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Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas star in 'The Legend of Zorro'.
Catherine Zeta Jones and Antonio Banderas star in 'The Legend of Zorro'.
Swordplay runs in the family
By Peter Mitchell
Catherine Zeta Jones has just spent a 10-hour day wielding a sword on the dusty set of her new film, The Legend of Zorro.

The Mexican Government has put on a party for her and 50 other VIPs, including her co-star Antonio Banderas who plays Zorro.

Zeta Jones, given her Welsh heritage, does not mind a stiff drink, but after a tough day's shoot on a barren piece of land outside San Luis Potosi in 30-plus degree heat, she opts for iced water.

The US$75 million ($112 million) Legend of Zorro is a swashbuckling adventure set in the wild west of California in 1850. It's a sequel to 1998's The Mask of Zorro, the film that changed Zeta Jones from being another pretty face in Hollywood to one of its leading ladies.

She has two children with fellow actor Michael Douglas, five-year-old son Dylan, and two-year-old daughter, Carys.

It was Steven Spielberg and a bit of luck that changed Zeta Jones' life. In 1996, Spielberg was watching the movie Titanic, a forgettable, small-budget TV version of the story of the sinking of the giant passenger ship. Spielberg was mesmerised by the stunning brunette actress who stood out in every scene she was in. He called her agent and she was soon cast to play alongside Banderas in The Mask of Zorro, which Spielberg executive produced.

While life has changed for Zeta Jones, 36, in the past seven years, she still faces the dilemmas of every working parent. She wants to spend time with her family, but their home is in Bermuda in the middle of the Atlantic and the film requires her to be on set for months in Mexico.

"I miss my family," says Zeta Jones.

"Of course, they have been down here quite a bit, but they have to go back.

"We have had so many night shoots it's really hard to keep a husband and two kids quiet. That is the only reason why."

In The Legend of Zorro, Zeta Jones reprises her role as the feisty Elena.

"She hasn't lost the spark and the feistiness she had, especially with Zorro [Banderas]. I didn't want her to lose that," Zeta Jones said.

"Once you're born with that fire, you are like that forever."

The story is set 10 years after the original. Elena has married Zorro and they have a 10-year-old son, Joaquin (played by Adrian Alonso), who is also handy with a sword.

Zeta Jones said her own son, Dylan, got a bit carried away when he visited the set with his dad and little sister and wanted a real sword. "The plastic one just didn't cut it after he saw me doing it. Then I had to explain to him why he couldn't have my sword," said Zeta Jones.

While she was filming The Legend of Zorro, she was dealing with a stalker, Dawnette Knight, a 35-year-old from Los Angeles who sent disturbing letters to Zeta Jones' agent and Douglas. In one letter, Knight wrote she was "going to slice" Zeta Jones up. Knight got three years' jail for threatening and stalking the actress.

The court heard a letter from Zeta Jones describing how Knight's letters had "profoundly affected me in how I conduct my life ... your actions will be with me the rest of my life - how I will be constantly observing, looking over my shoulder".

What is important to Zeta Jones is her family and her work.

"The family unit is very sacred to me," Zeta Jones explained. "It is very difficult to leave and come to a different country. We have a 10-day rule where we never go without seeing each other for more than 10 days."

Modern technology also helps.

"I'm a bit of a gadget geek," she says. "I have a webcam so I do get to see the kids and Michael at least three times a day. I know everything they are doing. Where they have been after school. It doesn't replace the real thing, but that webcam is my saviour."

* What: The Legend of Zorro

* Where:
In cinemas

* When:

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