Cover Story


By Kim Williamson

Zorro: It's a name with a long cinematic history. Douglas Fairbanks originated the bigscreen version with his 1920s silent efforts (see our Big Picture, page 226), and in all, by film director Martin Campbell's count, 30-some Zorros have slashed their way across the silver and small screens. (Including, says Campbell, a Zoretta, plus a 1975 Italian/French production that starred Alain Delon.)
   This summer, TriStar brings movie audiences a new blade in "The Mask of Zorro," an Amblin production opening July 17. The romantic adventure film, sets in the mid-1800s in Mexican California, puts Antonio Banderas behind the mask?as it does ShoWest actor of the year Anthony Hopkins, playing the original Zorro who schools the young bandit in the ways of sword and cape. In the identity intrigue, Welsh-born Catherine Zeta-Jones (?The Phantom?) plays Elena, a passionate young woman who unknown to herself was born the daughter of the first Zorro.
   On the following pages, key participants discuss their efforts in their own words, including director Campbell (?GoldenEye?), producer David Foster (?The River Wild?) and costumer Graciela Mazon. Banderas opens our tale, describing the man behind the mask....

In our story, we have two Zorros--that's the big difference in this movie. One of them, the real one, Don Diego de la Vega, has been 25, 30 years in jail. He lost his wife that time ago, and his daughter--his daughter has been raised by his mortal enemy.
   Now he finds this pitiful face that is me, who lost his brother--killed by the institutional power of the time there in the land. This [Alejandro Murieta] is going to be trained by him, and he is going to become a gentleman, become a beautiful "Zorro" man.
   There's an initiation process that we're going to see all through the movie, which is pretty interesting--the fact that the Zorro in our movie is much more a concept, really, than a personality. [It's a] concept that represents freedom, which represents responsibility, the center of oneself, coolness.
   So the man behind the mask, in this case me, is just a man learning. It's almost a melding.
It's not so much the act of putting the mask on and going out there. He tried before, but he's not completely trained yet, and that upsets my master. [Alejandro] has to understand that, through taking the mask and putting on the mask, that represents responsibility, and he's trying to fulfill the dreams of many other people who need somebody. He's basically a savior. So that's what the mask means: The mask means kind of a weight on your shoulders, and you've got to be cool to wear that mask.
   That mask is not given to anybody, but only to somebody who has the specific training and has everything put together--it's somebody very down to earth. And at the beginning of the movie he is not; he's like a child. He doesn't have the matureness to portray the character, to go ahead. He thinks that that's kind of a circus performance--and he's completely wrong. And then there's a moment in the movie in which he's going to realize what is the way, and he's going to follow that path, and that path is going to take him to be the hero that everybody knows--that elegant, Spanish Hollywood hero created in the '20s, which we've seen so many times in other versions of the movie.
   In a way, he does [experience his own salvation]. Revenge doesn't take you anywhere; justice does. That dichotomy is what he's fighting inside himself. The anger that he feels at the beginning when his brother is killed is taking him through nothing but bad things and ruining his own life. So basically he exchanges those two concepts--revenge for justice. And that is the interior goal he has to reach. Once he understands that, the whole process is faster.
   My character is an orphan, and in some way he assumes that [first Zorro as a father figure]. Yet it's not only that. There is a paternal side to the relationship, but it's also a friendship. It's the study of two men alone, isolated from the real world, that are trying to put on the right track different events that happened in their lives for different reasons. But they help each other. It's kind of tender when you see the two men and they are no longer swordfighting, and that's the point of it--they live together in this secret cave and they have to share everything, and it's kind of sweet to see that relationship.... They become absolutely bonded. Though they argue a lot! Cover Story
It's [also] a love story, and what makes the story interesting is the fact that I don't know that this woman, Elena, is actually the daughter of my master. And she doesn't know that either--she's going to discover that in the middle of the story.
   I am portraying different characters, and she falls in love with all of them in a way; she doesn't know that it's the same person. So she gets the feeling, the soul of this character through different personalities, and with differing attitudes--one of them is trying to pretend being a gentleman coming from Spain, another one is a thief with a strange mask that's not even the mask of Zorro, the next one is the real Zorro, and there is another one who's a guy who's pretending to be a monk confessing her.
   And she feels attracted by all of these four characters, and then she discovers that they are the same guy. You have very different levels all through the relationship. I think that's what makes the movie more complex. It gives us also the possibility of playing comedy, because there are a lot of confusions in that--until we find who we are.

