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CNN Larry King Weekend

Movie Star Catherine Zeta-Jones Discusses Her Life and Career

Aired July 21, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Can you imagine waking up to this gorgeous face? Screen queen Catherine Zeta-Jones joins us. She's got an A-list, Oscar-winning husband, a beautiful baby boy and round-the- clock tabloid attention. And she's here for the hour; and she's next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

What a great pleasure to have as our special guest tonight my co- star in America's sweetheart, Catherine Zeta-Jones. The movie "America's Sweethearts" opens this weekend.

Just so you know, I was hired to play myself in this movie. Catherine and I do a scene together. It was a lot of fun, but I'm going to stay with the day job. And I do get to yell at her.

And she is everywhere. Look at this. Every magazine on the market, she's on the cover.

Does that embarrass you?

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, ACTRESS: Not us much as it was when you were so mean to me.

KING: I wasn't mean to you.

ZETA-JONES: No, on the character side.

KING: I know. We're just joking. But I got you to cry.

ZETA-JONES: Yes. And...

KING: Was I good?

ZETA-JONES: You were the best actor to work opposite, because you inspired me to get emotional.

KING: And I got you crying. You did that great.

ZETA-JONES: Oh, honey, you got me weeping like a good one.

KING: Don't say honey -- I'm a Jew.


KING: It's "Zeta," not "Zayde," right? ZETA-JONES: Zeta, yes.

KING: Because "zayde" is a Jewish grandfather. You're married to a Jewish guy.

ZETA-JONES: Yes. Zeta is my grandmother's name, who is of north Greek origin. But Zeta is a Greek name. And everyone thinks that I just put Zeta in to spice up Catherine Jones. And that's completely untrue. In fact...

KING: It's always been Zeta.

ZETA-JONES: I've always been called that. And in my school in Wales, Jones is a very, very popular name in Wales. And so there were like three Catherine Joneses in my class, so they always called me Zeta.

KING: Are you comfortable doing comedy?

ZETA-JONES: I was really, really happy to have the chance to do it. I mean, I was watching the other night -- or a few weeks ago, in fact, when you were talking about Jack Lemmon -- and he said comedy is really difficult. It's really difficult. I think this is the thing: This is the first time I've really had the chance to do a comedy, a comedy like this, and with these people who do this all the time. I mean, Billy Crystal and Johnny...

KING: And Julia Roberts.

ZETA-JONES: ... and Julia Roberts. That romantic comedy genre is a very specific one.

KING: Of course, you have to be real.

ZETA-JONES: You have to be real and also have those moments that make somebody belly-laugh, or you know, just have fun with it. So I really think for me it's -- I need to do it again to be able to tell you that, because the consistency of comedy, I'm sure, is completely different from doing your first romantic comedy.

KING: Anyone who knows you knows that you're nothing like the character you played, who's a kind of a phony, typical Hollywood star.


ZETA-JONES: More water, water, water, water.


KING: Was that fun to play against the character?

ZETA-JONES: Well, yes, I just hope that everyone knows that I'm not like that. But it was really fun. And I said to Joe Roth, our director, at the very end of the movie, when we went to do a scene that was really in the movie before -- we had already shot it, but we needed to change the location of it -- and there was talk about us maybe doing something with my character to make her a little nicer and more sympathetic. In the end, I said, you know, Joe, I've come this far with her, I can't go back now; I can't.

I had so much fun playing her, and having those moments with Julia where we are sisters, and we can have those -- you know what it's like. I don't know whether you have siblings, but I know...

KING: I have a brother.

ZETA-JONES: I have siblings. And there are certain things I know that I can push their buttons. And they know they have certain things where they can push mine.

KING: Role selection: Is that difficult for you? Have you turned down anything you regretted?

ZETA-JONES: No, not really turned down anything I regretted, but I think that the more success you have as an actor, I think, the greatest advantage of being successful as an actor or being in this business is that you have the chance to pick and choose or you have people coming to you with a much more different variety of roles.

I mean, especially after "Traffic," when I played her six months pregnant, I just kind of broke my mold there for a minute. So that gives you the power to have more choices. And I think that, to me, if success means anything along, with all the other lovely things that go along with it, it is that those choices come to you. And that is so important right now.

KING: Were you a beautiful kid? When you were 10 years old, were you a beautiful child?


KING: Were you chased around at school?


KING: You were not?

ZETA-JONES: No. I grew very tall and then never grew again. So I was kind of gawky.

KING: You were gawky.

ZETA-JONES: Kind of gawky.

KING: You were not the queen of the hop?

ZETA-JONES: No, no. I tried many times on those beauty talents. I never got anywhere.


KING: Really? ZETA-JONES: No. But I had braces and I was -- I was a bit of a jock, really. I had -- along with my singing and dancing, I was very happy to be born in the hometown of Dylan Thomas. So the government was financing dramatic groups and amateur dramatics and stuff like that.

KING: Did you do that?

ZETA-JONES: Everything. I mean, my father and my mother were like a taxi service, constantly taking me from one dramatic thing to the other.

