The Mask of Zorro is a 1998 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. The 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, and The 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.
Plot[edit | edit source]
In 1821, Don Diego De La Vega (Anthony Hopkins), a Californio nobleman fights against the Spanish in the Mexican War of Independence as Zorro, a mysterious swordsman who defends the Mexican peasants and commoners of Las Californias. Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), the corrupt governor of the region, learns of De La Vega's alter ego, and attempts to arrest him. De La Vega's wife is killed during the scuffle. Montero imprisons De La Vega and takes his infant daughter, Elena, as his own. Twenty years later Montero returns to California as a civilian, alongside Elena (Catherine Zeta Jones), who has grown into a beautiful woman. Montero's reappearance motivates De La Vega to escape from prison. He encounters a thief, Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), who, as a child, once did Zorro a favor. De La Vega decides that fate has brought them together, and agrees to make Alejandro his protégé, grooming him to be the new Zorro. Alejandro agrees to undergo De La Vega's training regimen in Zorro's lair underneath the ruins of his family estate in order to be able to take revenge on Captain Harrison Love (Matt Letscher), Montero's right-hand man, who was responsible for killing Alejandro's brother, Joaquin.
While still being trained, Alejandro steals a black stallion resembling Tornado from the local garrison. De La Vega scolds Alejandro, claiming that Zorro was a servant of the people, not a thief and adventurer. He challenges Alejandro to gain Montero's trust instead. Alejandro poses as a visiting nobleman named Don Alejandro del Castillo y García, with De La Vega as his servant, and attends a party at Montero's hacienda. At the party he gains Elena's admiration and enough of Montero's trust to be invited to a secret meeting where several other noblemen are present. Montero hints at a plan to retake California for the Dons by buying it from General Santa Anna, who needs money to fund his upcoming war with the United States.
Montero takes Alejandro and the noblemen to a secret gold mine known as "El Dorado", where peasants and prisoners are used for slave labor. Montero plans to buy California from Santa Anna using gold mined from Santa Anna's own land. De La Vega uses this opportunity to become closer to Elena, though he identifies himself as "Bernardo" the servant, learning that Montero told Elena that her mother died in childbirth. While walking in a market, Elena meets the woman who was her nanny who tells Elena her parents' real identity. De La Vega sends Alejandro, dressed as Zorro, to steal Montero's map leading to the gold mine. Zorro duels Montero, Love, and their guards at the hacienda. When Zorro escapes, Elena attempts to retrieve Montero's map from the swordsman, but he seduces her, leading to a passionate kiss before he flees.
Terrified of Santa Anna's retribution if he discovers that he is being paid with his own gold, Montero, at Love's urging, decides to destroy the mine and kill the workers. De La Vega tells Alejandro to release the workers on his own so that De La Vega can reclaim Elena. Alejandro sets off, feeling betrayed by Diego's vendetta. De La Vega corners Montero at the hacienda and reveals his identity, but Montero captures him by threatening Elena. As he is taken away, De La Vega tells Elena the name of the flowers she recognized upon her arrival in California, convincing her that he is her father. She releases De La Vega from his cell and they proceed to the mine, where Alejandro and De La Vega respectively defeat and slay Love and Montero. Elena and Alejandro free the workers before the explosives go off, and then find the mortally wounded De La Vega. He makes peace with Alejandro before dying, passing the mantle of Zorro to him, and gives his blessings for his marriage to Elena. In a closing sequence they are shown to be living together after rebuilding the De La Vega family manor with a son named Joaquín, in honor of Alejandro's brother.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Antonio Banderas as Alejandro Murrieta / Zorro: Despite claims made by several media outlets and Antonio Banderas, Banderas was not the first Spanish actor to portray Zorro. Spanish actorJosé Suárez was cast as Zorro in the 1953 film La montaña sin ley, and in the 1960s-70s Spanish actor Carlos Quiney (aka Charles Quiney) portrayed Zorro in three films: Zorro Il Cavaliere della Vendetta, Zorro Il Dominatore and Zorro la Maschera della Vendetta. 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
- 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