The Mask of Zorro is a 1998 German-American swashbuckler film based on the character of the masked outlaw Zorro created by Johnston McCulley. It was directed by Martin Campbell and stars Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Stuart Wilson. This film features the original Zorro, Don Diego de la Vega (Hopkins), escaping from prison to find his long-lost daughter (Zeta-Jones) and avenge the death of his wife at the hands of the corrupt governor Rafael Montero (Wilson). He is aided by his successor (Banderas), who is pursuing his own vendetta against the governor's right-hand man while falling in love with de la Vega's daughter.
Producer Steven Spielberg had initially developed the film for TriStar Pictures with directors Mikael Salomon and Robert Rodriguez, before Campbell signed on in 1996. Salomon cast Sean Connery as Don Diego de la Vega, while Rodriguez brought Banderas in the lead role. Connery dropped out and was replaced with Hopkins, andThe Mask of Zorro began filming in January 1997 at Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City, Mexico. The film was released in the United States on July 17, 1998 to financial and critical success. The Legend of Zorro, a sequel also starring Banderas and Zeta-Jones and directed by Campbell, was released in 2005, but did not fare as well as its predecessor.
- Antonio Banderas as Alejandro Murrieta / Zorro: Despite claims made by several media outlets and Antonio Banderas himself, Banderas was not the first Spanish actor to portray Zorro. Spanish actor José Suárez was cast as Zorro in the 1953 film Lawless Mountain, and Spanish actor Carlos Quiney (aka Charles Quiney) portrayed Zorro in three films: Zorro's Latest Adventure (1969), Zorro, Rider of Vengeance (1971) and Zorro the Invincible (1971); though Banderas was still the first Spanish actor to portray Zorro in a Hollywood production. Banderas was paid $5 million for the role. The character of Alejandro Murrieta was conceived as the fictional brother of the real-life Joaquin Murrieta, making the character either Mexican or Chilean. To prepare for his role, Banderas practiced with the Olympic fencing team in Spain for four months, before studying additional fencing and swordsmanship with Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The three were trained by Bob Anderson during pre-production in Mexico, spending 10 hours a day for two months specifically on fight scenes from the film. "We used to call him Grumpy Bob on the set, he was such a perfectionist," director Martin Campbell reflected. "He was incredibly inventive, and also refused to treat any of the actors as stars. They would complain about the intensity of the training, but having worked with him there's nobody I'd rather use." During interviews for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Anderson rated Banderas the best natural talent he had worked with.
- José María de Tavira portrays a young Alejandro Murrieta.
- Anthony Hopkins as Don Diego de la Vega / Zorro: Hopkins was cast in December 1996, one month before filming began. Hopkins, known for his dramatic acting, took up the role over his enthusiasm to be in an action film.
- Catherine Zeta-Jones as Elena Montero: The actress signed on in November 1996, when Spielberg saw her performance in the Titanic miniseries and recommended her to Campbell. Despite being a Welsh actress portraying a Latina character, Zeta-Jones discovered similarities between her "volatile" Celtic temper and the Latin temperament of Eléna. Izabella Scorupco, who worked with Campbell on GoldenEye, and Judith Godrèche both screen tested for the part. Zeta-Jones credits The Mask of Zorro as her breakthrough in entering A-list recognition.
- María and Mónica Fernández Cruz portray Elena de la Vega (infant).
- Stuart Wilson as Don Rafael Montero: Armand Assante had initially been cast in the role, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with The Odyssey. Stuart Wilson, who Campbell previously directed in No Escape, was cast in Assante's place four months after.
- Matt Letscher as Captain Harrison Love
- Tony Amendola as Don Luiz
- Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. as Don Pedro
- Victor Rivers as Joaquín Murrieta
- Diego Sieres as Young Joaquín Murrieta
- William Marquez, as Fray Felipe
- L. Q. Jones as Three-fingered Jack
- Julieta Rosen as Esperanza De La Vega, Don Diego's beloved wife and Elena's mother
- Maury Chaykin as Prison Warden
In October 1992, TriStar Pictures and Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment were planning to start production on Zorro the following year, and hired Joel Gross to rewrite the script after they were impressed with his adaptation of The Three Musketeers. At the time, Spielberg was producing Zorro with the potential to direct. Gross completed his rewrite in March 1993, and TriStar entered pre-production, creating early promotion for the film that same month at the ShoWest trade show. By December 1993, Branko Lustig was producing the film with Spielberg, and Mikael Salomon was attached as director. In August 1994, Sean Connery was cast as Don Diego de la Vega, while Salomon stated that the rest of the major cast would be Hispanic or Latino. Pre-production proceeded even further in August when Salomon compiled test footage for a planned April 1995 start date.