KING: You told me when I did the scene with you in the movie, that musical comedy is your bag, right?

ZETA-JONES: Oh, yes. That's all I wanted to do.

KING: You did "42nd Street."

ZETA-JONES: I did. And for me, growing up, I wanted to be in musical comedy, and never even thought about moving into performance -- was what I wanted to do was be on stage. I was always a mimic as a child, and that was my dream; to be in -- you know, I wished I was in Vaudeville or something, doing different sketches. And I never really thought about movies until I hung up my tap shoes and went, OK, I can't be a hoofer for the rest of my life. What am I going to do now?

KING: Good dancer?

ZETA-JONES: I'm a good tap dancer.

KING: Are you going to do "Chicago," the movie?

ZETA-JONES: Well, we're in serious talks.

KING: Boy, you'd be a natural.


KING: It's a great show.

ZETA-JONES: Do you know what, Larry? I really think -- we are talking about it, but I'd love to have the ability to show -- not show off, but to use all of those years of just part of my life that...

KING: What does it better than "Chicago"?

ZETA-JONES: Unfortunately theater just, you know, goes away when they close the show...

KING: I know.

ZETA-JONES: ... and you don't have anything to see.

KING: We'll be right back with Catherine Zeta-Jones, one of my favorite people, one of the good people. And she's terrific, if I do say so myself. "America's Sweethearts" is a heck of a funny movie. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: OK, let's go to phone calls now on LARRY KING LIVE. White Plains, you're on the air with Gwen Harrison.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Gwen, hi. I used to be a big fan but, I'm sorry, I can't get over what happened with you and Eddie. I am so sick over it I can't sleep at night, how can you?

KING: Well, you do sleep next to a very handsome young Spanish gentleman, do you not?




ZETA-JONES: Are you seeing anybody?


ZETA-JONES: Are you seeing anybody?

CUSACK: Let me think about how I'd answer that. Um, not, you know, technically.


ZETA-JONES: He said, "Not technically."

ROBERTS: Well. That's sad, really. That's a shame.

Here are your eggs, my darling sister. I hope that's plenty enough for you.

And you, here are your eggs! There you go!


KING: We're back with Catherine Zeta-Jones. So much to talk about. Let's talk about our mutual friend -- your husband, my friend -- Michael Douglas.


KING: How did you meet?

ZETA-JONES: We met in 1996 at the Deauville Film Festival. I think it was 1996. Anyway, we met. I had been told that Michael Douglas wanted to meet me. KING: Oh.

ZETA-JONES: Yes, so I was a little nervous because I didn't quite know what he wanted to meet me about.


ZETA-JONES: But anyway I walk into the lobby of the hotel. I'm promoting "Zorro" and Michael is promoting "A Perfect Murder." So I walk into the hotel lobby, and I see who I'm sure it's Michael Douglas, with his golf clubs, walking straight past me, in the lobby. And I said to my brother, who was there at the time, and said, I guess he doesn't really want to meet you that much, because he just walked right past me, and he didn't even know it was me.

So anyway, we meet that night. Mutual friends Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith introduced us. And he asked very gentlemanly if he could sit next to me at a very long table at the dinner for the "Zorro" premiere. Nine months later, I'm still having long conversations with him on the phone, having great dinner dates, constantly wondering why are we not together, and then realizing when we actually sat down and talked about it -- because he said I was a freak -- for nine months, he was really being really sweet. He was like, This girl has no interest.

KING: Is that when he proposed to you?

ZETA-JONES: No, we hadn't even done anything, you know, you know what.

KING: No sexy, nothing?

ZETA-JONES: No, nothing sexual.

KING: Catherine.

ZETA-JONES: We were very -- it's very good.

KING: Yes.

ZETA-JONES: And it's nice, because what we did is become friends, and then he certainly didn't want me as, you know, an ex- girlfriend on his list. And I certainly didn't want, you know, Michael Douglas as an ex-boyfriend on my list. And we looked at each other one day and said we're having a lot of fun together. So he invited me to Spain, and I went there and I thought...

KING: How much older?

ZETA-JONES: Twenty-five years older.

KING: I'm 26 years older than my wife. It works, though, right?

ZETA-JONES: So you're one of the rare people in this world.

KING: Yes. It works, though. ZETA-JONES: Well, I think, historically, older men and younger women have been together. But all of a sudden, you come to a generation where it becomes, like, I don't know, another agenda going on. And when my mother was telling me about men and telling me the facts of life, she never actually put an age bracket on it. And it's so funny because Michael and my parents are the same age. So they -- my parents, when they see us together, never even question that there was a 25-year age difference...

KING: Do you ever feel that?

ZETA-JONES: Never. And Michael never makes me feel like that.

KING: How about him as a father?

ZETA-JONES: Well, he's a terrific father. He was a terrific father to his son Cameron, and now to our son, Dylan. It's amazing. He has the time now to enjoy those little moments where he was jamming, making a life, making a career, being pulled from one end of the world to the other, whether it would be producing on "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," or acting, and coming from television...

