It’s been six years since the iconic swashbuckler Zorro was last seen on the screen, courtesy of Antonio Banderas and James Bond director Martin Campbell, in the period action piece "The Legend of Zorro."
But the character could be on his way back, sans swashbuckling -- and, in fact, sans the past entirely.
A reboot titled "Zorro Reborn" is being developed at Fox that will remove the character from his historical California or Mexico setting.
Unlike many of the previous Zorros (real name: Don Diego de la Vega) brandishing whips and swords, the hero of the new installment will live in the future -- specifically a desolate and post-apocalyptic one, according to a person familiar with the film who asked not to be identified. A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment.
In this version, Zorro will be less a caped crusader for justice than a one-man vigilante force bent on revenge, in a western story that has echoes of both Sergio Leone and "No Country for Old Men."
The movie will be directed by Rpin Suwannath, a previsualization specialist who worked on a number of the "X-Men," "Matrix" and "Chronicles of Narnia" movies. (Previsualiation is the Hollywood art of conceiving and generating images, usually for an effects-driven movie, before filming has begun. Visual-effects specialists are hot generally, with Fox recently setting the viz kid Tim Miller to direct "Deadpool.") The project, a person close to it cautioned, is in early development.
The "Zorro Reborn" script has been written by Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy, the screenwriters behind the Dracula reboot "Harker" at Warner Bros. The Zorro film is expected to provide a juicy lead role for a young actor.
Johnston McCulley's pulp Zorro stories have served as the basis for dozens of films, starting with Douglas Fairbanks' caped-hero films of the 1920s, and then later film serials, features culled from a Guy Williams television series, a 1975 Italian-made version with spaghetti western overtones and the Banderas iterations.
In the first of those, 1998's "The Mask of Zorro," Anthony Hopkins plays an aging Don Diego de la Vega who passes the baton (or whip) to a young misfit (Banderas), who in turn becomes the new Zorro. The 2005 film, which like the first featured Catherine Zeta-Jones as Zorro's wife, Elena, followed. Both movies, made by Sony, were set in an outlaw mid-19th century California. The sequel saw a fall-off at the box office.
Dark reinventions of heroic icons have been popular in Hollywood since Christopher Nolan did just that with Batman. A "Zorro" reboot would need to contend with a new version of "The Lone Ranger," which Johnny Depp and his "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski have been developing.
Photo: "The Mask of Zorro." Credit: Rico Torres/Tristar Pictures