Mum's the word for sexy Catherine Zeta-Jones

Article from: Sunday Herald Sun

Catherine Caines

March 09, 2008 12:00am

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 Tinseltown.

"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 is like taking a crash course in star charisma.

She has a wild, brooding beauty that has not been dulled by the spotlight.

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

"I've been really lucky with my co-stars. They seem to have it and you can't really force or make chemistry on screen," she says.

"It's just one of those things that happens and I've been really lucky with Guy, Antonio, Sean and the boys, Brad and George. I've been very lucky that I've had a lot of charisma to play off."

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 the actor's classical style and beauty.

She admits to an awareness of her showgirl glamour, an edge that sets her apart from the young movie-star wannabes.

"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 says.

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.

After 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 actor, who won the 2002 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing vamp Velma Kelly in Chicago.

Though 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 a sudden, while 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 - to keep a roof over their heads and to eat and survive."

Death Defying Acts is Zeta-Jones's first maternal role in film, but in real life she juggles the demands of being a global star and being mother to Dylan, 7, and Carys, 4. Yet she manages to make time for her other passion - golf.

Recognising the sport as the best way to spoil a nice walk, Zeta-Jones says 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 on Thursday.

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Catherine Zeta-Jones
Maternal instincts: Catherine Zeta-Jones and Saoirse Ronan as Mary McGarvie and daughter Benji in Death Defying Acts..


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