KING: Did it all.


ZETA-JONES: Did it all. And he now has those times when he's very happy to be home. And I think with relationship with two careers going, which sometimes, can override a relationship, he's so supportive of me because...


KING: No jealousy.

ZETA-JONES: Not one iota. Well, nothing of that. Also there's no competition of when the phone rings, it's the agent for me or him. You know, it's a very easy, simply lifestyle. And I think our age difference and where we are in our lives contributes to that.

KING: I remember the fun we had when your father-in-law was bar mitzvahed again...

ZETA-JONES: Isn't that great?

KING: ... at age 83.

ZETA-JONES: He is such an incredible...

KING: Kirk Douglas -- are they good in-laws?

ZETA-JONES: Oh, great grandparents, both Michael's mother, Diana, and Kirk. Amazing. And every time they're in town, he comes over and just hangs and gets down on the floor with him. He's so inspirational, because, you know, a guy who's had a stroke, a helicopter crash, who is now on writing another book -- he's just inspirational.

And talking about, you know, your wonderful coverage, I must say, on Jack Lemmon, Kirk is really one of those people who are going to be part of our culture. He is so inspirational that I just feel that every day with him is so memorable.

KING: By the way, Dylan is not a Jewish name.

ZETA-JONES: Dylan is not a Jewish name. But neither is Douglas.


KING: Is he going to be raised -- is he going to synagogue, your Dylan?

ZETA-JONES: Well, you know, I'm christened Catholic. Michael's mother is Protestant.

KING: Yes.

ZETA-JONES: Obviously, Kirk is half Jewish and very Jewish- based. And right now, we're just going to play it...

KING: Open.

ZETA-JONES: ... open, yes, and take him and see what -- you know, where he wants to go.

KING: Catherine Zeta-Jones is the guest. She's in "America's Sweethearts." We'll be right back.


ZETA-JONES: People have no idea what it's like being me. Did we brush my teeth?


ZETA-JONES: See, I can't even remember that.

BILLY CRYSTAL, ACTOR: Good morning you two. Come on, smile. Here we go; all right. Smile.

Ladies and gentlemen, here they are: Eddie and Gwen, together again!

There they are, America's sweethearts!



KING: We've got a question that fits right in where we were, from, on our Internet. How do you and Michael manage to work and travel around the world and still be good parents? ZETA-JONES: Well, the beauty about -- especially having a child, who's now 11 months, but also being in our business -- and we're very lucky that Michael doesn't have to go to the office 9:00 to 5:00, and I haven't got to go on board meetings or travel alone for work -- when I was doing both "Traffic" and both "America's Sweethearts," I had another trailer set up, and you know, just one where I could rest, and then when Dylan was there with my nanny. But we're very lucky that we can travel and just pack him up.

And he's the best traveler. I flew back actually from New York commercially very recently, and I was so proud of my son. Everyone was going, He's so well-behaved. And then I remembered my mother telling me, you know, You'd better behave. And now as a mother, now I realize that, you know, when your kids are well behaved, you just like grow three times.

KING: We asked about Kirk as a father.


KING: How do you like motherhood?

ZETA-JONES: Oh, motherhood to me is something that I always wanted, but never quite knew how it was going to happen.

KING: You're how are you old now?

ZETA-JONES: I'm 31 now.

KING: It's a good age.

ZETA-JONES: It's a great age. And it came at the right time, albeit the baby arrived before we got married, and it was a little bit the wrong way around. But I just love it. It really is a completion of something that gives me strength in my work, to be able to go and explore and do things, and also it stints me in certain things about what I would do, because I have children now.

KING: Do you want more?


KING: Michael does, too?

ZETA-JONES: Yes, he does. I want three; he wants two. He says I have to negotiate with him. I don't quite know what that means.

KING: So you can balance career and motherhood well, although the emphasis, you're first a mother?

ZETA-JONES: I'm a wife. You know, I think it's very important that our family unit is solid, and from there you can go anywhere. You know, I can't imagine being confused or in less certain relationship and having to go off and be happy and do junkets, like in "America's Sweethearts" when there's something that's painful. And I really think that juggling anything, whether it be child- rearing, career, wife, family member, friends, it's always very difficult, for everybody. And I just try and take it a step at a time and learn along the way.

KING: When someone is famous, there's also flack. You got some flack for selling wedding coverage to British tabloids? You sold pictures of the baby to another, right? Why?

ZETA-JONES: For a very special reason. Maybe people in America don't know that, in fact, I've had a lot of press attention since I was 19 years old in Britain.

KING: You were a star in Britain.

ZETA-JONES: Yes, but also much more much more of a star for being photographed in every daily routine. If I were dating someone or having a coffee with somebody, there was always speculation.

Since I've been with Michael, I think two people who are in the public eye when they come together, it creates sex, and there's never enough. And I really didn't want, just from going to the hospital, just before my son was born, and looking at the caravans following me over to Cedar Sinai and terrifying myself being in that pretty vulnerable point in my life. And I said to Michael, I'm not going to have them hounding me. I'm going to release photographs. It was my idea.

