Guess what? She’s not Mexican. Or Spanish. Or even Latina. Wielding steel and whupping butt, it’s Welsh-born Catherine Zeta-Jones, as the long-lost daughter of the legendary Mexican swashbuckler, who helps put the zip in The Mask of Zorro. Not bad for the 28-year-old actress, whose previous projects — like that other pulp-hero fiction, 1996’s The Phantom, and that other ocean-bound disaster epic, CBS’ Titanic miniseries — have been, well, overshadowed. Next, she speaks American opposite Sean Connery in the art-heist flick Entrapment, but here the accent is on her new stardom.
EW: It seems you were on the wrong Titanic, no?
Catherine Zeta-Jones: But, my God, it did some good things for me … Within two days of my Titanic airing, I got a call saying [Zorro executive producer] Steven Spielberg wanted to have a meeting with me. It was weird driving up there in my little rent-a-car and meeting Mr. Spielberg. It really was one of those things where you think ”God, it does happen sometimes.”
EW: Your personal life was comprehensively documented by the British tabloids before you left the U.K. and the TV series The Darling Buds of May for Los Angeles. How do you deal with everyone suddenly knowing the intimate details of your life — the name of your former fiancé, and that you like to dance and smoke Marlboro Lights?
CZJ: The best thing I ever did was take time out two-and-a-half years ago to move [to Los Angeles], reassess my career, my life, and everything that people usually reassess when they’re having, like, a midlife crisis. I made a conscious decision to not work for a while, to be completely anonymous and literally start all over again, and so now everything is much more in perspective.
EW: Are you smoking more-expensive cigarettes?
CZJ: No, I don’t smoke anymore. There’s no smoking on the set [of Entrapment]. I’m speaking too much [in the film]. I’m doing too much physical activity … I may as well just wear a habit — a nun’s outfit or something — on the way to work.
EW: You’re starring with some famous married men. Is jealousy ever a factor on the set?
CZJ: Never, ever, ever. The only time I’ve ever [experienced jealousy] was with somebody on the set who was not an actor who I couldn’t possibly do anything right for. A set is hundreds of people thrown together working up to 16 hours a day. Now, who’s to say that those personalities should jell?
EW: What would be your dream role?
CZJ: [Cabaret‘s] Sally Bowles. I would also love to do Tennessee Williams. When I was growing up, he was the only person that I associated with America … [When I got here] I was looking for Blanche everywhere.
EW: Hopefully, you’ve realized that we’re not all suicidally depressed alcoholics.
CZJ: [Laughs] Not all psychotic either.
EW: How is it being recognized in L.A.?
CZJ: I’ve never been recognized in Los Angeles. [Whispers] The catch is that I haven’t been there since May.