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The legend of Zeta-Jones
Jim Slotek
Sun Media

October 30, 2005  

LOS ANGELES —The actual amount of time between the original The Mask Of Zorro and this week’s sequel The Legend Of Zorro was seven years.

SEQUEL ... Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Legend of Zorro.

In the lives of the characters, it’s presented as 10.

For Catherine Zeta-Jones, it’s the time that elapses between entire lives.

“I used to bump into Antonio (Banderas) or (director) Martin Campbell and it was always, ‘Let’s do another one,’ ”

Zeta-Jones says of the movie that turned her from an unknown into a bankable lead.

“And it was not just professionally important to me, but personally too. Michael (Douglas) saw me in it, seduced me … hounded me … followed me around the world! And look at me now, two kids later.”

Maybe it’s the allergy medication that makes Zeta-Jones especially ebullient this day (she claims to be “so wired up I can hardly blink” and apologizes for a husk in her voice that “makes me sound like a cross between Kathleen
Turner, Demi Moore and a truck driver”).

But she has given a pretty good thumbnail sketch of how one of the most improbable of cross-generational Hollywood couples came to be.

She and Douglas met at the Deauville Film Festival in France where she was promoting Zorro and Douglas had become besotted by the unknown woman he’d seen playing the fiery Elena Montero.

A whirlwind courtship followed that led to her marrying a Hollywood star 25 years her senior.

Just how whirlwind it was becomes clear when Zeta-Jones mentions that Douglas rented a house in L.A. last year as a midpoint for Zeta-Jones and family while she filmed The Legend Of Zorro in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

She had to rent in L.A.? The Douglases own several houses, with a principal residence in Bermuda (they recently bought a winter place in Mont Tremblant, Que.). How could they not have a place in Los Angeles?

“I don’t like it. And Michael never lived there. He was brought up on the East Coast and only came here sometimes to see his dad (Kirk Douglas).

“But I came from Wales and within a few months I was filming (the mini-series) Titanic in Canada. Then I got Zorro, so I was in Mexico for six months. I came back, bought a house (in L.A.), lived in it for three nights and then went to Scotland to do Entrapment with Sean (Connery). I came back, promoted Zorro, met my husband and sold my house. So I never really lived here either.”

So no, it wasn’t the same old Catherine Zeta-Jones who returned to Mexico. That Catherine could wander around shopping in the local markets while photogs snapped furiously at her co-stars Banderas and Anthony Hopkins.

“This time, just keeping where I lived private was hard enough. But San Luis Potosi really opened its arms to us. There were restaurants that became my catinas. They’d cook for me, and my driver would pick it up.”

In The Legend Of Zorro, Zeta-Jones goes from a real improbable marriage to another onscreen. In it, Don Alejandro de la Vega, a.k.a. Zorro (Banderas) has arrived at a crossroads in his marriage with Elena (Zeta-Jones). The couple separates, and with a divorce decree comes a new suitor, a sinister French nobleman played by Rufus Sewell.

What thrilled her the most was she had even more swordfighting to do than she did the first time around. Sewell says she was so jazzed by the fight scenes she actually broke his nose.

“Is he still talking about it?” she says with mock disgust. “God, enough already. I sent him flowers. I went to his trailer three times to make sure he was OK.

“I’d never fenced until the first Zorro. And I had no time, this time, between finishing Ocean’s 12 and going to Mexico where they’d already been shooting for a few weeks. But it kind of came back. I treated it like choreography, like dancing. It was great exercise, I love it.”

It was an emotional reunion she says. “I had a tear in my eye when I saw Antonio in his Zorro getup."

The downside, as before, was the clothing.

“Visually, the fashions are absolutely superb. The reality is I have no idea how the hell they got dressed and undressed in that heat. I’m for women’s lib — throw off that bra!

“But to be asked to swordfight in that stuff is unbelievable. In my own life I constantly squeeze myself into uncomfortable stuff, but I don’t wear three petticoats!”

Sun Media Corporation

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