So the idea of selling is something that is really quite hurtful to us because what we did is that we completely understand what these people get if they have a specific photograph, whether it be me and Michael in New York or me standing there kissing him and the first time they got together. I know the amount of money that those guys got paid for that photograph.

And I didn't want the hassle and the constant harassment for their bucks. So I produced a beautiful photo spread of a child, and Michael and me, who were known. That child is a baby. He doesn't even look like that any more, and this is why I try to protect him right now. The child is an infant, you know. And those photographs, I thought, were wonderful. I own the copyrights -- well, not just me, but me and my husband.

KING: Did you put it into an annuity?

ZETA-JONES: It's all for Dylan, and you know, if anyone's going to make any money out of harassing me, Michael, and my son, it's going to be him. And what annoyed me so much, because there was there was so much about this when it happened, is that my husband is so philanthropic.

KING: I know.

ZETA-JONES: He comes from a family that has so generously contributed to so many different things. And philanthropy is part of their lifestyle. No one's ever spent enough newspaper coverage on my family's philanthropic work. And the amount of coverage...

KING: That this got.

ZETA-JONES: ... that this got -- and I said to Michael about -- and he said, Catherine, giving is not for publicity, you give not to receive. This is something that whether it be with the UN or nuclear disarmament and the handling of the guns and gun control in this country, or whether it's Kirk with the Motion Picture Home, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- all the different things that they do, has never got so much coverage.

And so what you have to do is just if you can't beat them, don't say anything. You know, what am I going to do? I'm going to like, you know, go out there. But that was the most annoying thing about that whole thing.

KING: The life and times of Catherine Zeta-Jones, the star of "America's Sweethearts," opening this weekend. Don't go away.


ZETA-JONES: So when will I see you again?

SEAN CONNERY, ACTOR: Meet me tomorrow morning, 6:30, at the Pruden (ph) Train Station.


CONNERY: Be there. I'm never late. If I'm late, it's because I'm dead.

Ripcord. Hold.




ROBERTS: Can't you just handle this yourself?

ZETA-JONES: What are you talking about? I don't handle anything myself! Why are you being so difficult, huh? I'm only asking for a teensy-weensy favor. Please, Kiki! Please, please, please, please Kiki, please Kiki!



KING: We're back with the wonderful Catherine Zeta-Jones. What a talent. I sat next to her for a whole day, I know what a talent she is. Did you like -- was there any problem working with Julia Roberts? Here are two famous women, and the inevitable thought: Would they clash?

ZETA-JONES: Yes, it was so amazing because before we even shot a frame, it was in the press that there was this huge feud, that, who comes on the set. Boy, the classic old Hollywood scenario. It's like, you know, Bette and Joan, you know? And we actually got a kick out of it...

KING: Back to Dylan.


KING: Are you concerned that he's going to grow up as a spotlighted kid?

ZETA-JONES: I think...

KING: He's going to be Dylan Douglas.

ZETA-JONES: Well, I think -- I had a situation the other day in New York where I was, actually, promoting "America's Sweethearts." And it was so funny, I was coming back in the car, and my driver was saying to me, What are you doing now?

And I said, well, you know what? I clocked off at 6:00. Clocked off, you know: Put my time card in. I'm going back, and Michael was, actually, out of town. And I said to my nanny, let's go around, and I wanted to get my Dylan a certain toy at this shop I walked around. And I had somebody really, really harassing me. And I said, Look, you can take a photograph of me all you want, but please don't stick your camera in my son's stroller.

And then he went on about, Oh, but you sold a photograph.

And I said, no, no, no, no, no. This has nothing to do him. This is a 10-month-old child who doesn't need your camera in his stroller.

And I think that it's obvious that there is going to be attention. He's not just the son of Michael Douglas and me. He's also the son of Kirk and...

KING: Grandson.

ZETA-JONES: He's the grandson of Kirk. So there's always going to be a tension. What our job is to do is to make him a good boy with good manners, and to make him real and normal.

KING: What was it like growing up in Wales?

ZETA-JONES: It was great.

KING: A Romantic feeling of the images of poets and Richard Burton... ZETA-JONES: Yes, dark people.

KING: Dark people.

ZETA-JONES: Suffering.

KING: And ale.

ZETA-JONES: Yes, lots of liquor.

No, I had a great childhood. And my parents are actually coming out...

KING: What does your father do?

ZETA-JONES: My father used to own a candy factory. A sweets factory I call it.

KING: Oh, really?

ZETA-JONES: But a candy factory.

KING: Were you a fat kid?

ZETA-JONES: No, I mean, you know, God, if you know, musically the food of love -- play on, give me excess, that a-fainting (ph) I may sicken and so die. I had so many sweets hanging around my house and candy that I never even bothered with them. But my father had this wonderful smell of sugar, which will be my lifelong -- my father's still alive and going strong -- but my lifelong memory of him is the smell of sugar.