Connery and Salomon eventually dropped out, and in September 1995, Robert Rodriguez, fresh from the success of Desperado, signed to direct with Antonio Banderas, who had also starred in Desperado, playing the title role. TriStar and Amblin had been surprised by Rodriguez's low-budget filming techniques for his action films, El Mariachi and Desperado, and shifted away from their initial plans with Salomon to make a big-budget version of Zorro. Spielberg had hoped Rodriguez would start filming in January 1996 for a Christmas release date, but the start date was pushed back to July. The release date was later moved to Easter 1997. Rodriguez pulled out of the film' in June 1996 over difficulties coming to terms with TriStar on the budget. The studio projected a range of $35 million, while Rodriguez wanted $45 million. They both attempted to compromise when Rodriguez lowered it to $42 million, but the studio refused and set $41 million as their highest mark. Banderas remained with the production, and Martin Campbell signed on later that month, turning down the chance to direct Tomorrow Never Dies. The finished screenplay would be written by John Eskow, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, based on a story by Elliott, Rossio, and Randall Jahnson.
The principal photography for the film began in Mexico on January 27, 1997 on a $60 million budget. The Mask of Zorro was mostly shot at Estudios Churubusco in Mexico City. Production stalled for four days in February when the director, Martin Campbell, was hospitalized for bronchitis. Filming resumed in Tlaxcala, three hours east of Mexico City, where the production crew constructed the Montero hacienda and town set pieces. Sony sent David Foster to join the project as a producer to help fill the void left by Steven Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes, and Laurie MacDonald, who were busy running DreamWorks. Foster and David S. Ward, who went uncredited, re-wrote some scenes; the troubled production caused The Mask of Zorro to go $10 million over its budget. In December, the producers were frustrated by customs agents when some props and other items, including Zorro's plastic sword, were held for nine days. During the post-production phase, Spielberg and Campbell decided that Diego de la Vega's death in the arms of his daughter was too depressing. The ending, where Alejandro and Eléna are happily married with their infant son, was added three months after filming had ended.
On January 24, 2001, Sony Pictures Entertainment filed a lawsuit in United States District Court, Central District of California, Western Division, against Fireworks Entertainment Group, the producers of the syndicated television series Queen of Swords. Sony alleged copyright infringement and other claims, saying the series "copied protectable elements from [the] 'Zorro' character and 'Zorro' related works". On April 5, 2001, U.S. District Judge Collins denied Sony's motion for a preliminary injunction, noting "that since the copyrights in [Johnson McCulley's 1919 short story] The Curse of Capistrano and [the 1920 movie] The Mark of Zorro lapsed in 1995 or before, the character Zorro has been in the public domain." As to specific elements of The Mask of Zorro, the judge found that any similarities between the film and the TV series' secondary characters and plot elements were insufficient to warrant an injunction.
Template:Album ratings James Horner was hired to compose the film score in September 1997. Horner's work on The Mask of Zorro was influenced by Miklós Rózsa's score from El Cid. The soundtrack, released by Sony Classical Records and Epic Soundtrax, was commercially successful and propelled by the rising profile of the Latin heartthrobs of Marc Anthony and Australian singer Tina Arena. Their duet, "I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You", plays in the closing credits of the film and was released as a single in Europe. The song went #3 on the French singles and #4 on the Dutch singles charts.
The Mask of Zorro was initially set for release on December 19, 1997 before the release date was changed to March 1998. There was speculation within the media about whether TriStar changed the date in an attempt to avoid competition with Titanic. In reality Zorro had encountered production problems that extended its shooting schedule. In addition, Sony Pictures Entertainment, TriStar's parent company, wanted an action film for its first quarter releases of 1998. The release date was once again pushed back, this time to July 1998, when pick-ups were commissioned. The delay from March to July added $3 million in interest costs.
To market Zorro, TriStar purchased a 30-second advertising spot at Super Bowl XXXII for $1.3 million. Sony, who had been known for their low-key presence at the ShoWest trade show, showed clips from the film, while actors Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins presented a panel at the conference on May 10, 1998. The studio also attached Zorro's trailer to prints of Godzilla. Sony launched an official website in June 1998. Internet marketing was an emerging concept in the late-1990s, and Zorro was Sony's first film to use VRML.
The Mask of Zorro caught the attention of European Royalty with the film's foreign premieres. Spain's King Juan Carlos I, Queen Sophia, and Princess Elena attended the first Royal premiere in Madrid in seven years. On December 10, 1998, a Royal Command Performance for Zorro was toplined by Prince Charles and his sons.
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