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With new movie, Zorro heads to the future

April 26, 2011 |  4:31 pm

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.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "The Mask of Zorro." Credit: Rico Torres/Tristar Pictures

Comments () | Archives (19)

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I am a fan of the Zorro legend, so it will be interesting to see how they adapt and update the original story to this very different setting/place. If it turns out like a western in the Sergio Leone style then it has some good potential. Will be excited to see how this concept develops.

When and how did Fox get the rights to Zorro?

This is SO a bad idea... Zorro will come in front of a computer and... will not even know what that is.. and will not be able to open the door ! He will come with his sword and be vaporised by the first laser!

Marko Zaror should star with Isaac Florentine as director.

Why change all the things we love about Zorro? The Walt Disney version of Zorro was the best and still holds up well today. There are millions of Zorro fans all over the world (from many different Zorro movies, series and stories). I would love to see a new Zorro TV series based on Johnston McCulley's version of Zorro (as was Disney's). It would have to be done well with good music, costumes and a handsome charismatic star (I could see Mathew Bomer in the role or Henry Cavill). I love watching the swordsmanship and having a hero who used his wits as much as his skills with sword, whip and horse. It was great that back in the time era McCulley wrote about, the guns and rifles could only shoot one bullet at a time. Also, we love Zorro because he protected those who were oppressed even though he himself was an aristocrat.

I'm not a huge fan of Zorro, but basic backstory tells me it's not Zorro if he's in a post-apocalyptic world, you MORONS! Gee, how about Davy Crockett fighting zombies on Mars. Oh, right, that's already got a script in the vault, you say?

What a great idea. Script written on toilet paper no doubt?

...you left out "Zorro, the Gay Blade!"

This idea sounds like a typical campy low concept Hollywood idea from some unimaginative hack. NO thanks. Will not pay to see it ever.

Post-apocalyptic Zorro? With zombies and vampires no doubt.

How about this: Zorro fights for the survival of the human race against a cabal of evil zombie overlords. To make matters worse (or more predictable?) Zorro discovers that the zombie overlords also hold hostage his long-lost love, who he thought had died in the apocalypse. The movie ends with Zorro triumphant but his love turned into a zombie. Cue sequel ...

For the sequel, Zorro is on a quest for a long-lost experimental laboratory that promises to hold the cure to the zombie plague, and turn his girlfriend back into a human being. After he succeeds (how could he not?) the planet is invaded by a marauding band of vampiric aliens. Cue sequel ... "Zorro 3: Zorro in Space".

How sad, how cheapening to the original spirit of the Zorro character. Seems like anytime a new movie is to be made, it's "dystopian" or "post-apocalyptic". Who the hell cares? The charm of the Banderas Zorro movies was that they were so true to the characters and so well made, in the old school style.

I'll stay home, thanks.

They should make a movie about Joaquin Murrieta, the "real" Zorro. A Mexican miner from Sonora who came to California during the gold rush. He had his claim stollen, wife raped, and brother killed by white miners. He then turned to a life of crime, stealing from white and Chinese miners. Murrieta saw this as a way to get back at those who had hurt him. He also became a hero to Californios for his habit of giving to the poor and sticking it to the gringos. Now that would make a great movie.

This sounds bad -- very, very bad.

I must echo a previous poster -- when did Fox obtain the rights to Zorro? The last I was aware of the situation, Sony still had dibs on the character. They also needed to get a film into development to keep them. I'm hoping this is all a terrible joke. If the studio is serious about this concept, I hope it dies in development hell. Many ideas in the early stages never see the light of day -- this should be one of them.

Zorro belongs in the era of Spanish California, when gentlemen settled affairs of honor with swordsmanship. Sure, it's a romanticized version of history, but the setting is as much a part of the character as his mask, whip, sword and black stallion, Tornado. Put him in the period of single-shot muskets, not a post-apocalyptic world.

Are they going to throw in some zombies, too? Why not add some vampires to attract the Twilight crowd while you're at it? For the record, I'm being sarcastic. These Hollywood executives might take me seriously -- *shudder.*

The reason Christopher Nolan's Batman reboot was so successful is that he respected the source material. Zorro is a character that deserves that same respect. Johnston McCulley wrote rousing adventure stories that should easily translate into swashbuckling action-adventure on the big screen.

I urge the potential writers to go back and read them. Watch the wonderful 1957 Disney series starring Guy Williams, 1940's "The Mark of Zorro" with Tyrone Power and Douglas Fairbanks' 1920 film "The Mark of Zorro." These are the versions fans still love and adore 92 years after the character first appeared.

I urge anyone involved in the next Zorro project to respect the source material and the fans. Don't destroy a legend.

Ugh. Way to take all the cultural references out of Zorro, removing its heart and soul. My Mum grew up watching the old Zorro and loved it, and I fell in love with the Antonio/Anthony version.

I think I'll pass on this.

Perhaps this new Zorro will some how have all of the values of the original stories helping and giving to those who need help, but if that's the case I'd be curious as to why the name Zorro must be used. Can't a new name and a new character be used. Must we take a character that we like when we could potentially be shown a new character we could also like?

What's really curious about this why at a time when old west era movies have proven to be popular couldn't a Zorro reboot be set in it's original time. A Zorro movie could be remade using contemporary styles and techniques.

But if we really need to use old characters in ways they shouldn't be used... I have an idea... how about we make a move called Robin Hood: The Reboot. It can be set in the 22nd century on a starship, he could use a bow that shoots energy bolts while fighting aliens that lay eggs in you.

Whow this sounds like transforming Saint Nicolaes into the Easterbunny. It doesn't sound like me to make sense at all. The question will be, would this Easterbunny still be Saint Nicolaes, when he doesn't give presents and egg and there are no black helps around???
I wouldn't go to the movie if it was seen in the cinema!!

What!?!?! This is a HORRIBLE idea. Why change such a great story? No need...just create a new hero. Please don't taint the one that we know and love.

Wow. They mention Zorro and the new LONE RANGER movie in the same sentence without mention the screenwriters. Is Steve Zeitchik anti-writer?

Zorro in the future sounds just as good as doing a Batman movie in the old west with a Bathorse and a Batsixgun and Batspurs.

I've always loved Zorro! So much in fact years ago I've written my own 'Zorro' stories. I created a new version with my own vision! Granted yes, it's copying. If it ever becomes a film or if I ever illustrate it, I know for copywright & legal reasons I have to change the look of the character. Which I have done! But I can tell you my 'Zorro' isn't called Zorro. And his name is NOT Don Diego de la Vega! Nor is his horse called 'Toronado'! ....I truly hope someday I can share my new masked hero to the world!


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