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Last Updated: Monday, 20 January, 2003, 10:38 GMT
Zeta Jones' many talents
Zeta Jones and Douglas
Zeta Jones and Douglas are a Hollywood A-list couple
People close to Catherine Zeta Jones will not have been surprised by her Oscar for best supporting actress.

Her feisty performance as murderess Velma Kelly has won plaudits from film critics and cinema goers alike and some believe it is the actress' best film.

The role of Velma is one Zeta Jones, who grew up diligently attending dance classes in her home town of Swansea, says she was born for.

There will be inevitable comparisons with Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, but Zeta Jones has brought her own brand of passion to Chicago.

With a clutch of impressive performances in films like Traffic, the Hollywood star is proving more versatile than some critics would have given her credit for.

Making of a Hollywood star:
1991 - Darling Buds of May (UK, television)
1992 - Christopher Columbus
1996 - The Phantom
1998 - The Mask of Zorro
1999 - Entrapment
2000 - Traffic
2002 - Chicago

Chicago is a star vehicle for Zeta Jones, bringing together her long-standing love of singing and dancing in one classic role.

The young Zeta Jones started out in her local amateur dramatic society production of Annie and as a teenager, she landed a role in a touring show of Bugsy Malone.

Schoolwork was mixed in with dance and singing classes and the Bugsy tour led to her abandoning her 'O' levels, with the permission of her headteacher Aled Thomas.

The star's first key stage musical role was in the UK revival of 42nd Street, when against the odds as the second understudy, she got her breakthrough in the lead role of Peggy Sawyer.

Zeta Jones then became a household name with television audiences when she starred as Mariette Larkin in the hit series The Darling Buds of May.

I really wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember
Catherine Zeta Jones
She dated television presenter John Leslie, but the couple later split.

Her decision to switch to Hollywood for "time out" from the intrusive British media was the start of a slow-burning career move which has ultimately paid huge dividends.

In an interview, Zeta Jones said: "I really wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember.

"I knew what I wanted to do and even as a teenager, I never had any other job."

In 1996, she appeared in The Phantom, before Stephen Spielberg recommended her for the blockbuster Mask of Zorro, starring alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas as the fiery heroine.

Then in 1999, she starred alongside Sean Connery in the jewel robbery thriller Entrapment and a role in The Haunting.

Critics felt Zeta Jones was robbed of a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars for her role in the acclaimed Traffic in 2000, in which she starred alongside her husband Michael Douglas.

Catherine Zeta Jones in Traffic
Zeta Jones missed out on an award for Traffic

The role was adapted to compensate for the fact Zeta Jones was pregnant at the time with the couple's first child, Dylan.

But it is arguable that her performance as Velma Kelly, lighting up Chicago with fantastic versions of All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango, which could turn out to be the moment Zeta Jones became a true star.

On the domestic front, the Hollywood actress has stayed loyal to her family and Welsh roots, flying out relatives and friends to her gala wedding to Douglas in New York in 2000.

The couple have homes around the world and Zeta Jones is developing plans for a palatial family home in Swansea.

Her recent appearances in the UK have included joining singer Charlotte Church and cricket legend Ian Botham on the final leg of a round-Wales fund- raising walk for a children's hospital.

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