Hollywood might be the gossip capital of the world, but it’s usually about which celebrities have affairs, babies, breakups, or divorces.
But when Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Sheen first met, the couple turned the tide by swapping stories about all the common people they both know in South Wales.
The couple grew up in the same part of the country, have mutual friends and their parents know each other – but they had never met until last year while filming the American crime drama Prodigal Son.
Catherine said, “We spent a lot of time saying, ‘Have you heard of… Jones?’ “No, how is she?” »’She has two children’ ‘Never’.
Both actors had a lot to make up for and quickly made up for lost time – leaving the rest of the cast and team in New York bewildered as they chatted about their friends, chatted about rugby, and told old-fashioned jokes. with their Welsh accents.
Catherine, 51, says: “We are literally like a brother and sister with different parents, we are so close.
“I don’t know why this never happened. My parents know Michael Sheen’s parents, Michael Sheen met my parents. Half of my friends are Michael Sheen’s friends, but the two have never crossed paths.
“We’re the same age, don’t tell anyone. Where we came from is like a button on the world map. I could throw my ball to the end of the village.
“Talk about related by blood, country and culture. When they said ‘Cut’ we were entering the strongest Welsh accent we’ve ever had. We would like to go back to when we were in school, telling silly jokes.
“We would go out of our characters and go back to, ‘Did you see Wales win rugby on Sunday? Have you watched?’
“You can’t be Welsh without being a rugby fan, can you? The world stops when we play rugby, we have that in common.
“But we know so many people, in our Welsh theater, our acting community, that he went to drama school with, when I was in London, these people would stay with me on weekends. So that’s six degrees of separation.
“It was everything I thought it would be. As if I had known him all my life.
Michael, 52, lived in Port Talbot and attended the local primary school, while Catherine grew up in Swansea – where she was sent to the private Dumbarton House school.
Despite coming from a humble background similar to Michael’s parents, Catherine’s family fortunes improved after winning £ 100,000 in a bingo contest, which allowed them to pay for her lessons. dance and ballet.
She says: “I went to London so young and went to school with a tutor and a chaperone going to the West End.
“And then I came back and he was in the Dylan Thomas Contemporary Dance and the Dylan Thomas Theater. Dylan Thomas is also from my hometown. I was not in Dylan Thomas’ theater as a young actor because I was in three different amateur theater groups. “
Catherine joins the prodigal son in his second series, which begins on Sky One next month, as a resident doctor at Claremont Psychiatric Hospital. Michael plays serial killer Martin Whitly – nicknamed The Surgeon – who is purging life. Catherine admits that she was a fan of the first series.
But she adds: “I only watched because I wanted to see what Michael Sheen was doing because I still love watching him.
“I watched actors of all generations, even the ones who are no longer with us, and I was like, ‘Oh, I would have loved to work with him.’ Michael was one of those.
Catherine, who has two children, Dylan and Carys, with her husband actor Michael Douglas, adds: “I love Prodigal Son because I kind of gravitate towards the darker side of human nature, that’s what. I’m doing.
“I really like family dramas. It’s these families that are completely dysfunctional that make your dysfunctional family not so bad. Having dreamed of success in the West End since she started acting at the age of nine, Catherine had her big acting break at 17 when she was promoted from second starring to the lead in the hit musical 42nd Street.
But it was her first major television role, in the 1991 comedy-drama The Darling Buds of May, that made her famous.
She says, “After doing my TV show in Britain, I wanted to give America a chance.”
Catherine went on to star in a series of films considered to be failures, including Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. But she refused to be pushed back, despite only getting six months on her US visa. She remembers, “I came home, but I kept staring at that visa that was ticking. I didn’t have a boyfriend.
“So I sold my house, my car, and I tried. I was very well known at the time in Great Britain, but during the American castings, they asked me what I had done.
“Instead of saying ‘Really? Well if I got off a plane in Britain there would be paparazzi everywhere ”I took that as a very humiliating new start, new me, no one knows me, I can be whoever I want, kind of moment.
It took two years before Catherine, then 29, landed the role that would propel her to Hollywood’s A list, in the Mask of Zorro alongside Antonio Banderas.
Other blockbuster films followed, including Chicago starring Renee Zellweger, which won her an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.
Despite her success, Catherine admits that she is more precarious today than when she started out. She adds, “I have a vulnerability that I hardly show.
“To get over that, I try to jump into things and take fearless action and not be whipped up by the failure of it all, which seems to gradually get worse as an actor as you go. grow old.
“When I was young it wasn’t like I didn’t care what people thought, it was just fearless to walk into a room or take the stage.
“Personally, it seems the more you do and the more famous or known you become, the higher you go, ‘Argh!’ And I feel like, ‘Ooh, what are they expecting?’
“So like any actor, we all have our insecurities.” Prodigal Son was filmed on lockdown, which brought its own challenges for the cast.
Catherine says, “As actors, when they come up with a shot, we sort of sit behind it like our version of the water cooler and we converse, chat, argue and chat. I miss this because we all have to go back to our own little rabbit hole while we wait for the crew to do their jobs and then do our jobs.