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Zeta-Jones shows beauty's no illusion

Rosalie Higson | March 11, 2008

OF all the questions faced by Catherine Zeta-Jones yesterday, her own rhetorical one-liner was the best.

"Is it hot in here, or is it just me?"

For the men in the press pack at her stuffy Sydney Opera House media conference, the answer was obvious: "It's you," they chorused. The Welsh beauty laughed, insisting she hadn't planned the gag.

Zeta-Jones was on a flying visit for last night's Sydney premiere of Death Defying Acts, Gillian Armstrong's film about the 19th-century illusionist Harry Houdini. At the earlier press conference, she was flanked by co-stars Guy Pearce and teenage hot property Saoirse Ronan (Atonement), with Armstrong and producer Marian MacGowan, but most of the questions were directed at her.

In Death Defying Acts, the Oscar winner plays a confidence artist and music hall performer, living hand-to-mouth in Edinburgh with her daughter and sidekick, played by Ronan. She sets out to swindle Houdini (Pearce) by pretending to be able to contact his dead mother: he is seduced by both her promise and her physical charms.

Zeta-Jones, 38 and the mother of two children with actor Michael Douglas, said being the sexy heroine was no longer her priority. "I am a mother and so I'm not going to be rip-roaring in corsets playing a 19-year-old because I'm not, I'm 38 years old." But, she assured her fans, she wasn't about to abandon sexy roles altogether. "In my next movie, which is an untitled movie at the moment, you'll be seeing a lot more of me, put it that way," she said. "I'm not going to be playing old grannies anytime soon. I haven't actually reached my sexiest point yet."

Zeta-Jones next plays a drug addict in Rachel's Holiday, and Lana Turner in a bio-pic about the 1950s Hollywood star's relationship with a gangster. She is also said to be teaming up with Douglas in Racing the Monsoon, the third in a series that began with Douglas's 1984 action comedy Romancing the Stone.

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