The general view was that the marriage would last a couple of years at the most. Then there would be a whopping alimony payout and they'd go their separate ways.
After all, hadn't Michael Douglas just paid out $45 million in alimony to his first wife, Diandra? Now he had seen an almost unknown actress in her first major film and fallen
in love with her. He had never met Catherine Zeta Jones but had decided then and there that he would marry her. The fact that at 55, he was 25 years older than the dark-haired
girl from the Welsh valleys was not important to Michael Douglas. He had seen — if not met — the girl of his dreams. In fact it was six months before they finally met — at
France's Deauville Film Festival where Catherine was promoting her movie The Mask of Zorro and Michael was unveiling his latest picture A Perfect Murder.
"The first time I saw him was in the hotel lobby," Catherine remembered. "He walked right past me carrying his golf-clubs and I thought: 'Wow...'"
They actually met when seated next to each other at dinner that evening and immediately bonded when they found they shared the same birthday — September 25. "I knew immediately
I was in love with her," Michael Douglas recalled. "There was a fantastic attraction. Catherine said that by the end of the evening I had told her: 'I want to father your
children', but don't remember saying that!" Soon afterwards the pair began to secretly date. "I knew this was something really special," Catherine says. "But with work keeping
us apart things moved very slowly."
The first the world heard that it was something serious was at the premiere of Catherine's thriller Entrapment in 1999 when she told reporters: "Michael is here tonight because
we wanted to publicly say that we are together." And Michael added: "I am a very lucky man." Lucky, but not free. For the truth was that technically he was still married to
Diandra, his wife of 22 years and although they had separated in 1995, a financial settlement had not been finalised. "Before Michael can marry," Diandra pointed out, "he has to
But by now there was no stopping Michael Douglas. At a New Year's Eve party at his house in the ski resort of Aspen, Colorado, he went down on one knee and asked Catherine to
marry him. She said yes. They married in New York in November, 2000, surrounded by showbiz pals including Danny DeVito and Goldie Hawn. A Welsh choir sang at the ceremony and
the wedding ring was of Welsh gold. While Michael, approaching 60, began to wind down his career a little, his wife did just the opposite. She won an Oscar for her role in the
musical blockbuster Chicago and Michael led the applause.
"The great thing we are at different places in our lives, careerwise," Catherine said. "So we're not vying for attention. There's no tug of war." Whenever possible, the couple,
who now had two young children, escaped to their holiday bolt-hole on the island of
Bermuda, for golf, sailing and wandering along the beach.
"Everything's so easy and relaxed," Catherine told a friend. "It's a great place to bring up kids and I can just walk around as I please — nobody's going to recognise me." It
was a fairy-tale marriage, confounding the sceptics who said it wouldn't last.
"Over the years, the family spent an increasing amount of time in Wales where they built a seaside house — and Michael became a devoted supporter of Swansea City football club.
Then, in the winter of 2009 something happened to the hardworking and energetic 64-year-old which filled Catherine with foreboding. He started talking about retirement...
"This was so out of character," she said. "Michael loves his work and is always planning new projects and new films. Suddenly he seemed to have lost his energy." When a sore
throat persisted for weeks, Catherine persuaded Michael to see a doctor early in 2010. "I saw a round of specialists and they couldn't pick up anything," Michael remembered.
They gave me antibiotics and said there was nothing to worry about.
"Then my tongue started bothering me and I was certain something was going on. I went back to the doctors and eventually they found I wasn't imagining it." Eight months after
the original consultations, Michael was found to have advanced throat cancer and underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. His weight dropped alarmingly but Catherine,
who never left his side, was certain he would pull through.
"The hardest part was seeing his fatigue because Michael is never tired. If there's anything he has, it's strength. He won't let this thing beat him — and nor will I."
Two years on, Michael, now 68, is in remission and back at work. He has two movies scheduled for this year. "The doctors are optimistic and so am I," he says.
"Without Catherine, things might have been different, who knows? But it's amazing what love can do."