KING: Do you enjoy fame?

ZETA-JONES: I do enjoy my life.

KING: You like that people know you? Do you like that you've been successful?

ZETA-JONES: Well, it's hard to be on all the time. Like talking about the other day when I said, Look, I clocked off like two hours ago.

KING: Leave me alone.

ZETA-JONES: But it's very difficult when someone comes up. And I think it's very important that these people go and see your movies. And it's a fan base that you build up through a career and longevity.

I love the fact that Michael and I can go to Florence and have a private viewing of a gallery. And me and him are always saying to each other, when we have those wonderful treats, like there's no business like showbusiness, because if we were just Joe and Ann Blugg, we wouldn't be having a private tour.

But there are certain things that do come with it that you have to be aware of and control and also not to get your back up about. What's news today is going to be in tomorrow's fish and chips.

KING: Do you think one of the reasons people say she can't be 31, she's so well within herself was the fact that you started so young?



ZETA-JONES: ... I'm just doing really good.

KING: Why? Did people think that you were...

ZETA-JONES: Somebody said, is it true that you're 41 pretending to be 31? And I said, is that a compliment, or do I really have to punch you in the face right now?

KING: No, you should say I'm 76. How do I look?

ZETA-JONES: I'm 76, and my God, has nature been good to me.


ZETA-JONES: No, I think also I've been in the business a long time. Also I've been around people who have been older than me. I've had to fend for myself. So I had to grow up quite quickly.

KING: You matured young.

ZETA-JONES: I did. And I'm glad I did.

KING: So people are surprised to know that you can be young and carry yourself well with people older than you.


KING: You're used to them. You married an -- someone older than you.

ZETA-JONES: Yes, and I think it's from -- somebody said that to me the other day, because Michael has so many friends from politicians, to Kofi Annan to you. There are so many different parts of his life that we can go for dinner and have so many different conversations with so many interesting people.

And one of my family members says, Don't you ever get intimidated, because let's not forget you're Catherine from Wales, and here you are with these people?

And I said, I've always been so interested in people. I've always been so interested in learning. And I've never been intimidated by asking somebody, What is the meaning of that word? Or, I don't understand.

KING: You're a grown-up.

ZETA-JONES: You know.

KING: Right.

We'll be right back with Catherine Zeta-Jones. She stars in "America's Sweethearts." We'll talk about some of her earlier films right after this.



ANTONIO BANDERAS, ACTOR: Do you surrender?

ZETA-JONES: Never. But I may scream.

BANDERAS: I understand. Sometimes I have that effect.


KING: We're back with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

What film sprung it for you?

ZETA-JONES: "Zorro."

KING: That was only three years ago.

ZETA-JONES: Yes, but I remember going down to my screen test for "Zorro" with three or four different other actresses who went down to Mexico, and I remember calling my mother and saying, You know, Mom, this is really competition; I'm just going to just get back on the MX and get back to L.A., because it ain't going to work.

And just working on the movie, and Martin Campbell, the director, telling me that it was when we put me and Antonio together, and we just improvised. And I just felt very confident in that environment, so I knew that this movie -- it wasn't a lot of screen time -- would push me into that, you know, a name and a face. And it's done great things for my career.

KING: Did Mr. Hopkins help?

ZETA-JONES: Well, Tony actually directed me in "Under Milk Wood (ph)" about four years earlier in London.

KING: Oh, really?

ZETA-JONES: Yes, after I was doing my a TV season I did that. So Tony and I go back a long time. So I remember being in Mexico City, killing myself, doing horse riding, dancing, which I could do, but sword fighting, and everything in one day, you know, just gung-ho, ready to go, and not sitting down and having a little relaxation. And there comes Tony with a very strong Welsh accent, and says, Why is a Welsh girl like you playing a Spaniard in Mexico?

And I said, Antonio was just about to ask the same thing to you. And he's really become -- he was at my wedding, and he's become a really -- not a person I see on a regular basis, but is somebody who's very special to me and know he would be there.

KING: Would you agree that -- it's weird to say this -- that Antonio Banderas is underrated?


KING: Actor, singer...

ZETA-JONES: Yes, when you think of all the movies he did...

KING: ... director.

ZETA-JONES: ... in Spain, you know, he came over to America, and really learning the language phonetically and having such screen charisma, to be able to dance, be able to sing. In a way, I feel very affiliated with Antonio, because he's from my own school. You know, he's like a Jack of all trades. And it's very difficult to convince people that you could be master of one.

KING: And then you worked with Sean Connery in "Entrapment."

ZETA-JONES: Yes. I'm such a sycophant. I'm going to say the exact same thing about Sean now.

KING: You liked him?

ZETA-JONES: Yes. I mean, he's a Scotsman, and he used to call me the kid.

KING: He's a good guy.

ZETA-JONES: And he was very supportive to me, and we had a lot of fun.

It was just me and him in the movies. We spent hours and hours and hours on the set, so once you finish rehearsing the dialogue, you get to listen to the great stories and the anecdotes and...

