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Catherine Zeta-Jones swaps sex symbol for mum role

Article from: The Sunday Telegraph

March 02, 2008 10:04am

IT'S curious to hear Catherine Zeta-Jones accepting her days as a young sex symbol may be over, but it hasn't stopped Hollywood casting her as a yummy mummy.

Discussing her latest turn as a mystic opposite Guy Pearce's Houdini in Gillian Armstrong's Death Defying Acts, the Welsh wonder easily admits she is well aware of the ageist shackles of Hollywood.

"That's a gradual thing for me because I'm too old to play the ingenue,'' Zeta-Jones laments, in reference to her Death Defying Acts character, Mary McGarvie, her first outing as a screen mother.

"I think it's just a natural progression,'' she says.

"I'm 38 years old and I'm going to play more mums than sex symbols.''

Such statements strike one as rather odd, particularly when seated across from Mrs Michael Douglas.

Meeting Zeta-Jones in person is like taking a crash course in star charisma. She has a wild, brooding beauty that's not been dulled by the spotlight.

Little wonder she has played leading lady to Hollywood's leading men, namely George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Richard Gere. Oh, and husband Douglas.

From her early meanderings in television (Zeta-Jones created a strong male interest in the female-driven series The Darling Buds Of May) to London West End theatrics, Hollywood was soon smitten with Zeta-Jones' classical style and beauty.

She admits to an awareness of her showgirl glamour, an edge that sets her apart from the carriage-loads of current Hollywood trainwrecks.

"It's very hard to put a name on that kind of 'it factor' in a way, and I'm probably not the best actor in the world, but on screen I have something that I know is a little different, and also on stage,'' she reveals.

Death Defying Acts, in which Zeta-Jones's deceptive psychic, McGarvie, attempts to hustle the escapologist Harry Houdini, is her second project under the direction of an Australian.

Following on from No Reservations, directed by Scott Hicks (Shine), she decamped alongside Pearce and Armstrong to film in historic Edinburgh, where they reinvented the life and times of Houdini during 1926.

Zeta-Jones laughs over Armstrong's comments about her performance being "her best in ages''.
"Because everything else is crap,'' jokes the Academy Award-winning actress.

Although the life of an improvised con artist and single mother couldn't be further from her own, there's something about using show business to escape one's past that must have appealed to the A-list star.

"She was a survivor and all of sudden whilst doing that she has a relationship with this rock star of his time that she didn't want to,'' she says of McGarvie's plight.

"I didn't want her to be a cold bitch of a character. You have to sympathise with her struggles of the time and to keep a roof over their heads and to eat and survive.''

Zeta-Jones is quick to move the subject to her other passion - golf (outside of playing mum to seven-year-old Dylan and four year-old Carys).

Recognising the sport as the best way to spoil a nice walk, Zeta-Jones explains that her love for the game was kindled in Australia.

"It's been a long time since I've been in Oz and that's where I learnt to play my golf, in Australia,'' she says. "That's where the passion took me over.

"When Michael has a celebrity golf tournament, it's always guaranteed my game goes to s***,'' she laughs. "Some days it's like I've never picked up a club before and it's the most frustrating game in the world.''

Death Defying Acts opens nationally on March 13. Catherine Zeta Jones will attend the celebrity premiere in Sydney on March 10.


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