I learn my lines and show up and do it. I don't analyze it. I read the script, I learn the stuff, and hope that it will work. I don't examine it. The technical things I had to learn: fencing, and riding, and the bullwhip. That's it, really.
   I honed them down and practiced them--I tried to make them look efficient and good. So I became accomplished in using a bullwhip, in marksmanship with the bullwhip. And sword fencing. I had a very good sword teacher, Bob Anderson [who played Darth Vader in the '70s and worked with Errol Flynn decades before], and a great stunt coordinator. And a wonderful director in Martin Campbell. You know, I trust the director to do it. I've been doing this a long time now, so I put all my trust in the director. Cover Story
   I'm an actor. There's no mystery to it. I just learn my stuff and, if I'm playing Nixon I play Nixon, and if I'm playing Zorro I play Zorro. Cover Story
   It was an adventure--it was a change from playing Nixon and from playing those [starchy] guys like in --The Remains of the Day. "I was offered the Bond film and I was offered the Zorro film, both at the same time, and I was in the middle of filming an action-type movie ["The Edge"] in Canada, so it was a question of choice. And I chose "Zorro," because it was a big, flashy, good script, and I really liked it, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to do.... Well, why not, have a go at it! And if I'm bad and I don't come up to it, then they can fire me, that's all. So that's how I look at all my work. I don't take it seriously now. I don't take anything that seriously. You know, I have a lot of fun doing what I do, and I don't agonize about it.
   I became an actor some years ago, 40-odd years ago, because I thought, Well, it's better than working for a living.

I am actually the blood of Zorro. [Elena is] the daughter of Anthony Hopkins' character, and I do not know that. So I am taken to Spain and brought up in aristocracy and believe that I am from my [false] father's blood. But in fact I'm fiery; I have an earthiness to me, amongst all the regal attitude that I've been taught. There's a fieriness to my character, and she's a very rooted woman: She fights, she swordfights, she rides horses like a man, in the man's way of riding.
   So in that way there's lots more to the characterization than, you know, just sitting atop a horse and looking pretty. Which is great because she's not the damsel in distress. She's a woman who will go out there and do as much as any man to get what she wants. So that was nice for me, because I wasn't just waiting for either one of the Zorros to come and fetch me and save me.
Antonio's character and I are very attracted to each other, because we're very similar in character. We have a very sexy swordfight in one of our encounters. And with Tony Hopkins' character I feel that there's some connection to this older man, but I am unaware until way later in the movie that he is actually my father.
   [The young Zorro] metamorphoses throughout the whole movie. Every time I encounter Antonio, he's a different character. I first meet him as a bandit. The second time I meet him as the don, the bandit being the don he has the kind of flippant buoyancy and decadence that the old Zorro had in the time. I see him pretending to be an aristocrat, pretending to be a don. And then I see him in the Zorro get-up. So I see this man in many different disguises, but I sense an attraction to each one.
   With my father, at one point Tony Hopkins and I have a very intimate scene in a stable, and it's a wonderful scene in that he knows that I'm his daughter. I'm aware that something is going on, and it could even be borderlining on a sexual thing. There's some attraction there with him, and I think it was a wonderful thing that Martin Campbell has put into this story which was the ideal of the Zorro and the mask and hiding behind the mask.
   In fact, the three main characters, and even the fourth, who is [former governor] Montero, the baddie, who I think is my father: We all are hiding, and trying to find something beyond the mask. Antonio has got a revenge, of his brother being killed by this Captain Love, this animal kind of guy. And Tony Hopkins has been betrayed bigtime his daughter has been stolen. And he has a passion for the truth and wanting people to know the truth. And me, I'm caught up in the middle and I fall in love with this man, but I don't know who he is and I want to find out what's behind that mask. And then I have to find out my real roots. So [Campbell] made an analogy, which is very symbolic, of people hiding behind masks, of secrets behind masks. Which is really a subplot it wasn't on the page, but we created that in our working process. And I think it's really interesting.
I grew up in a small community outside Swansea, a small city in the south of Wales in the U.K. I went to the same school from the age of 5 until I left, with the same teachers, in a big house. It was a very, very small town.
   I was passionate about the theatre. I was lucky to be born in the same hometown as Dylan Thomas, so there was a Dylan Thomas theatre group that I always belonged to. And I was in amateur dramatics, and I started studying dance when I was four years old.
   You obviously take half of yourself into [any role], but the great thing to me [about "The Mask of Zorro"] was that I was doing a Spanish accent. So it's a completely different sound, and the body language is completely different, for me. I have quite a very strong Welsh accent, so when I saw Martin's first cut it was really interesting that the Spanish accent [interrupting herself] I mean, I'm from a very basic background, from a working-class family. I'm not part of the British aristocracy in any way. We're very close, a big Irish-Catholic/Welsh family.
   People used to ask, Why did you start studying dance at the age of four it sounds like your parents pushed you into this. But the actual fact is, in the local Catholic church around the corner from my house, there was a lady who still teaches dancing there, actually, and who's now a lifelong friend of mine. And I was so hyperactive as a child that that was the easiest way for me to exert myself in some way, so that I would at least sleep at night. I have a quiet side to me, but I also have a frenetic energy that's unbelievable.