KING: Are there any downsides to being beautiful? I say this seriously because, you know, people assume when you're beautiful, everything always comes your way. You've never been alone on a Saturday night.

ZETA-JONES: I always ask my husband, do I look fat in this dress? I always say to my husband, can you see that spot on my face?

KING: Beautiful...

ZETA-JONES: I'm like every other woman. I mean, I don't particularly...

KING: When you look in the mirror, you don't see wow?

ZETA-JONES: No. KING: You don't?

ZETA-JONES: I see wow everywhere I walk. I love beautiful women, as well. I love to see women...

KING: You know you're beautiful, right? I mean, you know...

ZETA-JONES: Well, I know I'm not Quasimodo, but as far as I'm concerned, you know, I think I'm not aesthetically beautiful. You know, I have a broken nose here. I had a tracheotomy when I was a kid. I had broken capillaries.

But what I want to do is just be approachable. You know, sometimes when people put you on pedestals and say, oh, she's so beautiful, or this, all of the sudden you become kind of, I don't know, like, unapproachable or kind of clerical in a way. And as an actor, I was so thrilled -- like, on "Traffic," I play a pregnant...

KING: That's what I want to talk about next.

ZETA-JONES: Take away that.

KING: But because sometimes when someone is really beautiful or very handsome -- take Tyrone Power: He was a great actor, but sometimes being so good looking got in the way that people would think only of how good he looked -- or how good she looked.

ZETA-JONES: When I realized that it wasn't a beauty contest, that I really wanted to be an actor, that's when it completely freed me up, and I wasn't so concerned.

And you know, I like to dress up and make the best of myself, but it's not the paramount thing of my life, and it's never, ever hindered me. I've never not got a job because turned around and said, you're too beautiful.

KING: Do you handle rejection well?

ZETA-JONES: I don't think anybody handles rejection, but I've had it for so long now, I'm an old hand.

KING: You're used to auditioning?

ZETA-JONES: Oh, I always used to be, especially in England, you know, where at that point when I was there, I was a big television star and trying to...

KING: You had your own series?

ZETA-JONES: ... and theater. I did a lot of theater. When I was in theater, I did the English National Opera, I did "42nd Street," "The West End." Very difficult to get into television. And then once I did that, it was very difficult to get into film. And at that point, it was a very small nucleus of filmmaking that was going on there. And I was always classed as a television actress, and it used to drive me nuts. So I used to go to interviews looking like I had been sleeping under London Bridge -- you know, pale, scabby old clothes, interesting, artistic. And then I went, hang on, this is not doing me any favors. And I just went as myself, and things started to happen.

KING: It is sort of a weird thing saying, OK, next.

ZETA-JONES: I tell you, though, it's...

KING: Do the dance...

ZETA-JONES: You know what, when I was in musical comedy, when I was a hoofer, when I used to queue outside the theater at Drury Lane, in London, and go through days and have to spend all my money that I had to stay overnight in London, because I traveled on the train from Wales, it would feel like a cattle market. But I don't know, it gives you -- it gives you good...

KING: Did you do "Chorus Line"? Were you in the chorus?

ZETA-JONES: I was completely in chorus. That's how I got, for instance, "42nd Street." David Merrick saw me in the chorus.

KING: We'll be back with Catherine Zeta-Jones, and we'll talk about "Traffic." She stars -- opens this weekend -- in "America's Sweethearts." Don't go away.


ZETA-JONES: Happy New Year!

CONNERY: Happy millennium!




ZETA-JONES: Nobody will help us! Nobody will take us in! Nobody wants anything to do with us! So you just tell me how you're going to make it up to me. Just tell me what to do. I'm not bringing a child into the life that I was brought up into; I won't to it. I want our world back!


KING: All right, Catherine, how did "Traffic" come together for you? You were with your husband in it, but you're not in any scene together. You were pregnant. Tell me.

ZETA-JONES: No. I was.

Well, Steven Soderbergh called me with the script, a director who I've admired for many years and wanted to work with. And the script was to play the wife who didn't know anything, who then finds out her husband is part of a big drugs ring. And the story unfolds from there.

So I read the script, and Michael and I knew I was pregnant. I was very early on in my pregnancy. And I said to Michael -- who had been approached to play his character that he eventually played -- at that point he was working on the script...


ZETA-JONES: Yes. So I asked Michael's permission first, and I called Steven and said, "Look, I want to do this movie. I have to play Helena. How do you think about me playing her pregnant?"


I understand completely if it's not in your vision, but I think it would be great to give her that vulnerability of being pregnant, so everything is heightened, the stakes are higher.

And he got back to me that afternoon and said yes.

So for me it struck me completely of any of those -- what we were talking about earlier, about those issue of an actress being a certain type and doing a certain role and making a great career. For me, I really wanted -- and it's still my dream -- to keep doing, like, different things, from "Traffic" to now doing "America's Sweethearts." And keep that. And I feel that means longevity to me.

KING: Diversity.

ZETA-JONES: Diversity, but also longevity.

