Welsh actress Catherine Zeta Jones talks about her latest movie role in Death Defying Acts.

After a string of box-office success (The Legend of Zorro , Ocean’s Twelve, The Terminal, Intolerable Cruelty, Chicago et al.), Catherine Zeta Jones appeared to take a step back out from acting. Now, two years on the Oscar winning actress returns to form in her latest pic Death Defying Acts.

The flick follows the life of legendary escapist artist Harry Houdini. In his attempts to contact his dead mother, the magician (Guy Pearce) meets a beautiful psychic named Mary ( Zeta-Jones) who isn’t all she appears. Joined by her daughter (ATONEMENT’s Saoirse Ronan), Mary tries to con Harry out of his $10,000 reward, an effort which is complicated by the love that grows between them.

Here, the wife of the Michael Douglas talks to Movies.ie about working on the film, her 2002 Oscar win and life as a Welsh sex symbol.

Q: You play a psychic in Death Defying Acts, do you have any personal
affiliation or do you believe in any kind of sixth sense?

A: “In the rehearsal period Gill brought in a real live psychic and I’ve never actually gone to a psychic before so I was pretty fascinated by the process. This guy was really quite believable. He was very low-key. I wanted to know what it felt like when you’re channelling or doing whatever it takes to get to that state of mind so he kind of changed my whole perspective on it. I would love to be able to contact people on the other side. If I could speak to my grandmother tonight I’d be doing it. So I do believe. I’m not one of those people who say poo-poo to it. I truly believe in it.”

Q: Did anything peculiar happen on set then with all these dealings with
psychics and magicians?

A: “No but I wish I could have a psychic to remind me of my lines (laughs). No nothing peculiar happened. One guy really cracked me up in rehearsals though and I was completely unprofessional. He was a Houdini fanatic and, God bless him, he was very knowledgeable but he was one of those kinds of trainspotting people who knew what kind of underwear Houdini wore. So I kind of lost if for a while when we were in this meeting and I had to excuse myself. I couldn’t look at the man.”

Q: Was the Scottish accent tough to do in this movie?

A: “I think the fact that we both had Celtic accents helped us (referring to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan). It’s quite amazing how really different the accent is. My problem was to stop being very lilty.”

Q: Did filming in the UK make you feel home sick? Do you ever toy with the
idea of moving back there?

A: “Oh definitely. It was great to be back and I was lucky to have the family with me. It was just on the summer break and just to be working there with a whole bunch of the crew I knew from many years ago was fantastic. Actually, the dolly grip came in once and showed me a picture of when I was 19 which was during the Return of the Native which was quite shocking. I was like, ‘Okay, you can put that away!” But it was great. I love the Brits and it’s been a while since I’ve been able to go and work there.”

Q: Now that you live in Bermuda what do you miss about living in Europe?

A: “I don’t miss the weather I can tell you that right now (laughs). But I do miss my family and my friends and I get a real kick going back. I actually appreciate it now more than I ever did before. When you live in a place so long you always take it for granted. Now when I go back I have a new appreciation for it I miss the rambling hills of Wales and I miss my family but I’m very settled where I am now.”

Q: How do you keep your children in touch with their Welsh heritage. Do they go back much?

A: “Oh yeah they go home and get spoilt. Then it takes me three weeks to get them back to normal which is pretty much what every grandparent does to their grandkids. The great thing about living in Bermuda is that they’re away from all the kind of hoopla that goes on in this industry. I’m very, very cautious about that. They go to school and they’re just regular kids. Except for my son who went to his first drama lesson and he turned to the drama teacher and said, ‘Don’t worry I’m a really good actor, its in my genes.’ Oh great. His first day of drama class. Great!”

Q: You’ve got such a strong relationship with Michael. What are the benefits of being married to an older man?

A: “Until somebody actually tells me he’s 25 years older I don’t actually think about it. It’s just one of those connections. I really don’t think about that. I guess he’s been through the mill a bit if he can put up with me. We’re not vying for equal rights in our careers because he’s Michael Douglas – he’s spent all his life doing that and he can take a back seat in
a way and not feel so crazed about the consciousness of his career. It works very well with the children, him being at home and me working and vice versa.”

Q: How do you look back on your Oscar experience?

A: “It was a bit of a blur because I gave birth nine days later. I had to watch the rerun to see what I said because I had no idea. Just being nominated is what’s important and then when you have to actually get up there and take that little statute it is pretty insane. Then you take it home and nothing changes.”

Q: Is it true that you are looking to move away from playing sex symbol roles?

A: “I haven’t actually reached my sexiest point yet (laughs). I don’t think I’m going to be Nora Batty any time soon but obviously I’m not going to be rip-roaring in corsets playing a 19-year-old because I’m not one. I’m 38-years-old and I’m actually really lucky and glad these other roles have come along where I can play a mother. This is the first time I’ve had a daughter actually in a movie. So, good or bad, I’m not going to be playing old grannies any time soon.”


‘Death Defying Acts’ is in Irish cinemas from August 8th.