That period in California was so rich there were so many cultures, and I wanted to have all of these textures. Like [the scene in which] Antonio is dressed as a noble, and then we have Anthony Hopkins, who is dressed as his servant. So I wanted to give Anthony the traditional chinaco style.
   For Zorro, I wanted to keep earth textures at the beginning.... [After his training] he has an outfit that is the traditional black that Zorro wears, but with this California style. I wanted the same style, but in black, with this fringe on the edge that makes him become like part of the space in which he moves, all of this floating in space.
   And then to have the mask covering his face and just leaving the eyes, to make the outline for this mystery that is his face.

In theory, it shouldn't work: Banderas is Spanish and Hopkins is Welsh. But, given the story structure of the movie, it worked incredibly well. The story is simply like a Merlin and Arthur relationship about the older Zorro who's getting on in years, who trains this wild bandit, this wild young man, to take over the mantle. To be Zorro, as it were.
   The relationships, which work very well in the movie, are dictated to a certain extent by the story. Because the mechanics of it dovetail beautifully into allowing the conflict of the characters, it's a perfect structure for making the relationships work. Cover Story
   And Tony being the classical actor that he is, and Banderas of course also comes from the stage in Spain I mean, he did a lot of the National Theatre in Madrid all I can tell you is that sometimes you get lucky with the chemistry between two actors.
   They're both perfectly suited to their roles, both got on extremely well, and the dynamics between them both you know, this young, fiery bandit who thinks with his heart rather than his head, and this very classic, noble Hopkins character, who has all the Zorro philosophy are both ends of the spectrum.
   I tried to base it in terms of its [style] more on the Fairbanks, on the silent movie, than I ever did on the Tyrone Power and the subsequent versions of the story. If you look at those old silent movies with Fairbanks, he's absolutely marvelous. Even though they're silent, he captures the spirit and the humor of Zorro much more than any of the subsequent versions.

We had a historian with us during the whole preproduction phase that's a long time. What we've done is mix fact with fiction, but to keep the fact accurate and the period accurate we had this historian, Diego Sandoval, who's a Mexican historian.
   What he did was put in the historical weapons, swords, uniforms make sure soldiers were dressed the way Spanish soldiers were dressed in that period. The film covers 1820 to 1840, so the story spans 20 years. Which is why we have two Zorros. It starts out with Anthony Hopkins as Zorro, and he's thrown in prison. After 20 years in prison, when he comes out he's in his late 40s, and he realizes he can no longer be Zorro. So he trains this young man.
   The entire film was produced and shot in Mexico. The reason was that we wanted accurate and real places. We rented from owners of haciendas that have been in their families for 200 and 300 years, in towns you've probably never heard of.
   For this picture, the camera was able to turn 360 degrees in any direction and you wouldn't see telephone poles, you wouldn't see satellite dishes you could look as far as the eye could see in any direction and it looked like it would have 200, 300 years ago.
   I remember talking with Antonio before the shoot, when he was home in Marbella, about when he would be arriving and so on. And Antonio said, David, I'm looking out my window. The sky is blue, the water is beautiful why don't we shoot it in Spain And I said, Because it doesn't look like Mexico.