Top 10 Welsh actors: Catherine Zeta Jones

Photograph of Catherine Zeta Jones in Out Of the Blue

Last updated: 05 March 2010

Catherine Zeta Jones (1969-)

The fresh faced burgeoning starlet who caught the imagination of so many British TV viewers in The Darling Buds of May (1991-93), matured in the next decade into a confident performer of very different roles.

They culminated in her (relatively) hardboiled, sardonic homicidal entertainer Velma Kelly in the musical Chicago (2002), the performance which stamped her as an actress of much more potential than even some admirers had appreciated.

It also won her the first Best Supporting Actor Oscar awarded to a Welsh actress - together with Best Supporting awards from Bafta UK and the Screen Director's Guild.

This courageous performance when she never played for an ounce of audience sympathy (and was an attractively contrasting foil to Renée Zellwegger's comparatively bland Roxie Hart) allowed us to see Zeta Jones' skills developed in previous years - her dancing and singing, which also gained acclaim on stage in the musical 42nd Street, when she took over as lead during the late 1980s West End run.

Swansea born Zeta Jones had been a child performer on stage (appearing in the title role of Annie at Swansea's Grand Theatre). She came to much wider prominence in Darling Buds as Marietta Larkin but her big-screen career, after early misfires such as Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992) and the British comedy clinker, Splitting Heirs (1993), has taken her in interesting new directions.

In The Mask of Zorro (1998) as long-lost daughter of Zorro (Anthony Hopkins) she swashes buckles energetically with Hopkins and Antonio Banderas and impresses with her vigorous swordplay and athleticism. But in this film and Entrapment (1999) with Sean Connery, she was still seen as 'romantic interest' in macho territory. Later she returned to this exotic action terrain in The Legend of Zorro (2005).

In Stephen Soderberg's much-feted Traffic (2000), despite little screen time, she earned a Golden Globe nomination impressing as Helena Ayala, the ultra cool and latterly icily businesslike and shrewd wife of a ruthless international drugdealer, played by Michael Douglas. He married her the same year. In 2000 she was seen in High Fidelity, the screen version of Nick Hornby's best selling novel.

In 2003, Zeta Jones played a gold digger in the Coen Brothers' Intolerable Cruelty, with George Clooney and Billy Bob Thornton, before co-starring with Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon in Oceans 12 (2004).

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