The Mask of Zorro is a 1998 American sawshbuckler film based on the Zorro character created by Johnston McCulley. It was directed by Martin Campbelland stars Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Stuart Wilson. In the story, the original Zorro (Hopkins) escapes from prison to find his long-lost daughter (Zeta-Jones) and avenge the death of his wife against the corrupt governor (Wilson). He is aided by his successor (Banderas), who also pursues his own vendetta.
Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment had 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 with both 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 failed to receive the overall positive reception of its predecessor.
- Directed by: Martin Campbell
- Produced by: Doug Claybourne, David Foster
- Written by: John Eskow, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Randall Jahson
- Story by: Johnston McCulley
- Starring: Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson, Matt Letscher
- Music by: James Horner
- Cinematography: Phil Meheux
- Edited by: Thom Noble
- Country: U.S.A., Germany
- Language: English
- Running time: 136 minutes
- Budget: $96 million
- Box Office: $250 million
- Release date: July 17, 1998
- Distributed by: TriStar Pictures
In 1821, Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), a Spanish nobleman, fights against Spain in the Mexican War of Independence as Zorro, a mysterious avenger defending the Mexican peasants and commoners of Las Californias. Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson), the cruel governor of the region, learns de la Vega's identity. Arresting de la Vega in his home, his wife Esperanza is accidentally killed by one of Montero's soldiers. Montero imprisons de la Vega, and takes his infant daughter, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as his own before leaving for Spain.
Twenty years later, Montero returns from exile in Spain with Elena by his side. He is planning to turn California into an independent republic. His reappearance awakens a long-dormant de la Vega, who has spent two decades living in anonymity during his imprisonment. He escapes from prison, and as he plans his revenge on Montero, encounters a thief, Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas), who along with his brother greatly admired Zorro as a child.
De la Vega takes Alejandro as his protégé. Inspired by the wish for revenge upon Captain Harrison Love (Matt Lestcher), his brother's killer and Montero's right-hand man, Alejandro endures the tough training regimen.
After Alejandro steals a black stallion resembling Tornado, Zorro's long-deceased horse, and leaves Zorro's mark at the scene, de la Vega scolds him claiming that Zorro was a servant of the people, not a thief or adventurer. He challenges Alejandro to gain Montero's trust and pose as Don Alejandro del Castillo y García, a visiting nobleman, with de la Vega posing as his servant, Bernardo. Both attend a party at Montero's home, where Alejandro gains Elena's admiration and enough of Montero's trust to be invited to a secret meeting.
There, 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. Alejandro and the Dons are taken to a secret gold mine known as "El Dorado", where peasants and criminals are used for slave labor. The plan is 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: still posing as Bernardo, he learns that Montero raised her claiming her mother died in childbirth.
De la Vega allows Alejandro to become his successor as Zorro, and sending him to steal the map leading to the gold mine: he duels Montero, Captain Love and their guards. As Alejandro escapes, Elena attempts to retrieve Montero's map. She fights him with a sword, but he uses his sword to strip off her clothing and seduces her, leading to a passionate kiss before he flees.
Terrified of Santa Anna's retribution, Montero decides to destroy the mine along with all its workers. De la Vega tells Alejandro to release the workers on his own while he reclaims Elena: he corners Montero and reveals his identity, but is captured.
As he is taken away, Elena, inspired by a chance encounter at the market with a woman who was her nanny, asks de la Vega the name of the flower that her mother hung about her crib: when it is de la Vega who tells Elena that it is the Romneya, she realizes he is her father. She releases de la Vega from his cell and they proceed to the mine, which Zorro has infiltrated.
De la Vega stops Montero from shooting Zorro and the two duel while Zorro is confronted by Captain Love. Alejandro avenges his brother, impaling Love with his own sword, and de la Vega kills Montero. Elena and Alejandro free the workers before the explosives go off, then attend to 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 Alejandro's and Elena's prospective marriage.
They re-build the de la Vega home and have a son named Joaquin, honoring Alejandro's brother.
- Antonio Banderas - Alejandro Murrieta/Zorro
- Anthony Hopkins - Don Diego De la Vega (former Zorro)
- Catherine Zeta-Jones - Elena De la Vega
- Stuart Wilson - Don Rafael Montero
- Matt Letscher - Captain Harrison Love
- Victori Rivers - Joaquin Murrieta
- William Marquez - Fray Felipe
- L.Q. Jones - Three-Fingered Jack
- Julieta Rosen - Esperanza De la Vega
James Horner was hired to compose thefilm score in September 1997. For his work on The Mask of Zorro, Horner was influenced by Miklos Rozsa'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 Latin heartthrob Marc Anthony and 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.
