Catherine Zeta-Jones has said her husband Michael Douglas supports the #MeToo movement “more than anybody”, after the actor released a pre-emptive statement denying he sexually harassed a former employee.

Last week Douglas, 73, issued a denial of allegations that are yet to be published.

He said he felt “the need to get ahead” when he became aware that a former employee was going to release claims that he had harassed her in the 1980s, masturbating and using explicit language in front of her.

He acknowledged using “colourful language”, but said he was otherwise proud of his reputation and had no “skeletons” in the closet.

Zeta-Jones, 48, addressed her husband’s decision at the Television Critics Association, where she was promoting her film Cocaine Godmother.

Catherine Zeta-JonesCatherine Zeta-Jones (Ian West/PA)

Entertainment Tonight quoted her as saying: “My reaction was that as two people who have been in this business – him longer than me – was that we support Me Too and the movement more than anybody, anybody – me as a woman, him as a man.

“And there was no other way than to be pre-emptive in a story that had to be watched. He did a statement, he did it. I think it’s very clear the way that he stands.

“I cannot elaborate on something that’s so very personal to him.”

The actress said it was “an amazing time for women”.

She continued: “I really want women to remember how strong we are in numbers. This is going to die down. This is not going to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind forever and ever and we’re going to have to be kind to each other. We can’t ask everyone else to be kind to us unless we’re kind to each other.”

In an interview with US entertainment website Deadline, Wall Street star Douglas said he was approached for a comment from a film industry magazine regarding his former employee’s allegations.

Asked why he was coming forward to expose a story that may or may not surface, Douglas said: “I felt the need to get ahead of this.

“It pertains to me but I’m also getting a sense of how it reflects in our culture, and what is going on today. I see it as a cautionary tale.”

Douglas said that, among the claims by the woman – who has not been identified – one was that he had “masturbated in front of her”.

“This is a complete lie, fabrication, no truth to it whatsoever,” he said.

Michael DouglasMichael Douglas (Anthony Devlin/PA)

He said that the reporter had told him that another outlet was planning to run the story, and that he was “floored” that such a story could be chronicled in the press without “corroboration”.

Douglas said: “It’s extremely painful. I pride myself on my reputation in this business, not to mention the long history of my father and everything else.

“I don’t have skeletons in my closet, or anyone else who’s coming out or saying this.

“I’m bewildered why, after 32 years, this is coming out, now. As I say, I will ‘fess up to colourful language, but the issue of masturbating in front of her? That rung is something I’ve only heard about the last year. It’s not an expression that related to the 80s. So I thought it stunk.”

Douglas said he also “never blackballed” the woman from the industry.

The actor said he was grateful to have the support of his wife and their two children, son Dylan and daughter Carys.