank liner, according to Zeta-Jones.
"I get well compensated in my job and my husband has had a long career, financially successful, and it is a lot of money maybe to a lot of people in this room, but it is not that much for us," she proclaimed at the trial.
Both sides have appeals planned for the future. Hello! plans to appeal against the liability and damages decisions, while Zeta-Jones and Douglas are still hoping to have their breach-of-privacy argument, which they lost in court, reversed.
Meanwhile, those at Hello! refuse to admit any culpability for scooping OK! and shaming Zeta-Jones.
"The competitive practice of muscling in on other people's scoops is long-established in the media," Hutchings said, per BBC News.
"Hello! has always said that this litigation shouldn't have gone ahead and this judgment means that the other side's decision to go to court was probably not okay."
In the meantime, the litigious Zeta-Jones is keeping herself busy outside of the courtroom.