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Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 16:10 GMT
Douglas defends 'trivial' Hello! case
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones in court
The couple (centre) say their privacy was "violated"
Actor Michael Douglas called a defence lawyer's comments "offensive" after his compensation claim against Hello! magazine was deemed "trivial".

Both Douglas and wife Catherine Zeta Jones gave evidence in London's High Court as they seek 500,000 in damages against the celebrity magazine for publishing unauthorised pictures of their 2000 wedding.

Michael Douglas
I was not prepared for the attention when an actor and actress come together - it's multiplied about a ten-fold

Michael Douglas

The couple had signed an exclusive 1m deal with rival OK! magazine which gave them control over what was published.

Douglas, 58, said they were shocked to learn illicit photographs had been taken at their New York wedding reception which later appeared in Hello!

Defence lawyer James Price QC, acting for Hello!, read excerpts to the court from Douglas' statement, describing how their wedding had turned into a "complete nightmare".

Firearm

"It was truly gut-wrenching and very disturbing experience which left us both upset," the statement read.

Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas leave the High Court
Press waited for the couple's arrival and departure
But Mr Price put it to Douglas: "Wouldn't an ordinary person reading that, unaware of the context... they might think a firearm had been fired at your wedding rather than a camera."

Douglas answered that he thought the paparazzi sneaking in to his wedding was the "most vindictive and mean-spirited act that you could imagine".

But Mr Price suggested the couple's claim was trivial compared to other compensation cases the courts had to deal with.

Douglas said he found the comparison "highly offensive" and said he recognised the case was "trivial compared to losing an arm".

He added that their claim was a "pittance" compared to the "irreparable" stress caused.

In its defence, Hello! says the couple forfeited any right to privacy at their wedding by actively seeking publicity for the event.

Attention

Mr Price said other celebrities - like Madonna, Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and Michelle Pfeiffer - had managed genuinely private weddings in the past.

An open-top bus toured the streets, klaxons hooting, with a pair of leggy lovelies sporting placards which read 'My Sun says it's a media circus'

When Douglas was asked if he would accept that Hello! would not have bought pictures from a paparazzo, had his been a genuinely private wedding, he said: "I think I would challenge that.

"It's not getting into celebritydom. I've been around this for a very long period of time. My father was an actor. I was not prepared for the attention when an actor and actress come together - it's multiplied about a ten-fold.

"So with all due respect to the people you have mentioned, an actor married to a director or something does not create the same kind of scenario."

Mr Price put it to Douglas that control was what the couple had in mind when the OK! deal was done, "and a little commerce".

Douglas replied: "Control is what gives you privacy."

'Comfortable'

Earlier on Monday, Zeta Jones told the court she planned her wedding to be a special day that all her family and friends could enjoy.

She said they brought security in for the reception at the Plaza Hotel in New York to protect their privacy.

Asked why the couple hired guards, she replied: "To protect against unwanted guests coming in, disguising themselves or trying to sneak information, [and] so that we felt comfortable to let our hair down and enjoy the wedding the way we wanted to enjoy it."

Catherine Zeta Jones
It was cheap and tacky and everything I didn't want to have shown as being part of my special day

Catherine Zeta Jones
Zeta Jones 33, told the court she and Douglas had handpicked two photographers they trusted to cover their wedding.

When asked of her reaction on learning of the illicit photos, she said: "I felt devastated. I felt violated and upset initially and that seemed to grow as the stress of the whole occasion unfolded, which was immediately after the wedding and consequently up until this day."

She added that the stress became worse when she saw the photos in Hello!

"I didn't know what images had been captured - whether of myself, my husband or my family and friends," she said.

'Joy'

"The quality was what any bride would hate to have out there.

"It was cheap and tacky and everything I didn't want to have shown as being part of my special day."

She said she agreed to a deal with rival magazine OK! because the couple wanted to give their fans a insight into their wedding but without it turning into a "media circus".

Catherine Zeta Jones
Zeta Jones is currently appearing in the movie Chicago
"Both my husband and I wanted to show the world the joy of what we were sharing," she said.

Zeta Jones, 33, and Douglas, 58, will have to convince the judge, Mr Justice Lindsay, that their privacy and confidence were breached.

They are suing Hello! for the stress, loss of income and damage to their professional careers because of the alleged poor quality of the photos.

As a result of the publication, OK! is in turn suing Hello! for 1.75m for loss of sales.

The couple left the court without commenting, and the case was adjourned until Tuesday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Sillito
"This case could create a new law of privacy"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Hello! damages
Do you think stars' lives are public property?
See also:

10 Feb 03 | Entertainment
10 Feb 03 | Entertainment
05 Feb 03 | Entertainment
04 Feb 03 | Entertainment
19 Feb 03 | Entertainment
28 Mar 02 | UK
03 Feb 03 | Entertainment
10 Feb 03 | Entertainment
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