1. Plaza of Execution
2. Elena and Esperanza
4. Elena's Truth
5. Fencing Lesson
6. Tornado In the Barracks
8. Zorro's Theme
9. Mine, The (Montero's Vision)
10. Stealing the Map
11. Leave No Witnesses...
12. Diego's Goodbye
13. I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You - Marc Anthony & Tina Arena
The Mask of Zorro and its sequel The Legend of Zorro incorporate certain historical events and persons into their narratives. Antonio Banderas' Alejandro is a fictional brother of Joaquin Murrieta, a real Mexican outlaw who was killed by the California State Rangers led by Harry Love (portrayed in the film as Texas Army Captain "Harrison Love") in 1853. The confrontation in the film takes place more than a decade earlier, in 1841. Murrieta's right-hand man Three-Fingered Jack was also defeated by Love as in the film; however, the real person was a Mexican named Manuel Garcia rather than an Anglo-American. As he did in the movie, the actual Harry Love preserved both Murrieta's head and Jack's hand in large, alcohol-filled glass jars. The opening sequence is set during the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, then most of the film plot is set in the earlier years prior to the Mexican-American War. Plus, an original ending on the DVD includes an appearance by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who is only mentioned in the finished film.
Based on 69 reviews counted by Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of the critics enjoyed The Mask of Zorro with an average score of 7.1/10. Metacritic received an average score of 63/100, based on 22 reviews collected.
Richard Schickel of Time magazine praised Zorro as a summer blockbuster that pays tribute to the Classical Hollywood cinema swashbuckler films. "The action in this movie, most of which takes the form of spectacular stunt work performed by real, as opposed to digitized, people," Schickel continued, "is motivated by simple, powerful emotions of an old-fashioned and rather melodramatic nature." Zorro exceeded Roger Ebert's expectations, who was surprised by the screenplay's display of traditional film craftsmanship. "It's a reminder of the time when stunts and special effects were integrated into stories, rather than the other way around." Ebert later called The Mask of Zorro "probably the best Zorro movie ever made."
Despite giving credit to Anthony Hopkins for his masculine portrayal of an older Zorro, Mick LaSalle, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, found the that the actor's "performance presents a slight problem: The film asks us to believe that no one has figured out that Zorro and his real-life persona are the same person, even though they are the only guys in Mexico who talk with a British accent." Todd McCarthy of Variety found the film's length to be "somewhat overlong" and lacking "the snap and concision that would have put it over the top as a bang-up entertainment, but it's closer in spirit to a vintage Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power swashbuckler than anything that's come out of Hollywood in quite some time."
In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Peter Travers criticized the casting choices for the Mexican roles, which included Banderas, a Spaniard, as well as Hopkins and Zeta-Jones, who are both Welsh. Disappointed with the film's entertainment value, Travers also expected the film to be a failure with audiences. Internet reviewer James Bererdinelli compared the tone and style of The Mask of Zorro to producer Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark. "While The Mask of Zorro isn't on the same level, it's not an altogether ridiculous comparison. Even though Zorro doesn't feature the non-stop cliffhanger adventure of Raiders," Berardinelli continued, "there's still plenty of action, tumult, and derring-do." He was undecided whether the film would be a box office success, and that it would depend on the on-screen chemistry between Banderas and Zeta-Jones.
In one of the film's most popular scenes, Alejandro renders Eléna topless with a flurry of sword slashes. One critic placed it on his list of "Erotic [Film] Scenes in the 90s", and in a 2006 E! television special, both Banderas and Zeta-Jones professed experiencing arousal during its filming; he by her beauty, and she by his character's innovative way of stripping her character.
The Mask of Zorro was released in the United States on July 17, 1998 in 2,515 theaters, earning $22,525,855 in its opening weekend. The film dropped from its number one position in the second week with the releases of Saving Private Ryan and There's Something About Mary. The Mask of Zorro eventually earned $94,095,523 in domestic totals, and $156,193,000 in foreign countries, coming to a worldwide total of $250,288,523. With the commercial success of the film, Sony sold the TV rights of Zorro for $30 million in a joint deal to CBS and TBS.