KING: Did you think "Traffic" would be the hit it was?


KING: You did?


I didn't realize -- I thought it was going to be a critical hit, because just watching the dailies and being on the set and watching the way that Steven was working the story, I knew this was going to be a special film. What was amazingly fantastic to all of us is that it got such award acclaim, people very diverse in their thought process about this issue and about their social status got this movie. And it became a huge financial success, too.

KING: Did Michael know it too?

ZETA-JONES: He could see it as it was going on, yes.

KING: Because he's a good businessman.

ZETA-JONES: He's an amazing businessman.

KING: A good sense of what will do well. ZETA-JONES: He really does. Even if he's not producing, he has the producer's aspect of looking at the broader strokes. He doesn't look how he's going to make himself look the best or his acting look the best or how much more screen time he can get. He really looks at the broader picture; he's easily the first person to say, You know what, just cut that stuff I did, and go with that.

KING: What brought you to the United States?

ZETA-JONES: Well, I had a small role in a movie called "The Phantom," that was produced by Paramount. And I had to come to the States, one, to rehearse, so I had a visa -- and then I shot three days at Universal Studios. And then it...

KING: "The Phantom."

ZETA-JONES: "The Phantom," yes. And all the other locations were outside the country, for which I didn't need an American visa. So once I finished the movie, I still had six months on my visa, so I could legitimately come into the country on that visa.

And so I went -- it's -- it has to go right now, I have to do this right now. And personal stuff had happened to me and professional stuff, and my career wasn't going the way I really wanted it to go in Britain. And I said, Well, this is my ticket.

KING: So "Zorro" -- you got "Zorro"?

ZETA-JONES: Well, I first did a television series called "Titanic," which wasn't the big movie, it was a television series, for CBS, actually, that I played a role in. And Steven Spielberg was channel surfing one night and saw me on that and suggested that I should come in for an interview for "Zorro."

KING: And then you also did, with Liam Neeson, "The Haunting," right?

ZETA-JONES: Yes, with Liam.

KING: Liam. Not bad. Not a bad actor, either.

You've worked with some pretty good people.

ZETA-JONES: I did, yes. And the better they are, the nicer they are, I must say.

KING: We'll be right back with Catherine Zeta-Jones of "America's Sweethearts." Don't go away.


ZETA-JONES: You don't care about us; you don't care about insomnia. You just wanted to scare the hell out of us so we'd fit into your little test or model or -- (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you need to understand this! You can't do it! LIAM NEESON, ACTOR: I am trying to help people! My field of study is the science of fear. I try to understand why people act they way they act, why they feel the way they feel!

ZETA-JONES: You don't feel.



KING: We're back with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

You've had an up-and-down time with the press, haven't you?


KING: Why? You're so nice.

ZETA-JONES: I know, but...


KING: I know.

ZETA-JONES: I know. No...


ZETA-JONES: I think it was because -- I know it was because when I decided to become an actor, and I was completely anonymous when I was doing theater, and then I got one night on television, and my whole life changed publicly. Everyone knew who I was. I was on the front of all the tabloids. And everything I did to prepare myself for my career -- the only thing I want to do and can do -- no one ever prepared me or guided me or spoke to me about this other issue, which is such a weird thing, because it's so important. I spent three days in New York promoting this particular movie. Every other movie I've done, I speak, converse, and tell anecdotes and have fun with the press. But...

KING: You do the junkets.

ZETA-JONES: Do the junkets, which is really equally part of making movies. Once the acting's done, the editing's done, and it's all good to go, then all this press stuff kicks in.

KING: Sell it.

ZETA-JONES: So I was completely unaware and unprepared of all that. So I went out there -- and even in interviews that I do on television, I thought it became like a therapy session to me. I didn't know when to stop. Somebody asked me a question, and in my honesty, I'd just blurt out the whole truth. And that in itself created more, and then certain things were written about me that I didn't say, that were completely untrue. I didn't have the money to get a lawyer onto it immediately, didn't have the finances to make my life easier in that way. I couldn't get a driver, and my house in London was right on the pavement. These guys could sit outside for as long as they wanted.

KING: How did you handle it when you would read a lie or an absurdity?

ZETA-JONES: There are certain publications, that are big tabloid publications...

KING: London has more than America.

ZETA-JONES: Yes. And they have to fill it with something. So I remember going to bed on a Saturday night with my stomach churning, wondering what else would be written or -- it wasn't as if I had, like, a whole bunch of skeletons in the closet. It was just I was just so unprepared for it.

So I just got very angry and...

KING: Snapped.

ZETA-JONES: Yes, many times. And I just felt that it wasn't justified, the way that they were portraying me. They portrayed me the way that they saw me, and also this very successful character that I was playing, that was this ingenue, buxom, big-breasted, small- waisted, 1950s drinker, having sex and having love. And you know, and they went, Oh, well, that's Catherine, right?

So my whole life publicly mirrored this character that I played. And it was really frustrating, and I didn't know how to handle it, and I didn't have anyone to guide me.

