She was a Welsh wild woman and Darling Bud of May before she charmed Michael Douglas.
Bet you won’t find Catherine Zeta-Jones CBE going on about fancying Jack Nicholson these days.
Things were different when she was in the Valleys and not the Hollywood Hills.
Back in this classic 1995 chat and photo shoot (a shoot so hot it was used again four years later), the 25-year-old Zeta-Jones appeared as you have never seen her before.
It’s a bit disconcerting when you’re interviewing someone and you realise she looks exactly like the first girl you ever lusted after.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is sitting in fishnet stockings, legs crossed like a goddess while elegantly sipping her second glass of champagne. And she’s pontificating about the importance of having a good arse.
It’s a big moment in need of a very considered response. But I’m set adrift on memory bliss somewhere back in 1981 on the park swings with Mandy Heasman, eating chips, humming Love Action by the Human League and wondering whether I could venture my hand onto her knee without getting my face slapped.
“See, some guys’ arses look great in jeans but when they take them off it all goes everywhere,” says Cath. “Basically, I’m not an arse person, I’m more your inner arm kinda girl.”
It’s not every day you find yourself in such exalted company, and the least Cath deserves from a fop like me is my total concentration.
I resolve to get a grip. This is, after all, the 25-year-old actress from The Darling Buds Of May, Splitting Heirs and anything involving period costume, who’s now darling of the tabloids and making a foray into the music business with a debut album and her first single.
We’re in the lounge of the extremely swanky Blakes Hotel, West London, huddled together on an expensive couch amid a forest of throw cushions. While she sips, I realise I’m guzzling the bubbly like it’s going out of fashion. It’s no wonder my mind’s gone AWOL.
She’s got this great way of looking drop-dead sexy while remaining charming and totally approachable. Her Swansea accent is soft and warm. When she holds her cigarette between her teeth prior to lighting it, you find yourself sighing like a lovesick chump. One flash of her feline smile and you’re mesmerized. One sexy wink and you’re winded for days. I defy any man to venture she is in any way less than marvellous. Anyway, back to the action.
“All I’m saying is, I just can’t stand an arse that falls out,” she says.
Tell me about it.
“I think the sexiest part of the body is the eyes. I can always tell a fella by his eyes. I sense their first reaction. Like if they’re green or brown I tend to go for you more. Bit like yours in fact. You gotta date tonight, darling?”
Oh stop messing about.
“I’m not talking about Mel Gibson eyes or anything, just a little twinkle or sparkle, someone you can look at and go, ‘Aaaahhh, yeah, I like you, you got good eyes’,” she adds. Ok. I hear you also like forearms. What makes for good ones?
“Well (she puts on a dirty old man-type voice), I like them not too hairy, but just strong looking. I’m not into bogus men who go to the gym, walking round all full of themselves declaring, ‘This is my hobby’ with their pumped-up bodies. It’s a bit pathetic.”
Makes you feel a bit inadequate as well, doesn’t it?
“Yeah, I work out and things but it’s not my life’s ambition. I see the same people in the gym all the time and I just think, ‘Get a life’,” she says. “It’s like seeing a little anorexic having a carrot hanging over her nose. It’s an obsession. I don’t like that at all.”
And so, into the questions proper…
Is size important?
“What do you mean?”
Hehhrrr. .. hahhh, ahem, you know, the size of a man’s downstairs…
“What are you like? No, no, no, no, NO, not at all. It’s not one of my main things you know. It’s the sensuality of a man, not the size of his head or his dick or the size of anything else. It’s if he’s interesting.”
“It’s the sensuality of a man that matters, not the size of his head or his privates or the size of anything else”
Where’s the strangest place you’ve had sex?
“Aaahhhh, I’m not telling you. I can’t really. See, I still do it really frequently in the same place and people may find out.”
I figure, ‘Give a little, get a little’, so I attempt to lure Cath from her reticence with an anecdote involving Land’s End, a patch of heather and a cafe full of startled pensioners.
“No, I’m still not telling you.”
So what sort of music do you like to have sex to?
“I like big sweeping music, Wagner and stuff with a huge wave-crashing climax. Van Morrison as well, he does it for me. I love Van and… .” Hang on a minute, you like having sex while some bloke harps on about cleaning windows in the background? Surely not. “Well, maybe not that particular track. But the early stuff is very sensual.” New Order’s good for that sort of thing. “I’ll have to try it and let you know,” she says.
Who is the sexiest person in showbiz?
“I think it has to be Jack Nicholson,” she says. “He drew up next to me in his car when I was in New York. I froze. The amount of concentration needed to drive in New York was bad enough, but then bloody Jack Nicholson pulls up beside you and starts smiling at you. I was like, ‘Jesus, it’s Jack bloody Nicholson!’ I didn’t even know where the gear stick was. I was just stuck there in the traffic after he’d driven off.”
What do you make of people like Sharon Stone and the whole Hollywood caper?
“I think we all have to know our limits – what we do and what we don’t do. I get her confused with photos of Madonna. This is what our generation is falling to – but it’s all the same to me. I’m aiming at a more independent market in America. It’d be very easy for me to fall into Jane Seymour character country, but I don’t want to become a mini-series actor.
“I gate-crashed AI Pacino’s birthday party when I was in New York this one time. I get all shy and embarrassed around people like that but I had to take the chance to talk to him so I walked up and started stuttering, then I said, ‘Hello Mr Al… errrm… Chino’. It was completely embarrassing. Then I said to him, ‘I’ve really enjoyed your films over the years’. He was like, ‘Great, but are you having a good time?’ I said, ‘I’m having a really great time’, and he says, ‘Great, great!’ Then he grabbed this toy sword and went dancing off round the party performing like this hilarious madman.”
It’s all happening for Zeta-Jones at the moment. She’s doing a film with Matt Dillon and her single, In The Arms Of Love (it sounds like Cher meets Deacon Blue), looks set to crash into the Top 40. Also she’s just got engaged to Soldier Soldier actor Angus MacFadyen (the pair split 15 months later in 1996.)
“I was the girl with the tits and the thighs. So all the guys went, ‘She’s a bit of all right’, and all the big jobs in the West End are redundant as soon as you get typecast like that”
But where does she stand with the great British public right now?
“The majority of people who talk to me on the street saw me in The Darling Buds Of May. I’d be stupid to think they’re all middle-aged housewives who go and talk about me at coffee mornings. I know it’s mostly men who follow my career.
“Three years ago I was quite insecure, and reading stuff about myself made me a bit neurotic. Every little detail, like the size of my thighs or how I wanted to have my nose done. I had this terrible desire to be liked, you know? Now I don’t give a toss.
“I don’t think in this country I have got a reputation as a great actress. In America I have had a couple of things come out which have gone down really well. But here it was like, ‘Catherine’s a blow-out’.
“I was the girl with the tits and the thighs. So all the guys went, ‘She’s a bit of all right’, and credit-wise that doesn’t really say a lot. All the little jobs in the theatres and all the big jobs in the West End are redundant as soon as you get typecast like that.”
Do you still feel like everyone’s staring at you all the time?
“I always look at people,” she replies. “It’s very plain to see when a man or woman is undressing a person on the tube. But it’s not like women are some virginal little angels who come down to tend the wounds. They’re not. There are some dangerous women out there. We’re a species. We’re like cats. The female praying mantis – they bite the heads off their male lovers. That is the ultimate female statement.”
Hmmm, sounds like her old man had better watch his step. As should any sleaze who takes it upon themselves to try and touch her up on trains.
“This bloke on the tube touched me on the leg a while ago,” she says. “It happened a few times and it really pissed me off, this guy taking that sort of liberty. So I grabbed his hand, hoisted it in the air and shouted, ‘Who’s filthy?!’ I was swearing and going on and this guy was absolutely mortified, caught out and disgraced in front of everyone.”
“I’ve never touched drugs. I’ve never had a joint and I’ve never done a line”
It’s pretty clear Cath is not exactly your wallflower type. In fact, she may err on the bit bonkers side. Example: who else could possibly choose Roberto Baggio’s missed World Cup penalty for Italy as her favourite ever sporting moment?
And she holds grudges too. She won’t be inviting seasoned song-and-dance man Tommy Steele round for tiffin. When she was 16 and had endured a five-hour coach trip, he bawled her off stage at an audition because she didn’t have blonde hair.
She’s also got some pretty inventive ways of dealing with nosey door-stepping journalists. When news broke of her engagement to MacFadyen she had to be held back by her neighbours from spraying bleach into the eyes of a berk peering through her letterbox.
Such a crazy chick. She must have the odd dangerous rock ‘n’ roll habit then? “I’ve never touched drugs”, she insists. “If you have an addictive personality, which I know I do, then you can’t afford to. I’ve never had a joint and I’ve never done a line. I know what I’m like. I like my drink. I have a very high champagne bill.” Which is when the bill arrived. And my wallet exploded.
Loaded freelance reporter Ian Wade writes about music and TV for newspapers and websites. He is also a music publicist. Follow him on Twitter at @WadeyWade