So that's how I have a hard time. I don't have a hard time now. In fact, I'm very well schooled in it. Especially when Michael and I got together, he was very concerned that I would get upset by some of what was written in the documentation of our private life, and in fact, it was just like water off a duck's back to me, because I'd been there.

KING: Having a private life is hard, though, isn't it? I mean, a lot of things everyday people do you don't do?


KING: Get on line at a movie theater -- you and Michael stand on line, wait to buy tickets?

ZETA-JONES: We've done it a few times.

It's very strange, because, to the outside world, we're constantly going out in ball dresses and black ties and doing things, but it's really important to know that every time we do go out, whether it be meeting my son to buy toys at a local store in New York, or, here in L.A., going to the pediatrician or going to my doctor, it's being documented.

KING: Weird.

ZETA-JONES: It's weird. You know, I always thought that priests, rabbis, lawyers, and doctors were sacred. I really don't believe that's right, because every time we vote to have personal, private moments, it gets documented. And I don't particularly think that's right.

KING: When we come back, we'll have our remaining moments with Catherine Zeta-Jones. We'll be right back.


KING: With Catherine Zeta-Jones.

OK, you might do "Chicago," right?

ZETA-JONES: We're in talks. It's always difficult when something...

KING: It's so natural for you. Who are they talking to about co-starring in this?

ZETA-JONES: A few great names have come up, and I mean, I've always wanted to do a musical again, on stage or on film. And a legacy is that nobody knows that part of my life. And it's not that I want to prove anything, I just want to get out there and...

KING: You do tap in "America's Sweethearts," though, didn't you, with Christopher Walken.

ZETA-JONES: It was so much fun. I mean, I got into that. We had decided with Joe that, I said, you know, I'm a huge fan of Chris Walken because he's such a great tap dancer. I said, let's do something. So Joe put that in.

KING: Great.

ZETA-JONES: I just wanted to go on for days doing that. There is a part of me that would have loved to have been part of that whole Hollywood system where you go and do lessons, and you tap, and you go and have facials and manicures...

KING: Studios, the big studios.

ZETA-JONES: ... and work out with Gene and tap your butt off with Fred and then decide what gorgeous new lover you're going to have for dinner at -- I mean, that was my image of Hollywood for so many years. And I always get -- like people would say, Oh, you're an old- fashioned movie star.

And I think, well, all the jobs I've done I've been pretty content with, you know, like running around, being very high-tech with Sean in "Entrapment"; and in "Zorro," being a femme fatale, not a damsel in distress; in "Traffic," going up there and being a survivor. And I always wonder why people think of me as an old-style movie star, but then I realize that's what I wanted to be all my life. Of course, I emanate that; I wanted to be that. I wanted to be a hoofer. I wanted to be Ginger. I wanted to be...

KING: You're living out a dream? You wanted to...


KING: You would've liked to dance with Astaire, wouldn't you?

ZETA-JONES: Oh, my goodness, yes. There's nothing more than -- it's an amazing word, "showbusiness": There really is a show, and there really is the business.

KING: There's no business like...

ZETA-JONES: And there ain't no business like showbusiness. And when I go to see, especially to see a play or a musical, I sit there, and I just get this tingling sensation in my limbs.

KING: You want to do it.

ZETA-JONES: And that's where our industry has come from. Before movies and TV, there was just performance. And that's what I wanted to do, and showbiz...

KING: Would you like Dylan to do it?

ZETA-JONES: Well, if he gets a life like I and his father have had, and his grandfather, of course. I mean, I never understand why actors say, I don't want my children part of this business. I love my business. I'd do it if I weren't paid. And if he wanted to pursue that, or if he wanted to be a vet or a zoologist, or, you know, a taxi driver...

KING: Whatever.

ZETA-JONES: Whatever.

KING: Are you affected by critics?


KING: No, they don't -- they don't...


KING: ... help you or hurt you?

ZETA-JONES: I actually don't read a lot of the critics. I'm much more interested in what other people say.

KING: Are you signed for something else now or...

ZETA-JONES: Well, I'm thinking about "Chicago"... KING: "Chicago"'s in the works?

ZETA-JONES: Michael and I have a project that we really want to get together.

KING: Together?


KING: Ah-hah!

ZETA-JONES: We get to act together.

KING: A movie?

ZETA-JONES: Yes. Basically, it's the story of Robert-Houdin, who was a fantastic magician who Houdini based his whole life and culture on. And I get to play his once live-in lover and assistant, who's a very ballsy, bawdy Parisian.

KING: I wonder where they got that from?

ZETA-JONES: I don't know. It was badly cast.

KING: It's a delight knowing you, Catherine.

ZETA-JONES: It's delight knowing you too, sir.

KING: And...


KING: ... never come back!

ZETA-JONES: Don't make cry anymore.


KING: Thank you very much for joining us on this edition of our LARRY KING get-together with Catherine Zeta-Jones.

It opens this weekend. Enjoy.

Thanks for joining us.

ZETA-JONES: Thank you.

KING: Good night.